By Jim Barth
Jul 29, 2012

Map of SkiLink UtahAccording to an article in the Park Record, support for SkiLink, the gondola connection between Canyons Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort, grew a little stronger this week.

The Lift Utah Coalition, a group of business leaders and legislators from across the state, added 30 new members with the goal of promoting and sharing information about SkiLink, which is currently in the committee process in the United States Senate and House.

“What we've tried to do is work with the groups or individuals that have expressed interest in being more active in supporting SkiLink," said Mike Goar, the general manager of Canyons Resort. "On one hand, we've wanted to recognize that support and effort in promoting the concept of connecting the resorts, but we're also hoping to engage them in communicating the benefits of SkiLink to other groups, citizens, community leaders." 

Lift Utah Coalition added 30 new members to the 20 who originally formed the group.   Some of these new members include legislators, industry leaders and community leaders.  State Senator Kevin VanTassell, the Summit County representative, is one of the new members.

“I wanted to add my name to the list of supporters," VanTasell said.  "I think our major ski industries are in a unique system where the resorts are very close together. If we can provide an interlink system, that's our next step to expanding the industry.”

“I really believe this is one of the things we can use to further increase skier days and get tourists staying longer," he added. "There is some controversy but I believe we can do this right, do it smart."

Despite the controversy, Goar indicated that he is optimistic about the support for SkiLink, and even though the project has a long way to go, it is moving in the right direction.

For more information and a detail list of the new Lift Utah Coalition supporters, please click here.

Deer Valley Resort Connection to Historic Main Street Gains Traction

By Jim Barth
Jul 11, 2012

It appears that Deer Valley Resort has officially entered the discussion with the continuation of a regional interconnect.  As reported previously in this blog, Canyons is currently working on an interconnect with Solitude in Big Cottonwood Canyon.  Although a connection between Deer Valley and Historic Main Street has been discussed previously, it was quickly dismissed by Deer Valley as being too expensive.  Well, their position appears to be changing.  This morning the Park Record published an article indicating that the resort may finally be ready to move forward with a gondola plan.

According to the article, there are preliminary discussions underway between Deer Valley and Park City about whether the gondola could be built linking the resort’s slopes and Main Street, a move that would rank with the highest-profile skiing upgrades in Park City in more than a decade.

Numerous details have not been solidified, and Deer Valley has not yet formally proposed a gondola. But there almost certainly will be widespread interest in the discussions in Park City as well as in the statewide ski industry. The talks have not been publicized until this week.

Years ago, Park City Mountain Resort linked its slopes to lower Main Street via the Town Lift and later the Town Bridge. A Deer Valley-Main Street connection, probably along the upper reaches of Main Street, could create another skiing bookend to the street.

"It would be very significant," Bob Wheaton, the president and general manager of Deer Valley, said on Monday. "I think it would be a significant event for the resort and for the town."

He said there is not another place in North America with connections between a downtown and two mountain resorts.

Wheaton said the discussions between Deer Valley and City Hall have centered on the Brew Pub lot close to the top of Main Street. Park City officials are considering projects to boost Main Street's competitiveness with other shopping, dining and entertainment destinations. The Brew Pub lot, one of the few publicly owned locations along Main Street available for development, has been in play during these talks.

Wheaton also said Deer Valley is researching upward of six potential gondola alignments. The terminals under consideration on the resort side include Silver Lake Village, a spot at the Northside Express lift and a location at the Empire Canyon Lodge. Under those scenarios, it seems that a gondola could enter and leave Old Town via a line that closely follows Marsac Avenue. The gondola could angle into Deer Valley itself from there.

There are houses along Marsac Avenue and Daly Avenue, immediately to the west, but the land is either largely undeveloped or part of the Deer Valley complex elsewhere along what could be a gondola route.

Wheaton said the earliest a gondola could open is the 2014-2015 ski season. The timeline depends on numerous decisions that the resort and City Hall would need to make, including critical ones about the Brew Pub lot. Wheaton said the resort is discussing options to lease or purchase the lot, or a portion of the lot, from the municipal government. A ticket office and a Deer Valley retailer could be built at the site if a gondola terminal is situated there, he said.

"We can't continue being held in the regard we are in North America if we stand still," Wheaton said, referring to Deer Valley's annual high rankings among the continent's mountain resorts.

The article can be found at The Main Street to Deer Valley Article in the Park Record.

Power Brokers Join Together To Endorse Ski Link

By Jim Barth
May 04, 2012

Connecting the seven ski areas in Salt Lake and Summit counties, including both Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort, starting with a gondola between Canyons and Solitude resorts, would be an economic boon for Utah.  But only if it is done in an environmentally responsible manner.

Salt Lake Chamber President Lane Beattie and several other speakers emphasized these points at a recent news conference in which twenty powerful business and government leaders announced the formation of a coalition to support both the Ski Link gondola and the concept of a wider ski resort interconnect.

“We can create a unique ski experience unmatched anywhere in North America,” said Beattie, recounting how the Salt Lake Chamber has supported the state’s ski industry since its birth. “But we have to do it absolutely right.”

According to an article in the Salt lake Tribune, Beattie said that in order to win the chamber’s support, Ski Link proponents must show the proposed gondola has to “be a net positive for the environment,” capable of standing up to rigorous local government reviews, complete with public hearings of impacts on land use, water quality, wildlife and other environmental issues.

But as Utah explores another possible Olympic bid, in keeping with a goal of becoming the country’s winter sports capital, now is the time, Beattie added, to consider the options, look at the costs and how to proceed.

Former Senator Jake Garn joined the chorus of support, predicting Ski Link would be a “great addition to our community.  How great it would be to ski both sides of the Wasatch and not have to drive around the mountains.”


