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Alta, Snowbird seek project approval

Alta, Snowbird seek project approval

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Two Utah ski resorts are hoping for approval of a couple projects they say will enhance summer and winter activities.

Alta Ski Area wants to expand its snowmaking operations to provide snow coverage off the Sugarloaf Lift earlier in the season, while Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort wants to develop a mountain biking trail from the midway station on Mid-Gad Lift to the Snowbird Center.

The U.S. Forest Service is seeking input on both projects, with the Salt Lake Ranger District taking public comment through Nov. 24.

Neither project is expected to have significant environmental impact, according to the Forest Service's preliminary analysis. Both projects were classified as "categorical exclusions" that did not require the extensive detail of a formal environmental analysis or environmental impact statement.

Salt Lake district snow ranger Steve Scheid said he has worked with the resorts on environmental surveys on issues such as water quality and impacts on vegetation and wildlife.

If no issues arise, work on the ground could begin as early as next summer.

The conservation group Save Our Canyons is reviewing the projects, but hasn't reached any conclusions, said interim Executive Director Carl Fisher.

Scheid said snowmaking for Alta will help make early season skiing more likely, though not guaranteed.

"With all the discussion on climate change, we hear from resorts that their shoulder season is shrinking. Snowmaking plays an important role in dealing with that," Scheid said. Nobody has enough water to make snow all over the mountain. This is a high-traffic area . . . where they need that little bit of snow to get over the hump in early season."

The biking trail would be 1.4 miles long and 3 feet wide. Snowbird spokesman Jared Ishkanian said the trail was designed to have little impact on the wilderness.

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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