PCMR exec ‘disappointed’ with Planning Commission lift decision
Deirdra Walsh says a false narrative contributed to vote ruling against proposed upgrades
Upgrades to the Eagle and Silverlode Express lifts at Park City Mountain Resort will not happen in time for the 2022-2023 ski season following a decision by the Park City Planning Commission on Wednesday.
Deirdra Walsh, the new vice president and chief operating officer at PCMR, said in a prepared statement she’s disheartened by the 3-1 vote in favor of an appeal challenging the resort’s lift upgrade project. PCMR was seeking to replace the current Eagle and Eaglet lifts with a high-speed, six-person detachable lift and upgrade the Silverlode Express from a six-person chair to an eight-person, high-speed lift. The improvement would have made it parent company Vail Resorts’ first-ever lift of its kind in North America.
“We are considering our options and next steps based on today’s disappointing decision – but one thing is clear – we will not be able to move forward with these two lift upgrades for the 22/23 winter season,” the statement said. “And that should be a disappointing outcome for everyone who loves to ski and ride at Park City Mountain.”
Walsh’s statement continued that those who are opposed to the proposed lift upgrades, which she characterized as “important enhancements to the guest experience,” are relying on a false narrative. She criticized arguments that replacing “aged infrastructure with modernized lifts will draw crowds” and said they are untrue.
“Chairlift tourism does not exist – skiers and riders just want to spend more time on Park City Mountain’s vast terrain and less time in line. Investment in infrastructure is a critical part of the guest experience at Park City Mountain – and we are deeply disappointed that the City is now blocking that investment at the last minute,” Walsh’s statement said.
The resort has been working with the city’s planning staff and the community since November to collaborate on the project, which makes it one of the longest lift-upgrade reviews in recent years, according to the PCMR executive. Walsh said it’s also disappointing the appeal was granted because the lift upgrades are included in the mountain upgrade plan, which is part of a 1998 development agreement between the resort and the municipal government.
Park City Planning Director Gretchen Milliken and her department reviewed the development agreement as part of the application and determined the criteria for staff-level approval were met, including a standard that proposed lift improvements must be consistent with the mountain upgrade plan.
The Planning Department also required the resort to meet 19 conditions of approval, which include a requirement that PCMR use net proceeds from paid parking to reinvest in transit, transportation and parking measures to mitigate traffic problems around the resort as well as adequate residential neighborhood traffic mitigation.
On Wednesday, Planning Commissioner Sarah Hall agreed with Planning Department staff that the resort’s application did meet the criteria for an administrative conditional-use permit. While she made a motion to deny the appeal, Planning Commissioners Laura Suesser, John Kenworthy and Bill Johnson voted in favor of the challenge. They agreed with the arguments of the four Park City residents who filed the appeal that the proposed lift upgrades were inconsistent with the original plan and that not enough has been done to resolve parking problems.
After the Planning Commission’s vote, Mike Goar, who was recently succeeded by Walsh at PCMR but remains with Vail Resorts in a new role, asked the panel to split the Silverlode Express and Eagle lift discussions. He said the Silverlode Express upgrade should move forward as most of the concerns were about replacing the Eagle lift.
Last week, Goar said dividing the upgrades into two separate topics would prevent further delays that would result in the work not occurring before the upcoming ski season. The Planning Commission didn’t support splitting the project either time.
Kenworthy called for more collaboration between the resort and city officials to help move the process forward in the future. He indicated he may be willing to support the project later if changes are made to the proposal like an improved parking strategy and more detailed conditions of approval.
“We are not only disappointed with the Planning Commission’s decision to grant the appeal of our previously approved lift projects; we are fundamentally concerned with, and confused by, the City blocking this significant investment in the guest experience at Park City Mountain,” Walsh’s statement said. “As the country’s largest resort, Park City Mountain has 41 lifts – our goal is to upgrade two of them, with the purpose of reducing wait times in two popular spots and helping guests move up and around the mountain more easily.”
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