Vail Resorts is coming to Park City in a move that is bound to burnish the reputation of Utah's stopover for the glitterati.
The Colorado-based resort operator announced Wednesday it is taking over operations of Canyons Resort in west Summit County under a long-term agreement with Talisker Corp. of Toronto.
Nathan Rafferty president of Ski Utah, the marketing arm of the state's industry, said he's excited to have Vail Resorts "onboard here in Utah."
"Vail Resorts is really good at selling lift tickets, and they have lots of experience in some of the busiest, and most popular, resorts in North America," he said. "It brings a lot of credibility when a company with such a broad reach is part of our industry."
The agreement could potentially include ski terrain now operated by Park City Mountain Resort, according to a statement from Vail. Talisker owns the terrain at PCMR, but is embroiled in an ongoing legal dispute over a 3,700-acre lease.
A spokesman for Talisker referred all inquiries to Vail officials.
Blaise Carrig, president of the Mountain Division at Vail Resorts, declined comment on Talisker's dispute with PCMR.
John Lund, the Salt Lake City-based attorney representing Talisker, said the case is still in the discovery phase. No hearings are scheduled.
Jenni Smith, PCMR president and general manager, said in a statement, "We welcome Vail Resorts to the Utah ski community and look forward to working with them to continue to grow Utah's ski industry. As we have for the last 50 years, we remain committed to owning and operating Park City Mountain Resort and will continue to work toward a fair resolution of the lease dispute."
Vail Resorts says it will make inflation-linked payments starting at $25 million a year to Talisker for Canyons ski terrain, plus an amount linked to earnings from resort operations. Talisker retains development rights for 4 million square feet of real estate at Canyons.
The lease has an initial term of 50 years and six 50-year renewal options. Vail Resorts subsidiaries operate other resorts in Colorado, California, Minnesota, Nevada and Wyoming. They include Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly resorts and Grand Teton Lodge.
"We've always looked at Utah as a very strong ski market," said Vail's Carrig. "It's been a missing link for us. Park City is one of the iconic destination towns in the West."
Although Talisker has made $75 million in mountainside improvements since it acquired the Canyons in 2007, more could be on the way. But Vail is in the early stages of evaluating and crafting a plan for the resort, and many things are yet to be determined, Carrig said.
"We've been able to construct a deal with Talisker that allows us to do what we do best," he said. "And we're here for the long run."
Carrig characterized the relationship with Talisker as "symbiotic," with the ski resort bolstering real estate values, while new development at Canyons will raise its profile nationally and internationally.
Bob Wheaton, president and general manager of Deer Valley Resort, said he is looking forward to "being a neighbor to Vail. They are great ski area operators. The combination of their resources and its existing staff and infrastructure will be a great addition to Utah."
Scott Beck, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake, said that "as Utah's biggest ski town, we're excited about such an accomplished partner marketing our destination and delivering services to skiers in our community. When you have someone with that kind of experience and a proven track record in an industry vital to our economy, you can't help but be excited."
The publicly traded Vail Resorts is one of the country's largest ski companies, with four resorts in Colorado, three in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada, as well as resorts in Michigan, Minnesota and the Grand Teton Lodge in Wyoming. Uath's 14 ski resorts are privately owned.
What • A publicly traded mountain resort operator
Subsidiaries • Mountain resorts of Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone, Colo.; Canyons, Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada; Afton Alps, Minn.; Mount Brighton, Mich.; and Grand Teton Lodge Co., Wyo.
Earnings • Reported net income of $60.6 million or $1.65 per share for the quarter ending Jan. 31. That was up from earnings of $46.4 million, or $1.27 per share, a year earlier. Earnings were based on net revenue of $408 million for the period up 12 percent from the previous year. On Wednesday, shares closed at $64.99, down $1.92, or 2.9 percent.