Sen. Orrin Hatch said this week he is attempting to nudge Park City Mountain Resort and a firm under the Talisker umbrella toward an agreement to settle a dispute that resort officials say could force the closure of PCMR.
In an interview with The Park Record, Hatch said he had recently spoken to representatives from Talisker and PCMR. He said he "encouraged them to get together and resolve their differences."
"I'm going to do everything I can to help. It's important for Park City. It's important to our state," Hatch said.
He said he is acting as a facilitator in the case. Hatch said he has not taken on a role as a negotiator or a mediator, however. The degree of his involvement is not clear and it was not certain whether one of the sides requested he become involved. It was also not immediately known whether other members of Utah's delegation to Washington, D.C., are involved.
Hatch said it appears that PCMR and a firm known as Talisker Land Holdings want to settle the case.
"Both sides seem open to sitting down together and resolving this," he said.
Hatch, a six-term Republican preparing for a June 26 primary election to determine the GOP's nominee in November, said at least one of his staffers is closely monitoring the case.
Hatch, since last fall, has taken a special interest in the state's ski industry as one of the sponsors of the SkiLink legislation. The bill calls for 30 acres of federal land to be sold to Talisker-controlled Canyons that are needed to build a gondola between Canyons and Solitude Mountain Resort.
The supporters see the connection as something that will boost the state's economy and curb the number of drivers between the Park City area and Big Cottonwood Canyon. Environmentalists and backcountry enthusiasts are critical of the idea, questioning whether SkiLink will reduce traffic and saying a pristine part of the Wasatch Mountains will be ruined.
It does not seem that SkiLink is dependent on the outcome of the case between PCMR and Talisker, but the lawsuit continues to loom over Talisker as movement continues on the gondola connection.
The PCMR lawsuit centers on a lease dispute between the resort and Talisker. Some of the resort's acreage is on Talisker-owned land. PCMR officials worry that the resort could be forced to close if it does not prevail. PCMR and Talisker are engaged in private discussions about settling the dispute.
PCMR claims Talisker wants to take ownership of the resort and is attempting to do so by trying to force its closure or increasing the cost of operating the resort. PCMR has added two claims to the lawsuit charging Talisker with violations of state antitrust laws.
Mike Goar, the managing director of Canyons, and a PCMR spokesperson acknowledged the private discussions are ongoing. Neither side confirmed Hatch's involvement.