Vail Resorts has bought Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) in Utah for $182.5m.
Under any circumstances this would be big news in the North American ski scene. But what makes it seismic is that Vail is already operating Canyons Resort next door under a 350-year lease. All it will take is one chair-lift to connect the two, and Canyons’ 4,000 skiable acres will be combined with Park City’s 3,300 acres. The result will be America’s biggest ski resort.
Commercially, it’s a fantastic opportunity for Vail Resorts, because the new mega-resort sits on the doorstep of Salt Lake City, and is barely more than half an hour’s drive from the city’s airport. Direct flights connect it to several of North America’s key cities.
Add in the attraction of Main Street, Park City, which is home to one of the most attractive strips of bars and upmarket restaurants in American skiing, and you’ve got the makings of a serious come-hither holiday destination. It still won’t be quite as big as Whistler in Canada (8,171 acres), and is dwarfed by the likes of the Three Valleys in France, which encompasses 98,800 acres (although only a fraction of this area is avalanche-controlled). But the combination of size, accessibility and amenities is a potent one. Already, Canyons is developing an enthusiastic following amongst New Yorkers, and that trend is likely to continue.
In terms of terrain, Canyons + Park City will offer a rich mix of skiing – combining the hell-for-leather pistes, bump runs and trees of Canyons, with the mighty terrain parks, long beginner trails, and in-bounds powder skiing of Park City. Experts will still prefer the chutes and bowls of Snowbird and Alta, the two super-snowy resorts of Little Cottonwood Canyon, to the south. But for everyone else, Canyons + Park City will be the king of Utah resorts: and can always be used as a spring board for tours of the region. After all, with five other ski areas within easy striking distance of Park City, this is an area purpose-built for a ski safari.
Sadly, Vail Resorts has ruled out putting in a connecting chair-lift in time for the 2014-15 season, but it’s likely to be done for 2015-16, and for the coming winter it has confirmed that “the majority of all lift tickets sold at either resort will be valid at both PCMR and Canyons”. So skiers will soon be able to get a taste of what’s to come.
Vail’s acquisition of Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) brings the curtain down on a bitter legal battle between PCMR and Talisker Land Holdings. Talisker owns the land on which Canyons is based, as well as much of PCMR’s skiable terrain, and the dispute began when PCMR failed to renew its leases on the land in 2011. In July this year, a judge signed an eviction notice against PCMR, but delayed the enforcement, pending mediation with Talisker and Vail. PCMR initially sought to post a $17.5m bond in order to continue operating independently – but on September 11, its sale to Vail was announced.