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Town has sharp eye on resort trades

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A ski town’s well being is inextricably woven together with the financial health of the company that runs its local resort and over the past decade Park City has been fortunate to share in the success of three thriving ski areas.

Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) and The Canyons have all embarked on ambitious expansions of their terrain and on-mountain amenities, providing a significant boost to Park City’s tourism-based economy. So, Park City residents have much more than a passing interest in this week’s announcements that the American Skiing Company (ASC), which owns The Canyons and is headquartered in Park City, is selling off four of its Eastern resorts and that POWDR Corp. which owns Park City Mountain Resort and is also headquartered in Park City, is entering into a partnership to run two of the four.

It is no secret that American Skiing Company, which grew from a one-resort outfit in Maine to a sprawling ski empire in the 1980s and ’90s, went deeply in debt to finance its rapid expansion. Some, particularly those close to ASC’s eastern resorts, claim the company squandered its resources out West at Steamboat and The Canyons, neglecting its original purchases at the expense of its latter acquisitions.

That may be true.

But Parkites can’t deny that they have been the biggest benefactors of ASC’s optimism. When ASC bought The Canyons (then Wolf Mountain) it had fallen behind in the snow-resort arms race of ritzy real estate, sophisticated snowmaking and grooming equipment and international advertising. ASC founder, Les Otten swaggered in with a bold plan calling for new lifts, more terrain, a major hotel and condominiums at the base and a whole new mid-mountain complex.

Much of that plan has come to fruition, though some promises, like a golf course, have yet to be fulfilled.

Nevertheless, Summit County’s coffers have greatly benefited from the real estate and commercial development at The Canyons.

In the meantime, POWDR has adopted a more cautious approach at PCMR, postponing parts of a major base-area expansion plan approved by City Hall nearly a decade ago. It is therefore interesting that POWDR has opted to buy into Killington and Pico Mountain, even assuming some of ASC’s debt, before moving ahead on its Park City plans.

Each November, Parkites from all walks of life hold their collective breath waiting for the ski season to begin. And each time Mother Nature is stingy with snow, as she has been this month, local merchants experience the same anxiety attacks that plague the ski area operators. In that spirit, Parkites will be on tenterhooks over the next few months hoping the recent hand-off between ASC and POWDR bodes well for each.


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