SALT LAKE CITY — Park City Mountain Resort was claiming an advantage Thursday in a lease dispute that threatened to evict it from much of its 3,700 acres of ski terrain.
The resort said its hand was strengthened by a judge’s ruling that it can assert it had the right to buy land that was instead transferred to a Vail-managed company, which is trying to kick Park City Mountain Resort off about 3,000 acres of land.
Colorado-based Vail Resorts Inc. has taken over Canyons ski resort just outside Park City and with it, a lease on much of the land at Park City Mountain Resort. It recently served an eviction notice.
Lawyers for Vail and affiliates of longtime Park City real-estate operator Talisker Corp. contend that Park City Mountain Resort lost all rights after missing a deadline March 1, 2011, to renew the lease.
The case is expected to go to trial next year. It began in March 2012 when the owners of Park City Mountain Resort sought a court declaration that they have lease-renewal rights by other means and can’t be evicted.
The battle of ski resort titans could allow Vail to mount a hostile takeover at Park City Mountain Resort and has Utah skiers wondering how the local resort missed a deadline to renew its sweetheart lease.
Park City Mountain Resort was paying just $155,000 a year for its ski terrain under a decades-old lease with a mining company.
Canyons officials have said they pay $3 million a year to lease much of their ski area from independent landowners. And Vail says it’s paying $25 million a year for rights to operate Canyons, Utah’s largest ski area.
“They made it clear. The purpose of the whole transaction was that Vail wants to take over Park City Mountain Resort,” Alan Sullivan, the resort’s attorney, said Thursday.
The Vail-Talisker combination says Park City Mountain Resort waited months after it was supposed to renew the lease, then sent a letter May 2, 2011, backdated by two days that claimed to have renewed the lease the day it expired, on April 30, 2011.
Yet Park City Mountain Resort can claim lease-renewal rights by a “shared understanding” of business dealings and other agreements with Talisker, “and that’s the way they acted,” Sullivan said. “We intend to prove at trial that the lease had been extended in a lot of different ways.”
Vail Resorts has said it will take no action evicting Park City Mountain Resort during the upcoming season. Vail operates 10 ski areas, including four in Colorado.
Park City Mountain Resort is owned by Powdr Corp., which operates seven major U.S. ski areas, from Vermont’s Killington to Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor.