So it’s been announced, Park City Mountain Resort will be open for the 2014-2015 season. They finally caved and sold to Vail Resorts, and will be included in the 2014-2015 Epic Pass. For a fair assessment of this legal battle and outcome, we asked guest blogger Hunter Avis to weigh in:
I, like much of the ski community, have been waiting to see the result of this battle of the titans. I thought I would weigh in with my opinion (and you all know what opinions are worth) as someone who has spent some time working in a Vail resorts town, and now, pursuing a career in the legal field, has to be able to see the merits of both sides of a fight, regardless of what my personal opinions might be.
I would like to take this chance to tip my hat to John Cumming from PCMR for his perseverance in the fight against Vail and its legal legions. Vail, lead by Rob Katz, was a pack of wolves at the door, pacing, waiting, and calculating for a chance to slip through any crack. And, like any worthy predator in nature, once Vail saw the weak spot in PCMR’s armor, it circled relentlessly, refusing to lose the opportunity of such a worthy take. To me, it seems that when Vail announced its acquisition of Canyons in May, 2013, they landed a fatal blow to PCMR.
Talisker knew what it had. Its interest in around 85% of the upper mountain terrain PCMR needed to operate, which, when combined with it’s ownership interest in Canyons, could give the right purchaser an opportunity to purchase a mountain that wasn’t for sale. Talisker had leverage of truly epic proportions. Although PCMR filed its initial lawsuit against Talisker before Vail acquired its operational interest in Canyons, Vail’s 2007 lawsuit it filed against Talisker following the Canadian corporations acquisition of Canyons from the American Skiing Corporation was a clear indication of Vail’s desire to acquire an interest in operating Canyons. In essence, Talisker knew there was a buyer in the wings all of its interests in Park City.
Vail, the North American master of one ticket, many resorts, knows how to make that model work. And we haven’t even whispered the words “interconnect” yet. It doesn’t seem like Vail ever intended to negotiate a peace with Cumming, they only intended, at any cost, to acquire. I pay my respect to Cumming for backing off in a way that allowed a mostly seamless transition to this snow season, because I feel for the people who were really, truly getting worried about whether their winter employment would be there. I feel for them because I’ve been there; I’ve been at-will and dependent on conditions and financing for a job, always wondering when one of the two would run out. But, ultimately, he did what was good for his people, instead of drawing a line in the sand (or parking lot, in this case) and letting the fight get really dirty.
In a letter from Cumming to Katz, Cumming illustrates the three separate areas and entities that make up the Park City ski scene, and how they all fight for skiers and contribute to the unique, individual nature of the area. I wholeheartedly agree with that. I’m not saying the town is going to go downhill now. There are too many intelligent, caring people in the community to let that happen no matter who the new guy in town is. I’m just saying it will always, from here on out, be somehow changed, and maybe a little less different. And, not that different is necessarily bad, it’s just that I don’t like change very much. I especially don’t like change when something was pretty damn good before. Who knows. Years from now, we may look back on this as the start of something positive in Park City’s history, but only time will tell.
Yet, in spite of any personal feeling that Vail threw its weight around like the playground bully who was held back a year, I can’t help but respect their savvy as a corporation. Let’s step back, and look at Vail as a publicly traded entity. Vail has a board of directors, and they have a duty to pursue what is in the best interests of the corporation. In less than two years, Vail went from not having a hold in Utah, to being a dominant player in the beehive market. After the acquisition of PCMR for around $128,000,000.00 was announced, Vail’s stock rose between 11-12% to its highest position in years. Vail’s board, and Katz as its CEO, did exactly what they were supposed to do. They increased the value of their corporation and secured its future
Lastly, Vail acquired a resort in my town. Locals wondered if it would lose its small feel, and employees wondered if they would have a job when the snow fell. All I can say is the quality of the skiing has improved, and the year-round opportunities are awesome. The place is better as part of the Vail family, and PCMR could be too.
Fortunately for any ski community, it’s a gargantuan undertaking to run a resort. Lifts need to spin, smiling faces need to greet guests, and late-night crews need to pin it up and down the mountain on their sleds in the frigid night so first chair spins for eager guests every day. From the worker’s point of view, no matter who owns a resort, it takes an army’s worth of employees to make one function, and at the Sorel’s on the ground level, the jobs will always be there.