Is Vail interested in operating The Canyons?
Wolf Mountain Resorts chief Kenny Griswold says he met recently with officials from Vail Resorts in Colorado to discuss whether they are interested in operating The Canyons, should he wrestle control of the resort from American Skiing Co.
"Vail would do brilliant things," Griswold said in an interview Tuesday. "If Vail made an announcement that they were coming to Park City it’d be like a balloon that lifts the values to the sky, the way they should be. It’s a company with financial strength."
As owner of much of the ski terrain at The Canyons, Griswold leases thousands of acres of property to American Skiing Co., the resort’s parent company.
But he has claimed a drop in American Skiing’s stock price and $600 million in losses at the company have prevented a golf course from being constructed at The Canyons.
Griswold says American Skiing, as the key developer of the resort, violated an agreement with Wolf Mountain when the course was not completed by 2002.
He is now trying to evict American Skiing and has heard offers from parties interested in purchasing the land, Griswold said.
"Our policy is not to comment on rumors or speculation," Vail spokeswoman Jen Brown said when asked whether Griswold met with officials at the resort.
But Tim Vetter, a spokesman for The Canyons insists Griswold has "ulterior motives" and American Skiing Co. will not leave Summit County.
"They’ve been out there in the community talking about what they’re going to name the resort when they get it back," Vetter said, adding that though American Skiing could potentially lease the land for 200 years, Griswold’s goal is to take back the resort. "It’s not funny to the community to have this kind of garbage out there."
A lawsuit filed Tuesday by Wolf Mountain Resorts against American Skiing Company details discussions Griswold has had about selling his land to Vail Resorts and Talisker Deer Valley, the parent company of United Park City Mines.
"In anticipation of retaking possession of the resort due to [American Skiing’s] numerous defaults, Wolf Mountain has been approached by several entities interested in purchasing and/or operating The Canyons ski resort should Wolf Mountain be able to regain possession of the resort," Wolf Mountain’s complaint filed this week states.
Griswold said he was issued a cease and desist notice after American Skiing brass found out he was speaking to potential buyers.
The letter from American Skiing demanded Griswold stop "making statements publicly and to third parties, including Vail Resorts [regarding Wolf Mountain’s] intentions to repossess The Canyons," Griswold’s complaint states.
"This is another ploy by Wolf to manipulate what’s out there in the public," Vetter responded.
The discussion with Vail officials came on the heels of American Skiing Company Chief Executive Officer William J. Fair introducing Griswold to a "third party" interested in purchasing thousands of acres of ski terrain at The Canyons, Griswold said.
"American Skiing Company’s highest ranking officer introduced me to a third party in an attempt to buy out our interest. [Fair] brought him to the penthouse at the Grand Summit to meet me and offer me in excess of $100 million," he added.
American Skiing had reportedly not been served Tuesday with the 14-page complaint, which asks Third District Court Judge Bruce Lubeck to authorize Wolf Mountain to negotiate with parties interested in buying the land.
Meanwhile, a separate 37-page complaint filed by American Skiing July 28 seeks to recover millions of dollars in damages that have resulted from Wolf Mountain’s "tactics," Vetter said.
"The purpose (of the complaint) is to make sure Wolf understands that they need to honor their commitments and if they’re going to keep going down the path that they’re going down, nobody will be successful," he added. "This process in my opinion has been filled with Wolf’s bad faith in trying to move this stuff forward."
Griswold’s "pattern of behavior" prevented crews from breaking ground on an 18-hole golf course this year, Vetter said.
About 20 landowners at the resort agreed in the late 1990s to a complicated development arrangement at The Canyons that required each provide land and easements for the golf course in exchange for development approvals.
"You would now be seeing pipe going into the ground," Vetter said about a recent round of negotiations that ended with every landowner at The Canyons except Wolf Mountain agreeing to construct the course. "The golf course was completely engineered to the point that it was bid and we had contracts in place."
Griswold’s refusal to cooperate has left other landowners at the resort in limbo, he said.
"Wolf has promised to give the land for the golf course," Vetter said, adding, "we’ve spent years trying to work with them in good faith."
Summit County, as enforcer of the development agreement, recently declared Wolf Mountain in default of the contract for not providing land for the golf course.
"The next step is the county will file litigation unless Wolf comes to the table by the end of the week," Vetter said Tuesday.
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The opposition to a proposal for a development at Park City Mountain Resort has enlisted a veteran of the intense dispute regarding Treasure, which unfolded over the course of years and offered some parallels to the talks regarding the PCMR project.