Business as usual for Killington
The sad saga of two ski-industry titans disputing the future of Park City Mountain Resort is over.
Powdr, the owner and operator of Killington Resort and Pico Mountain, has agreed to sell its Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) assets, including the base area, parking, lower ski terrain and lifts, as well as water and snowmaking for the entire mountain, to Vail Resorts, Inc.
The Powdr-owned Gorgoza Tubing Park is not included in the sale.
Powdr, parent corporation of Park City Mountain Resort’s parent company Greater Park City Company, announced the sale on Sept. 11, noting it is “effective immediately.” The announcement was made just two days after PCMR announced it would post a bond to keep the area open this winter, an indication that mediation, which had seen three extensions of deadlines, played a role.
Powdr CEO John Cumming stated in a press release: “Selling was the last thing we wanted to do, and while we believe the law around this issue should be changed, a protracted legal battle is not in line with our core value to be good stewards of the resort communities in which we operate. A sale was the only way to provide long-term certainty for PCMR employees and the Park City community.
“My family and I are extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to play a role in making PCMR what it is today, and we deeply appreciate the dedicated employees and all of the people who have supported us over the years,” Cumming added.
Cumming had more than mere business interest in PCMR. It was the ski area where he learned the business from Nick Badami, the highly regarded former owner of Park City Ski Area. Badami, whose only son was killed in a tragic helicopter crash in 1989 and who sold Park City and Alpine Meadows (retaining a minority interest) to the Cumming family (father Ian and sons John and David) in 1994 and served as Powdr’s chairman for several years.
In addition to the name change to PCMR, Cumming transformed the area into a top destination in Utah and to a world-class resort and Olympic venue. Badami, a visionary and one of the most influential supporters of the U.S. Ski team, wanted to bring the Winter Olympics to Utah, and PCMR hosted several events during the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, bringing the resort up to Olympic standards to do so.
The Powdr release also notes, “The agreement with Vail Resorts stipulates that Vail must retain PCMR employees in their current roles.” However, PCMR President and GM Jenni Smith resigned after 35 years of having worked there in various positions.
Cumming also said, “The sale positions Powdr well for future growth, and we’re excited to explore new lifestyle and mountain sports opportunities. We’re happy that the community now has long-term certainty, and we trust Vail will responsibly carry forward the legacy of PCMR and be a champion for the Park City community.”
Powdr Corp and Powdr Resorts (its subsidiary which operates seven ski resorts and Gorgoza Park) continue to be based in offices in a separate location from PCMR in Park City.
In its press release Vail Resorts disclosed a purchase price of $182.5 million in cash, “subject to certain post-closing adjustments.” Vail also announced intentions to connect the Canyons and PCMR for the 2015-16 season. According to Vail CEO Rob Katz, that will create the largest ski resort in the country with 7,000 acres of skiable terrain, an indication of just how valuable the Canyons and PCMR were perceived to be to the country’s largest operator of ski resorts. Vail Resorts stock price shot up on the news (MTN on NYSE ), and is now over $87 a share (52-week range 64-89).
In addition to PCMR terrain, Vail acquired lands with approved zoning for 687,000 square feet of residential and commercial development.
Since May 2013, Vail Resorts has leased the Canyons from Talisker Land Holdings, LLC, —also the owner of the upper PCMR resort lands that had been at the center of the three-year lease dispute — in a $25 million annual deal that included PCMR for no additional payment should the dispute be resolved in favor of Talisker.
Decision bodes well for Killington
In addition to alleviating the worries of Park City residents and businesses, the sale seems to have alleviated some concerns about Killington Resort’s plans for growth.
Bob Montgomery, one of the longest continuing business owners in Killington (a winter resident since late 1960s and permanent resident since 1971) said, “There is definitely some relief among people in town that this has been settled. The thinking is it bodes well for Killington and may help with the goals Powdr set for Killington to move forward — and maybe for summer plans also.”
In a statement from Killington, President and GM Mike Solimano stated, “Killington Resort and Pico Mountain will not be affected by Powdr’s decision to sell Park City Mountain Resort to Vail Resorts. Rather, this positions Powdr well for future growth and success. Both Killington and Pico will continue business as usual and we look forward to another successful season this winter for our guests and the Killington community.”
SP Land President Steven Selbo stated that “this has not affected SP Land in the last several years, and I do not expect it to affect SP Land going forward.” SP Land is currently busy with its appeals process for its Killington Village permit.
Michael Joseph, communications manager for Killington, said the Unlimited Killington season pass will not be honored for the three free days at PCMR but otherwise, it’s business as usual.
Parker Riehle, president of the Vermont Ski Areas Association, commented that the settlement of the lawsuit and sale, “certainly positions Killington in a prominent position in the portfolio of Powdr resorts.”
The sale positions Killington as one of Powdr’s top resorts based on skier visits, along with Copper Mountain, which is located 75 miles west of Denver, Colo. with 126 trails spread over 2,465 skiable acres. The design of Copper’s terrain has been hailed as one of the best in the industry as it is naturally divided with easiest terrain to the west, intermediate in the middle, and expert terrain to the east. With unique programming like Woodward at Copper, free Tucker Mountain SnowCat access, award-winning terrain parks and a 22-foot Olympic-sized Superpipe, Copper has long ranked in the top ten of U.S. ski resorts.
Killington ranks as the East’s number one resort and in the top 15 nationwide. Including Pico Mountain, it boasts 200 trails spread over 1977 skiable acres, 7 peaks and the most expansive snowmaking system in the East. Since Powdr purchased the area in 2007, over $33 million has been invested in improvements and major efforts were made to improve the quality of all Killington’s services. The results show not only on the slopes but in significant Net Promoter Score gains that indicate more guests will refer their friends to Killington and Pico now compared with previous years.
By Karen D. Lorentz