The U.S. Forest Service is seeking public comment on plans for trail improvements at Alta Ski Area that include a granite retaining wall and underground snow-making lines.

The ski resort plans to widen and regrade a portion of Mambo trail, which will provider a safer way for skiers to get down from Germania Pass into Collins Gulch. The Alta Ski Lifts Co. will also construct the retaining wall, install underground snow-making lines and realign a segment of mountain road for vehicle access during summer months.

"The top of that Collins Lift in this Mambo run is not even a ski run," said Onno Wieringa, general manager of Alta Ski Area. "It starts out as a ski run, goes into the summer road, back into a ski run then into the road again.

"We make it work, but we haul snow and push snow and shovel snow, and especially this year brought it to light, with less than average snow fall. We thought it's time to fix this place up."

The area often bottlenecks with skiers and needs its own snow-making equipment, Wieringa said. The improvements are part of the resort's master plan and are slated to begin this summer.

Save Our Canyons, a local environmental group, has been meeting with Alta over the last couple of months to review the project and ensure environmental impacts are minimized.

"We're comfortable with it, and we recognize there's a need for that particular project," said Lisa Smith, SOC's executive director. "They have really tried to set themselves apart as a leader, as far as the ski industry is concerned, with regards to the environment."

The project would affect approximately 4.5 acres of national forest land. The Forest Service must authorize the project and will assess potential impacts through the National Environmental Policy Act.

Alta Mayor Tom Pollard did a "ski around" with Alta Ski Lifts Co. to check out the site and is excited about the project.

"I think that's going to be a great idea, because realistically, early in the season, that area is really weak in trying to get people down," he said. "I've always felt like the Alta Ski Lift Co. has been really responsive when they do projects, like maintaining the vegetation. They are very good stewards of their land up here."

Public input will help determine the level of oversight needed for the project. All comments are due by May 11. Comments may be submitted via e-mail at: comments-intermtn-wasatch-cache-saltlake@fs.fed.us. Comments can also be mailed to: Loren Kroenke, District Ranger, Salt Lake Ranger District, 6944 S. 3000 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84121 or sent by fax to 801-733-2884.


E-mail: astowell@desnews.com