Paul Foy, The Associated Press, August 30, 2013
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A lease dispute between two Park City ski resorts has escalated with one resort serving an eviction notice on the other, the rivals said Thursday.
Park City Mountain Resort is supposed to vacate its ski area — and leave the chair lifts and lodges behind — by Monday, but says it's not going anywhere.
The eviction notice was served Wednesday by a subsidiary of resort operator Talisker Corp., which owns much of the land at Park City Mountain Resort.
Talisker operated the nearby Canyons ski area until recently, when it sold the operation to Vail Resorts Inc., a Colorado-based company that is continuing the fight with Park City Mountain Resort.
An attorney for Talisker, John Lund, told The Associated Press that nobody will try to evict Park City Mountain Resort by force Monday, and that the eviction notice is the first step in a lengthy process. An employee of Vail Resorts served the eviction order on behalf of Talisker Land Holdings LLC.
Separately, Vail Resorts said it wasn't trying to immediately shut down Park City Mountain Resort but was "concerned with the behavior" of the tenant.
Lawyers for Talisker say they recently discovered that Park City Mountain Resort backdated a letter claiming it was renewing its lease, even though the time for renewing had long passed. It filed objections in court to the "deception," and a judge set a hearing for Sept. 6.
Talisker says Park City Mountain Resort failed to renew a long-term lease by a deadline March 1, 2011, waited months for the lease to expire, then sent a letter May 2, 2011, backdated by two days that claimed to renew the lease the day it expired, on April 30, 2011.
Now Talisker Land Holdings is playing hardball by trying to evict Park City Mountain Resort.
"Your backdating of this notice and your apparent efforts to keep it hidden force us to take a different approach to our dispute and long-term relationship," Talisker said in a letter Wednesday to Park City Mountain Resort.
Jenni Smith, president and general manager of Park City Mountain Resort, released a statement to the AP on Thursday that didn't address the backdating allegation but took aim at Vail Resorts Inc.
"Vail's action is nothing more than a bald-faced attempt to circumvent the litigation already in process and interfere with our business," Smith said. "We will not give in to Vail's bullying, and look forward to conducting business as usual for the 2013-14 season."
Talisker, a longtime real-estate operator around Park City, owns much of the ski terrain at Park City Mountain Resort, which leases 3,700 acres of upper-mountain land for ski lifts, lodges and slopes.
The resort had leased those lands from United Park City Mines since the 1960s, but Talisker bought the mining company in 2003 and became a landlord. Then, in 2009, Talisker bought the Canyons resort from American Skiing Co.
Park City Mountain Resort owns the base area of its ski resort, parking lots, the so-called Town Lift, and water-rights and snowmaking systems outright. None of those assets are affected by the lease dispute, Smith said.
Under the old lease, Park City Mountain Resort was paying $155,000 a year in rent for the Talisker-owned land, court papers show. Canyons officials say they pay $3 million a year to lease much of their ski resort from independent landowners.
Had Park City Mountain Resorts renewed its lease on time for another 39 years, the rent would have risen to around $300,000, said Lund, the attorney for Talisker.
It's clear that Park City Mountain Resort's landlord wants it to pay millions of dollars in rent, but the companies involved have declined to specify terms of recent negotiations.