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New group protests Snowbird's plans for center on peak

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS -- A small fledgling group, "People for a Lift-Free 10,420," wants to put a halt to resort development in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

The group was founded to protest development of "10,420," which refers to a piece of property at an elevation of 10,420 feet on the back side of Park City. But the protest in the heat of Saturday afternoon focused on Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort's future development. The Forest Service will rule in the next few weeks on Snowbird's environmental impact statement.People for a Lift-Free 10,420 has been active for only a couple of months and protested without support from the older environmental groups Save our Canyons and the Sierra Club. The group has more support from Utah Animal Rights Coalition than other local environmental groups, which are more conservative, said member Kelsey Campbell.

"Every ski resort wants to build up for the 2002 Winter Olympics," said group founder Ian Brandt. He and a few others protested Snowbird's current construction of a chair lift in Mineral Basin and proposed development of a 78,000-square-foot convention center at the top of Hidden Peak.

"If I hike for eight hours to get to the top of Twin Peaks in the Lone Peak Wilderness Area, it's a nuisance to see a 78,000-square-foot building at the top of Hidden Peak," Brandt said.

If constructed, the building could be seen from as far away as the Oquirrh Mountains, he said.

The new Mineral Basin chair lift, however, is being constructed on private land owned by Snowbird, said Bob Black, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort mountain operations director, in a separate interview.

"We informed the Forest Service and the environmental community last summer that we would build a chair lift. We held open public and scheduled meetings with environmental groups." Of those groups who voiced concerns, People for a Lift-Free 10,420 wasn't one of them, said Black, who added that the group has never contacted the resort directly.

Brandt said he is also concerned that missile launching sites for avalanche control in Mineral Basin would be located outside of Snowbird's private land.

About three years ago, Snowbird started an EIS of its proposed five-year master plan, Black said, and the public has had ample time to voice opinions.

The proposed development includes construction of a multiple-use building at the top of the tram at Hidden Peak, a day lodge in lower Gad Valley, an upgrade of an existing lift from a fixed double to a detachable quad chair lift, another lift to Gad III and installation of additional snowmaking lines in the ground. Snowmaking lines would be placed along existing roads or in areas already disturbed by ski-run construction, said Black.

"We're not hiding out -- we're happy to talk to people. It makes great environmental sense," Black said.

The Forest Service will release its decision on Snowbird's proposed development in the next few weeks based on its evaluation of the EIS, according to Black.