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The regulatory path has been cleared for Vail Resorts to meld Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) and Canyons Resort into the largest ski area in the United States.

Vail received approval Wednesday from the Park City Planning Commission for its $50 million plan to link the two already-large resorts, the final hurdle in what Vail is calling "one of the most ambitious and impactful capital plans in the history of the U.S. ski industry."

The Snyderville Basin Planning Commission, which oversees unincorporated Summit County lands, including those in Canyons, signed off on the plan last month.

"They're done seeing us for a while," said Park City Mayor Jack Thomas, other than for building permits required for whatever future base work is completed on the PCMR side of the combined resort.

"This plan for Park City and Canyons will completely transform the experience at both resorts and throughout this world-class community," added Bill Rock, PCMR's chief financial officer. The combined resort will have more than 7,300 acres of skiable terrain.

Major features of Vail's plan include:

• Construction of an eight-passenger gondola that will connect the two resorts;

• Upgrades to the King Con and Motherlode chairlifts;

• A new Snow Hut Restaurant near the base of the gondola, along with improvements to the Summit House Restaurant at PCMR and Red Pine Lodge in the center of Canyons resort;

• More snowmaking along two trails in the Iron Mountain area of Canyons; and

• An extra $5 million in "catch-up" maintenance work, on top of the $5 million conventionally budgeted for upkeep and upgrades.

Mayor Thomas praised Vail for bringing "very complete applications" to the city, adding Vail representatives are "very professional and they came to us with all of the questions answered. That is not typical."

The high-speed, two-way gondola will run from the base of Park City's Silverlode lift to the Flatiron chair at Canyons, with an unloading station in between on Pine Cone Ridge — until last fall the general dividing line separating the ski areas. The unloading station, Rock said, will "allow skiers and riders to ski into Thaynes Canyon at Park City via gated ski access or to the Iron Mountain area at Canyons through new trails [down] Pine Cone Ridge."

He said it was appropriate for PCMR's transformation to include a gondola. That upscale form of aerial transportation was a trademark of the early Park City resort — even if it was dismantled in 1997.

The King Con lift will be converted from a four-person chair to a high-speed, detachable six seater while Motherlode will go from being a fixed-grip triple chair to a high-speed quad.

"Both upgrades will reduce crowding, lift lines and improve the guest experience," Rock said.

A reconstructed Snow Hut Restaurant will have indoor seating for 500 people along with a top-of-the-line kitchen, he added, while renovations at Canyons' Red Pine Restaurant will add seating for 250 people.

This is the second restaurant upgrade on the Canyons side of the resort. Vail recently added 150 seats at the Cloud Dine Restaurant near the top of the Dreamcatcher chair.

Vail intends to start work on the gondola terminals as soon as snow conditions on the mountain permit this spring. Using helicopters, the resort plans to pour foundations for the terminals in mid-summer and have the cables and gondola cabins in place by mid-fall.

Park City officials are putting together a construction mitigation plan to minimize environmental impacts.

Thomas said the city's first winter with Vail in charge of both resorts was a profitable one. "Our revenue from sales taxes is up dramatically," he said, citing the improving national economy and a timely early September settling of the ownership lawsuit between Vail and PowdrCorp, PCMR's former owner.

But even more than Vail's $50 million investment, Thomas said, "what I'd really like to see is a better snow year." Twitter: @sltribmikeg