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Park City Mountain lift dispute heads to court

The Eagle lift at Park City Mountain. Plans to upgrade Eagle and the Silverlode lift were successfully blocked by four Park City residents in 2022.
Parker Malatesta
The Eagle lift at Park City Mountain. Plans to upgrade Eagle and the Silverlode lift were successfully blocked by four Park City residents in 2022.

Vail Resorts and Park City Municipal will be in court Monday over a proposal to upgrade lifts at Park City Mountain.

Park City Mountain came to the city with plans to upgrade the Eagle and Silverlode lifts on the Mountain Village side of the resort in 2022.

The proposal didn’t require a vote, and was reviewed and approved by former city planning director Gretchen Milliken.

A group of four Parkites appealed that decision to the planning commission, saying the lift upgrades didn’t fall in line with the resort’s 1998 development agreement with the city.

The appeal’s main argument is that Park City Mountain is exceeding its comfortable carrying capacity, or CCC, the maximum legal occupancy of the resort and its lifts.

The planning commission agreed to grant the appeal in a split vote, effectively blocking the new lifts from being installed.

The high-speed eight-pack meant to replace Silverlode was sent to Whistler instead. Park City Mountain owner Vail Resorts said in earnings reports that the blocked project cost the company millions.

The move came after the 2021-22 winter when the resort was plagued by poor snowfall, low staffing levels, and a 47% increase in Epic Passes.

One of the appellants, Old Town resident Angela Moschetta, said the conditions that season pushed them to act.

“We were essentially crowding a lot more skiers into a lot less space, and that’s what really led to those lift lines that became fodder for memes and went viral,” Moschetta said. “The notion that increasing capacity on a lift is going to be the sole thing that alleviates lines is false. And Silverlode, one of the lifts in question as part of this upgrade, really makes that point. It went from a four-pack to a six-pack, but we have more traffic at that lift now than we ever did before.”

She said the group is not opposed to new lifts.

“It’s about the bigger picture. This town was under assault, and still in many ways is, on peak traffic days... And what do you do about that? Nobody could figure out anything to do. Deer Valley operates under its comfortable carrying capacity and uses that as sort of a marketing tool. But we had the suspicion, based upon lived experience, that Vail had been operating well over for many winters in a row… In terms of the long game, we really just kind of want to hold Vail accountable to the terms of their development agreement.”

Vail later appealed the planning commission’s decision to Third District Court, where Judge Richard Mrazik will hear arguments Nov. 13.

Vail Resorts contends in legal filings that the planning commission acted outside its scope, and therefore its decision to grant the appeal was arbitrary and illegal.

The company argues that the mountain’s development agreement should be viewed as a “dynamic” road map, not an exact blueprint.

The city denies those claims. In court documents, lawyers for the city say the planning commission acted within its scope, adding that the proposed Eagle lift upgrade didn’t align with plans set forth in the development agreement.

The city also argues that Park City Mountain did not provide an adequate plan to mitigate the parking impacts, a requirement for the lift upgrades. Vail says evidence suggests new lifts don’t translate to increased parking demand.

The four people behind the appeal have petitioned to intervene in the case, and have joined the city in defense. They’ve raised more than $2,400 through GoFundMe as part of their legal defense fund.

If Judge Mrazik sides with Vail, Park City Mountain would be granted the approval to upgrade both the Silverlode and Eagle lifts.