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Deer Valley accused of rentals monopoly

SKYLER BELL, Of the Record staff

Christy Sports LLC, a ski and snowboard retailer based in Colorado, filed an antitrust lawsuit with the federal court in Utah against Deer Valley for allegedly attempting to gain a monopoly on ski and snowboard rentals at the Park City resort.

The complaint claims that Deer Valley revoked the privilege of renting equipment to customers of Christy’s store located in Deer Valley’s mid-mountain area to create a monopoly on rentals at the resort.

Deer Valley began renting skis and snowboards from its mid-mountain Silver Lake Lodge last year, but only decided this season to take advantage of a lease clause stating that all retailers in the area must have the resort’s consent to rent.

"When the land was sold in 1990 by Deer Valley, they wrote a restriction in the deed that prohibited ski rental without consent," said Christy Chief Executive Officer Patrick O’Winter. "We’ve rented skis in that location since that time without complaint, and then in August of 2005 Deer Valley came and said they were going to start renting skis and that we couldn’t do it any longer."

Deer Valley gave Christy’s predecessor consent to rent equipment and, after Christy moved in, the Colorado retailer continued to rent without complaint until last August when the resort put a stop to it.

Two other rental shops will continue to rent equipment in the mid-mountain area: one in Stein Eriksen Lodge and another in Stag Lodge, but Christy contends these shops will only serve guests at the respective hotels and not other destination visitors.

Christy claims the average destination guest comes directly to the resort from the airport by shuttle and is left with no options for mid-mountain equipment rental other than through Deer Valley, which Christy argues has significantly higher prices.

"If you have only one party that can rent skis, by definition it’s a monopoly," O’Winter said. "If you have the entire availability of rentals in one place that constitutes a monopoly."

Christy, which has operated the Deer Valley mid-mountain store since the 1990-91 season, is seeking either monetary relief or for rentals to be allowed by the 25-year-old resort. Although O’Winter had no comment on how much revenue he thought the company would lose if it were not allowed to rent equipment through the end of their lease, the formal complaint estimates loses at $200,000 per year or $1.4 million through the 2012-13 season.

"We are at a complete loss to explain Deer Valley’s attitude," O’Winter said. "We do not understand where they are going with this thing. If you were a business that proclaims itself as service-oriented, which Deer Valley pretends to be, it would only make sense that you would give your guests choices. To go down to the level of nickel and dimeing a competitor will ultimately diminish the guest experience. It doesn’t make any sense."

O’Winter said he believes Deer Valley has made the decision to deny Christy the right to rent so the resort can charge customers higher prices, which O’Winter said is wrong and a bad business practice.

"If Deer Valley is successful in removing us from the rental business and we only did new equipment, that would dilute price competitiveness, and we are cheaper than they are," O’Winter said. "We believe their only purpose is to get rid of competitors so they can raise their prices."

Bob Wheaton, Deer Valley president and general manager, declined comment except to say that Deer Valley "definitely does not agree with the assertions in the complaint."


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