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Legal war over Park City Mountain Resort intensifies

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Posted at 5:13 PM, Apr 03, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-03 19:13:55-04

PARK CITY -- The ski season is winding down, but litigation season is just getting started.

Lawyers for Park City Mountain Resort and the landlord over the mountain it sits on -- Talisker Holdings -- went before a judge in Silver Summit's 3rd District Court on Thursday. Park City Mountain Resort asked the judge to reconsider its legal claims, Talisker wanted the judge to toss their lawsuit.

Park City Mountain Resort, a crown jewel of Utah's ski industry and a former Olympic venue, is in the midst of a landlord-tenant dispute with Talisker. Last year, Talisker served the resort with an eviction notice.

In court, Talisker claimed PCMR missed a deadline to renew its lease for the property and failed to even give notice that it was going to renew.

"The only thing they had to do was provide notice 60 days in advance that they wanted to renew the lease," said Talisker attorney Howard Shapiro. "They failed to do that."

PCMR claimed it was an "honest mistake." Attorneys for the ski resort argued they had been operating on the belief they were renewing their lease, making improvements to the property and talking about long-term goals.

"It was a perfectly justifiable mistake," PCMR attorney Alan Sullivan said. "Certainly everybody's expectation was the lease had been extended."

PCMR also argued that other contracts and agreements (including an agreement with Park City government) tied it to the mountain. Judge Ryan Harris pressed them on whether it was an honest mistake or negligence.

"Are you conceding that what happened here is negligence?" the judge asked Sullivan.

"No," Sullivan replied. "No, I'm not conceding that."

Talisker indicated in court that it had another entity waiting to take over -- Vail Resorts, which runs the Canyons ski resort next door. Despite being served with an eviction notice last year, PCMR continued operations over the winter -- its 50th anniversary in business.

The impact of the PCMR litigation could be huge for Park City. It is a large employer and a major draw for tourists.

"The harm that plaintiffs understandably seek to avoid is to themselves," Shapiro told Judge Harris. "They have negligently slaughtered the goose that's been laying their golden eggs for decades."

The judge took the case under advisement, saying he was hoping for a ruling in 60 days. PCMR urged the judge to send the case to trial.

As he left court, John Cumming, the CEO of PCMR's parent company, Powdr, gave a brief statement to reporters, indicating he was still hopeful for a resolution.

"We've made above market offers to buy the land. We've suggested above market lease payments," Cumming said. "We hope that as the legal process goes forward, there will be some rational discussion from the other side, too."