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Powdr Corp. CEO John Cumming, left, and Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz say they are having a hard time finding common ground on how to run Park City Mountain Resort following this month's legal ruling that PCMR's lease on the upper ski terrain expired. Photos by Nan Chalat Noaker/Park Record

This month's ruling in 3rd District Court upholding Talisker Land Holdings, LLC's claim that Park City Mountain Resort's lease on its property expired has effectively split the ski area into two entities. Pending the outcome of an anticipated appeal by the PCMR side, Vail Resorts is planning to take over operations of the ski terrain that PCMR leased from Talisker. But Park City Mountain Resort owns the base area, which provides parking and access to the disputed slopes.

In separate interviews after the ruling, both PCMR parent Powdr Corp. CEO John Cumming and Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz told The Park Record they are willing to work together to ensure the 2014-15 ski season is not disrupted. So far, though, those negotiations are at an impasse.

In an interview last week, Katz emphasized his hope that a partnership can be worked out to preserve skier access at the existing PCMR base.

"At some point we have to move forward. We are very willing to cooperate with Powdr and the Cummings on the base land," Katz said, adding, "We are willing to spend considerable money on whatever skier infrastructure is needed on that and do it in a way that allows the Cummings to maximize their value. That parcel could be an incredible new opportunity for them financially with real estate, retail, Woodward and other things they could do." (PCMR plans to build an action sports camp called Woodward Park City.)

On Friday, Cumming confirmed Katz had reached out to him directly but declined to offer details about the conversation. When asked to characterize the negotiations Cumming would say only, "We have repeatedly made offers and have not really gotten anything in response other than 'no.' We are experiencing the same thing with Vail as we did with Talisker. Every time we try to resolve the situation the answer is 'no.'"

Attorneys for the PCMR side said their client tried to renegotiate the terms of the ski area's long-running lease with Talisker. Those negotiations, they say, were unsuccessful. Talisker subsequently entered into a contract allowing Vail Resorts to operate the Canyons ski area, and potentially the land leased by PCMR.

According to Cumming, that deal, in which Vail agreed to pay Talisker $25 million a year for 50 years to operate Talisker's ski terrain, is making it impossible for the two parties come to an agreement.

"The problem is Vail paid so much for their right to operate the Canyons that the only way they can justify it financially is by getting an absolute bargain basement price on Park City Mountain Resort. But Park City and its base aren't for sale," Cumming said. "So they've got to do a deal with us on some other basis and the answer has been 'no' whenever we tried."

Cumming reiterated his side's intent to appeal Judge Ryan Harris' decision regarding the lease's expiration.

"We think the law in the state is inadequate for this situation. Half the states in the union don't allow this kind of thing to happen," Cumming said, referring to Utah's strict lease laws.

"The fallout between landlord and tenant in this case has impacts on lots of folks and we don't think the law accommodates that reality in this state so we are hoping we can appeal and get it changed," he added.

As the resort is currently configured, the main access to the upper mountain is from PCMR's base facilities, but with the current stalemate, there has been speculation that Vail is exploring other ways to put skiers on the terrain. However, Katz said Vail is committed to working out a solution at the existing base.

"We are very focused on coming up with a constructive solution with the current access point. It would only be when that was somehow not going to happen that we would look somewhere else. We've said this multiple times -- the current way people access it is the right way for the best guest experience and the health and vitality of the community."

Both resort chiefs say they are keenly aware of the community's concerns about the dispute and claim they are trying to find a mutually acceptable solution. In the meantime Cumming said his company appreciates its employees' patience.

"We are deeply, deeply grateful for their continued support. There are lots of ways to solve this problem but our counter party in the negotiation needs to alter their thinking," Cumming said.

According to Katz, his side is also anxious to resolve the dispute. "Our company is committed to there being a ski season next year. It is predicated on PCMR doing the right thing with their base land. They need to allow people to use it to park and to ski. From Vail's perspective anyone at our company is available to make this happen. Whoever it takes, whatever it takes, we want to be constructive we want to come up with the right solution."