Ski Utah recently hosted a cheery event kicking off the 100-day countdown to the 2014-2015 ski season. While that celebration may have been warmly received by many in the ski industry, it only ratcheted up the tension in Park City, where two of the three local ski operators are locked in a three-year-long legal battle that could shut down the town's namesake resort.
The nail biting continued on Friday as attorneys representing Park City Mountain Resort and Vail Resorts/Talisker LLC asked Third District Court Judge Ryan Harris to extend his previously mandated Aug. 15 mediation deadline to Aug. 24. The delay adds another week of anxiety for Parkites whose livelihoods are inextricably tied to the local ski industry and who have been hoping the combatants will hammer out a compromise to ensure PCMR's lifts will run this coming ski season.
In the meantime, national media outlets are circling anticipating a dramatic climax in a case that involves colorful bigwigs from Wall Street to the ski industry. Forbes magazine published an article on Wednesday entitled: "Will A Legal Battle With Vail Cancel Park City's Ski Season?" Reporters from The New York Times are also said to be sniffing around town, interviewing community leaders and vocal prognosticators.
When asked for their take on the extension, a Park City Council member and a handful of local business leaders expressed cautious optimism. The fact that PCMR and Vail Resorts were still talking, they say, is a positive sign.
So far, the community's response has been fraught with handwringing, scolding and vague threats of bureaucratic repercussions from City Hall. A better remedy would be to take another hard look at the risks involved in being a one-industry town and intensify efforts to diversify the economy. It is the same discussion local business leaders engage in every year when the snow is late and the climate warms up another degree.
In the meantime, the 100-day clock is ticking and another deadline in the lawsuit is approaching. On Aug 27, the judge is set to determine how much PCMR needs to pay for a bond to cover back rent and legal costs. then we also hope to know whether skiers will be able to line up at PCMR's base for a ride up the mountain to ski on Vail's slopes.
What no one wants to see are headlines like the one foreshadowed in Forbes, that Park City -- with all of the wonderful amenities it has to offer in addition to skiing -- is closed.