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Forest Service Rule Prohibits Over-snow Traffic in Ski Town



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ALTA, Utah (AP) -- A new Forest Service rule intended to boost skier safety at Alta Ski Area has angered residents of this small resort town who say their winter travel will be too restricted.

Homeowners here rely on Snowcats, snowmobiles and skis to reach their homes during winter because many roads are unpaved.

The Forest Service rule would ban so-called over-snow vehicle travel between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily during ski season. About 21 homes would be affected.

"We're landlocked," says Diane Bledsoe, who splits her time between her Grizzly Gulch cabin and her Sandy home.

Bledsoe currently has a Forest Service permit that allows 24-hour motorized access to her cabin, but said she fears getting slapped with the restrictions.

Residents have until May 21 to challenge the decision. If the rule is upheld by regional officers in Ogden, homeowner's could take the issue to federal court.

In its ruling, the Forest Service said a travel ban through Alta Ski Area had been in place since 1982, but had gone ignored and unenforced.

Residents argue that in 1981 they were promised that a resort expansion that added two chair lifts would not impede access to their homes.

In 2005, concern for safety prompted the Alta Ski Area to ask the Forest Service for a review of its travel management. The resort is on leased federal land that includes 36 privately held homes in Grizzly Gulch and Albion Basin.

"We're trying to stay ahead of the curve instead of waiting until there's a bad situation," says Onno Wieringa, general manager of Alta Ski Area. "We're representing hundreds of thousands of skiers that come here every year."

Alta -- population 400 -- differs from other ski towns in that the resort and home development have occurred separately, the Forest Service's Salt Lake District Ranger Loren Kroenke said. In most other areas, homeowners have year-round paved road access to their property.

No collisions between over-snow vehicles and skiers have been reported in the Wasatch Mountains, Kroenke said. Colorado has had several in recent years, including a fatality in 2004, he said.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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