2002 to 2018: The Emergence of the Modern Ski Industry

The 2000s continued to see growth in both the volume and revenues generated by Park City’s three resorts. What was once a recreational outlet for a mining town became a lifeline boosted by small business investors and was now evolving into a major industry governed by the laws of big business.

 

The Merger of Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons

In 2011, Park City Mountain Resort failed to renew its lease in a timely manner with Talisker Mountain Inc. (which owned and operated the adjacent Canyons Resort). They sent the letter renewing the lease two days late without much thought to the consequence. Indeed, for 8 months, things continued to operate normally until Talisker notified Park City Mountain Resort that the lease had expired. The late notice had given Vail Resorts the opportunity it needed to swoop in.

From 2012 to 2014, PCMR sued to retain rights to use the mountain, Talisker sold the rights as well as the legal headaches to Vail Resorts, and in a short-lived standoff, Vail Resorts ended up buying PCMR outright for $182.5 million. In the end, Vail would come to own and combine both resorts and their ski area into one mega ski resort known as Park City Mountain.

And so it was that Park City went from three to two ski resorts. Otherwise, the biggest immediate difference for the average skier—both in Utah and Colorado—was the ability to gain access to Park City Mountain with Vail’s popular EPIC ski pass.

 

Deer Valley Joins Ski Conglomerate

In 2017, Deer Valley was purchased for an undisclosed amount by an investment group that included Aspen’s parent company but which didn’t even give itself a name until 2018. The newly christened Alterra Mountain Company ended up owning 11 resorts in 7 states including Park City’s Deer Valley, as well as maintaining a close relationship with the ownership of Aspen’s four ski resorts.

It’s unclear how much the day-to-day operation of Deer Valley stands to change. Its new ownership has made few management changes and has pledged that resort managers are “empowered to be decisive, creative and bold in order to retain each mountain’s authentic character.”

 

Cost Hikes, Bells-and-Whistles, and Discount Packages

The larger question remains: The corporate maneuvering aside, what does this all mean for the average skiing enthusiast? Bigger corporate owners mean more investment and more technology and amenities available at Park City’s resorts. Indeed, every few years, the resorts attempt to gin up extra interest by installing new ski areas, terrain parks, and resort amenities. It also means higher retail prices for things like lift tickets and lodging, but it also means more aggressive discounts from these higher retail prices. Huge ski corporations have the resources to deeply research and predict the demand for lift tickets week-to-week and day-to-day. Buying lift tickets at Park City’s resorts is now more like the dynamic pricing of airline tickets than ever before and continues to move in that direction. Likewise, the marketing and advertising campaigns implemented by these corporations have grown more elaborate and narrowcast to specific ski audiences.