Park City Mountain Resort/Talisker Still At Impasse Over Lease

By Jim Barth
Mar 28, 2012

Both sides claim they want to reach a quick settlement.

According to recent reports, Canyons Managing Director Mike Goar was stunned by the announcement two weeks ago that Park City Mountain Resort had filed a lawsuit against them.

Goar, who is acting as Canyons spokesperson, indicated that Canyons found out about the lawsuit from the media.  "That was shocking," Goar said, adding that his side believed negotiations over the lease agreement were ongoing. He reiterated this week that the offer to continue talks was still open, despite the lawsuit.

But that is not how Park City Mountain Resort sees it.

According to Park City Mountain Resort President and General Manager Jenni Smith, "We filed the lawsuit to protect ourselves because they (Talisker) had stopped responding. Our last offer they did not respond to. We had made numerous attempts to reach them and, when they stopped responding, we felt like we had no option. We had to protect ourselves and protect our employees and our business."

Still, she said, "We would welcome the opportunity to have a meaningful settlement discussion with Talisker. We would be happy to get back at the table. We are more than willing to talk with them."

An interesting article that I read in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal provided a profile on Paul Mathews, founder of Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners, a highly respected international ski resort planner.  The article discussed Mathews work around the world, including his work at Rosa Khutor Alpine Ski Resort, which is soon to become the site of the Winter Olympics near Sochi, Russia.  The article had him pictured at Canyons Resort surveying the resort and surrounding area and providing input on the resort’s overall design.  One of his finding was that a key problem at Canyons is a misplaced gondola, which would cost $3 million to move to a more appropriate location.

Is there a connection between the ensuing legal battle between Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons, the proposed Skilink between Canyons and Solitude and the work being done by Ecosign on the overall layout of Canyons?  I have no idea.  However, it does make you wonder…

We will continue to blog on this interesting news.


WOW - Is It The End Of An Era At Park City Mountain Resort?

By Jim Barth
Mar 10, 2012

This past Friday, Park City Mountain Resort filed a lawsuit against Talisker Land Holdings, LLC, claiming that Talisker must stop from interfering with PCMR and its operations.

 In the past decade, Canadian-based Talisker, who owns and operates Canyons Resort, took ownership of vast land holdings in the Park City area that were once under the control of United Park City Mines. PCMR operates on some of that land as does Deer Valley. United Park City Mines is also named as a defendant in the case.

 It is our understanding that in late 2011, the ground lease, which dates back to 1971, and allows PCMR to operate its resort on the Talisker land, expired.  PCMR was unable to negotiate an extension to their lease.  Further, it appears that, in consideration of any lease extension, Talisker was insisting on obtaining commitments from PCMR on investment in infrastructure, additional business opportunities, and a connection of the lift system at PCMR to Canyons Resort.     

This is very interesting news indeed regarding the PCMR lease expiration.  Combine this news with the ongoing interconnect plan that Talisker has been aggressively pursuing with Solitude.  Could this potentially result in the creation of that long desired mega resort which would boast the greatest amount of skiable terrain of any ski resort in North America?  Time will tell.

Talisker provided the following response to the PCMR lawsuit: 

"PCMR’s lease of Talisker’s land expired in 2011. Talisker has offered PCMR new lease terms, and the parties have been in discussions regarding such new lease terms, which are subject to an agreement of confidentiality.

 We had hoped to reach terms on the new lease that would be fair to both parties. Unfortunately it appears that PCMR is attempting to use litigation to better its position, and avoid reaching a mutually fair outcome.

 At no time in these negotiations has Talisker contemplated or threatened to close Park City Mountain. We believed the negotiations were continuing and we are disappointed by PCMR's action today."

 We will continue to keep you posted as this evolving story unfolds.

Utah State Senate Votes to Approve SCR10 Encouraging Ski Interconnect

By Nancy Barth
Mar 08, 2012

This past Monday, the Utah State Senate advanced a resolution that promoted connecting the four ski resorts in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons with the three Park City area ski resorts, including Deer Valley.  The Senate voted overwhelmingly to endorse SCR10 by Senator Wayne Niederhauser, and sent it to the House.

 The measure urges counties, cities and the U.S. Forest Service to “consider the benefits of connecting the various resorts and expeditiously approve a low-impact inter-resort transportation system based on appropriate analysis and balanced public input.”

 Niederhauser said the resolution is not intended to endorse any particular system. A bill to allow the U.S. Forest Service to approve a land sale for the interconnect project is also currently moving through the U.S. Congress.

 Niederhauser said his resolution is needed now in order to carefully evaluate how interconnect systems would affect the watershed and the environment of the canyons of the Wasatch Mountain Range.

 As we have reported previously, in our opinion the ski interconnect could have an enormous positive impact, both economically and recreationally, on the Park City and Deer Valley areas.  As always, we will continue to report on this ever evolving concept.

Interconnect Receives Positive Federal Vote

By Jim Barth
Mar 06, 2012

According to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, skiers moved a step closer to riding a gondola from Solitude to Canyons Resort late last week after a U.S. House Committee advanced a measure that would pave the way for the Forest Service to allow the new skier connection.

The House Natural Resources Committee voted to send the Wasatch Range Recreation Access Enhancement Act to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

As I have reported previously, while this federal legislation does not in and of itself directly affect Deer Valley®, if the proposal receives final approval from both houses of Congress and passes environmental muster, it will mark a first step toward the long awaited connection of the seven resorts of the Wasatch Range, including potentially Deer Valley.  In my opinion, an interconnect would have a very positive financial impact on the resorts of the Wasatch Range and most significantly, the greater Park City area resorts. We will continue to bring our readers and clients updates as the legislation moves forward.