Olympic heretic Alexis Kelner has taken a break from his latest contravention - battling Utah's 1998 Winter Olympics bid - and is relaxing on the west porch of the Wasatch Mountain Club lodge in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Kelner has invested a great deal of effort in maintaining the lodge. His muscle has contributed to shoring up the structure's log walls that have suffered from the harsh mountain elements for the past 60 years.Now, however, Kelner has little time to devote to the old lodge. He's too busy fighting the Winter Olympics - something he believes will corrode the Utah environment and Utahns' pocketbooks much like the wind and snow have taken their toll on the Mountain Club lodge.

To Kelner, the Games sought by Utah's Olympic boss Tom Welch will bring scorn and debt to the state and, perhaps of more consequence, speed the devastation of the most unusual and best-cared-for environment in the Mountain West.

"I am totally against accelerated natural growth by artificial means. It's like putting steroids in an athlete," said the Latvian-born environmentalist.

From this remote alpine setting, Kelner speaks more freely of his love for Utah's natural surroundings and the threat against them posed by the Olympics than of his unusual objections over public support of the Olympics.

Kelner came to Salt Lake City in 1950 with his parents, displaced from their native Latvia during World War II. He plans to stay here the rest of his life, working as an author and illustrator attached to a region he describes as invaluably unique.

"You can go west an hour and be in the most sublime Great Basin country imaginable . . . and you can drive east a half hour and you're in alpine terrain," he said.

To Kelner, Utah's deserts and mountains are not quantities separate from the human beings that inhabit them, but rather integral parts of them. "We are basically creations of the environment," he says.

Consequently, Utah's environment ought to be protected by the state, Kelner says. Instead, the area's natural surroundings are made vulnerable to the pursuits of others.

"People do things to the environment that are in a lot of ways ego-related," Kelner laments, saying the landscape is marred with developments that really are "monuments to oneself."

"The Olympics is certainly a prime example of building monuments to oneself," he adds.

But there are more "examples of hedonism," that have led Kelner to the front lines of other environmental skirmishes. He fought against developers of Snowbird ski area, anti-wilderness forces and Salt Lake City's 1985 bid for the Olympics before he confronted his newest foe: the 1998 Winter Games.

Kelner's Olympic battle plan consists of traditional grandstanding before the local media with a rhetorical blend of pro-environmental and anti-tax sentiments.

"I am the first environmentalist to explore alliance with people who have concerns about taxation," Kelner boasts.

Olympic boosters complain that Kelner is simply a nay-sayer who was once an environmentalist but now fancies himself as an economist. Kelner has been quick to criticize financial plans laid by Olympic organizers.

But Kelner refuses to admit that he is using economic issues to pry away at the Olympic movement and that he is really opposed to the Games because of his environmental concerns.

"Poor economic and poor environmental planning really go hand in hand," he said.

If Utahns pass the Nov. 7 non-binding Olympic referendum, Kelner says, the loss will lend credence to his doomsaying.

"The Utah people will have given the Utah Olympics promoters the opportunity to prove me right," he said.

Kelner's Olympics attacks have placed him on the firing line of occasionally bristling debates with Olympic proponents. Throughout the fray, however, Kelner says he prides himself on keeping a sense of humor.

"If we lose, and I suspect we might, my anguish will last five minutes. And then I will be back," he said.

"So many promises have been made by people pushing the Olympics, someone will have to follow them and be sure what has been promised will be honored," he said.