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Resort: Vail hasn’t met with Griswold

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

A Vail Resorts spokeswoman denied this week the company is in talks with Wolf Mountain Resorts chief Kenny Griswold about operating what is now The Canyons, should Griswold succeed in ending a lease with American Skiing Co.

Since last spring, Griswold has tried to wrestle back control of the resort by notifying American Skiing that he intended to terminate the lease.

"We’re not going to let that happen," Tim Vetter, a spokesman for The Canyons, said. "We’ll take whatever actions we need to, to be able to protect the interest of the community and the interest of our employees and the interest of the company."

Headquartered in Park City, American Skiing owns The Canyons and seven other resorts in North America.

But Griswold, owner of the former Wolf Mountain Resort, owns much of the ski terrain at The Canyons, which has been leased to American Skiing Co. since 1997. Before American Skiing’s arrival, The Canyons was known as Wolf Mountain.

"If we have any discussions about any potential acquisitions, we don’t comment or speculate," Vail Resorts spokeswoman Kelly Ladyga said Thursday. "But we have not had discussions with Mr. Griswold nor have we met with him."

A legal complaint filed by Wolf Mountain Tuesday in Third District Court claims American Skiing recently sent Griswold a letter demanding he "cease and desist" discussions with potential buyers for his land.

"We haven’t seen the complaint," Ladyga said, insisting that Vail Resorts Chief Executive Officer Rob Katz hasn’t been involved in talks with Griswold.

According to Vetter, "It’s once again telling."

"[Vail] wouldn’t be adamant about it if there was any doubt," Vetter added.

But Griswold claims he flew to Colorado about two weeks ago to discuss options at The Canyons with several potential investors.

"I’m not sure who he met with in Colorado but it wasn’t anyone in our company," Ladyga said.

Vail Resorts also operates the Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Keystone ski areas in Colorado and Heavenly near Lake Tahoe, she added.

Vetter insists The Canyons doesn’t plan to leave Park City.

"[The Canyons] had three record years both where skier-days and revenues and profits are concerned — three record years in a row," Vetter said. "The Canyons will be here for 200 years."

American Skiing Co. leased land from Wolf Mountain Resorts for 50 years with options to extend the contract an additional 150 years, he said.

"The statements that they’ve made in the media, the allegations that they’ve thrown out there is just clearly their attempt to try and take the blame away from themselves," Vetter said. "American Skiing Company is in the best financial shape it’s been in since it went public, investing money back into the resort."

But Griswold disagrees.

"Anyone who is properly informed knows that [American Skiing’s] financial problems and continuing default are not going to go away," he said. "You cannot disguise the trouble that they’re in."

Meanwhile, according to Griswold’s Aug. 8 complaint, Wolf Mountain Resorts recently rejected an offer "to purchase Wolf Mountain’s interest in The Canyons" from Talisker Deer Valley-owned United Park City Mines.

But Third District Court Judge Bruce Lubeck has issued a preliminary injunction that temporarily bars Griswold from ending the lease.

The Canyons was notified last spring they had violated the lease when resort officials had inappropriately discussed the contract "behind Wolf Mountain’s back," the complaint states.

Griswold said, "I only will take [the land] back the same way your bank will take back your house if you violate the contract."

"ASC is the only one that doesn’t not know they’re in financial trouble," Griswold continued. "Everybody’s aware of the financial desperation of American Skiing Company, except for ASC."


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