The opinions of experts who will visit the proposed Squaw Peak cross country and biathlon site over the next few weeks will likely determine Utah County's chances of landing a venue for the 2002 Winter Games.

A group set up by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee is studying several proposed venue sites and is expected to recommend to the organizing committee board of trustees by late summer which location is best. The group will likely base its decision on input received from world-renowned ski and trail experts who will visit each site."We'll make the recommendation, and we hope what they say just reinforces what we believe," said John Aalberg, cross country and biathlon planner for the SLOC.

The Squaw Peak site near the mouth of Provo Canyon is one of four locations that are expected to get the most consideration. The others are Sherwood Hills Golf Course in Logan Canyon, Wasatch State Park near Midway and North Fork Park near Ogden.

On Friday, the two international experts who will be designing the trails when the site is selected visited the proposed Squaw Peak location. Hermod Bjorkestol of Norway, representing the International Ski Federation, and Janez Vodicar of Slovenia, representing the International Biathlon Union, reviewed the Squaw Peak proposal and how it fits guidelines established by international associations.

"There's certain norms these trails have to comply with," Aal-berg said.

Even though the Squaw Peak proposal includes a recommended trail and facility layout, the two international experts examined terrain and topography at Squaw Peak and discussed what they thought would be the best design. They looked at weather information received from two nearby weather stations and provided in the proposal to determine what areas would best maintain a snow pack. They also evaluated the site's snowmaking capabilities.

Bjorkestol and Vodicar would not discuss specifics about each site. Both said they were impressed with the detail of the Squaw Peak proposal, and they were impressed with the view of Utah Valley.

However, after visiting several sites over the weekend, the two did express some concern about weather conditions at Squaw Peak. Officials want to make sure weather conditions are right for competitions, and Bjorkestol said the Squaw Peak site is a little warmer than the others.

"There's disadvantages and advantages to each site," he said.

Before leaving Utah later this week, the two are expected to rank the sites on established criteria and make a recommendation to the SLOC site selection group.

"These guys have expertise with big competitions and they know what is needed," Aalberg said. "There's a big difference between a local race and an Olympic ski race."

Before final site selection takes place, environmental and weather experts are also scheduled to visit each proposed site. The SLOC will also take input about each proposed site from the U.S. Ski Federation and U.S. Biathlon Association. The Squaw Peak site already has the endorsement of two nationally known experts in cross country trail design.

For the most part, work by local officials to lobby for the Squaw Peak site is done. The selection process is taking place behind closed doors and without input from supporters of each proposal. Lewis Billings, Provo's chief administrative officer and leader of Utah County's Olympic movement, said the selection process is fair as long as each proposal is treated equally.

"We've been told we're all receiving equal consideration, and we are comfortable that that is the case," Billings said.

The organizing committee wants to begin construction on the venue next year and begin holding national championships at the site in 2000 and international events in 2001.

Local officials are after the cross country and biathlon facility because of the legacy it would leave behind for Utah County residents after the 2002 Games are over. The facility would cost an estimated $21 million, but $17 million would come from the SLOC.