A very slippery slope | ParkRecord.com

A very slippery slope

Jay Meehan, Park Record columnist

Acknowledging that change is the only constant in Park City, and elsewhere for that matter, attempting to digest the recent and possibly impending shifts in the local corporate ski resort paradigm has got me washing down Zantacs with Pepto-Bismol.

I know I probably shouldn’t, but it seems that I always find a way to take modifications to my comfort zone a little too personally. It’s never proven very difficult for me to become overly invested in the status quo, as it were. Not that, over time, I haven’t come to accept more than a few of these alterations to the fabric of my so-called existence.

Life has found a way to go on without Main Street Hardware, the Cozy, the Oak, the Crazy Horse, the Forge and the Handlebar, so I suppose it’s possible that the upshot of these latest ski-resort boardroom shenanigans wouldn’t necessarily put a nail into my cultural coffin.

I just don’t have an overabundance of trust when it comes to their growth-above-all value system and the collective agenda they rode in on. It’s what this strange-bedfellow alliance between the formerly feuding Talisker and Vail entities portends down the road that has me most concerned.

I can well imagine that the closely affiliated SkiLink lobbying firm of "Boyer & Hatch" is already champing at the bit to bring Vail around to its contention that the installation of an above-ground skier conveyance connecting Canyons and Solitude is not only good for jobs and traffic congestion but is also a "green" initiative. You can’t make this stuff up!

The spin doctors will be working overtime on this one. You can forget that the pillagers saw the error of their ways when they were initially met with such resounding opposition from the communities most affected by their plot. All they did was take a step back to regroup, purchase additional political support, and acquire bigger corporate guns.

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And wait until Talisker begins courting planning commissioners and council folk with promises of huge increases of tax revenues while attempting to gain traction for their four million square feet of development at Canyons, and whatever they and Vail might end up with a few miles south if the current litigation doesn’t go PCMR’s way. How do you say "hostile takeover" in your language.

If one weren’t invested in the community, both culturally and neighborly, this might all appear to be nothing more than a delicious can of worms, an unfolding Pandora’s box of cat fights to be played out as entertainment to further slake one’s inner voyeur. However, in these quarters, that is far from the case.

For those who have been paying even somewhat-close attention to the subtle reverberations surrounding future development in the adjacent canyons of Big and Little Cottonwood and how they relate to our current preservation quandaries on this side of the ridgeline, if it wasn’t before, with the coming of Vail, the game is certainly afoot!

As we’ve been aware of for quite some time, this current SkiLink proposal is only the tip of a resort-expansion iceberg. And when coupled with Vail’s current mantra of "Utah has the greatest potential for growth," the corporate code for continued resort interconnections has been deciphered for all to see.

Then there is the possibility of the Bass family divesting itself of Snowbird, Solitude’s rumored interest in selling to Canyons, and Brighton Resort’s conceivable availability to the right bidder. One can imagine Vail, the self-proclaimed "leading mountain resort operator in the United States," flexing its muscles farther and farther into the Wasatch.

What’s at stake here, and what interests me most in any discussion of resort interconnections and expansions, is its effect on the backcountry. Even to a lifelong resort skier like myself who often flailed miserably when he donned Nordic gear and plodded uphill in an effort to bag a few telemark turns, it was increasingly evident that beauty, charm, and elegance pervaded the outback. There is a holiness about it!

But the negative impact upon what I consider sacred space is only one part of the interconnect-expansion brouhaha involving the Wasatch that is causing me angst. Also much on my mind these days are the lease issues between what is now Talisker/Vail and PCMR.

I find that the thread of continuity that began for me in 1970 with Treasure Mountain Resort and the coming of Edgar Stern and continued with the Park City Ski Area and Nick Badami and Park City Mountain Resort under John Cumming is sewn into one karmic cloth. Collectively, they have broken no public trust and have supported everything from local rugby to performance art! It would be a total shame for all of us if that thread of trust were to be broken, especially by a court ruling!

Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.