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`SKI UTAH’ LICENSE PLATES MAY WHOOSH INTO HISTORY

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State lawmakers have passed a bill that would end the issuance of the state's ski-logo license plates despite concerns from the ski and tourism industries.

If the measure is signed into law, the "Ski Utah! Greatest Snow on Earth" license plates would no longer be available after Jan. 1, 1997.In passing HB48, lawmakers designated as the new standard the statehood centennial plate that depicts Delicate Arch rising from the southern Utah desert.

But ski and tourism industry officials like the ski-logo plate, which they say has helped raise profits by raising the state's profile among big-spending ski visitors.

"It's an icon; it's what we sell; it's our product," said Dean Reeder, director of the Utah Travel Council, a state tourism promotion agency. "We have got two great symbols (the arch and the skier), and I'd like to retain both."

A skier spends an average of $181 a day, while campers drop about $30, according to state estimates.

The ski industry generated more than $500 million for Utah's economy last year and provided enough employment to keep 13,000 workers busy for a year. Some 3.1 million skiers also chipped in a hefty portion of the state's $3.3 billion earnings for the travel and tourism industry.

Utah also fought Ringling Bros.- Barnum & Bailey two years for the right to keep using the jingle, "Greatest Snow on Earth," which sounds similar to the circus's motto. Just two months ago, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled Utah could register the ski slogan.

"To do away entirely with the `Greatest Snow on Earth' license plate - well, that's disappointing," said Mark Menlove, director of SkiUTAH!, the statewide ski industry trade association.

Kent Granzin, a marketing professor at the University of Utah, questioned the timing of the decision, since the state last June won its bid to host the 2002 Winter Olympics.

"With the Olympics coming up, I can't think of a better anchor for developing the image to get people to think about Utah," Granzin said.

"Disappointing" was the word used by Dave Evans, president of the Evans Group, a Salt Lake City marketing firm that promoted the state's winter tourism and donated about $300,000 worth of in-kind services to last year's Olympics bid.

"The rule of advertising is to get one message out there and to get it out strongly," he said. The license plate - along with T-shirts and ads - is one of those vehicles for branding the message in visitors' minds.

"The snow factor is such a huge identifier for the state," he said.