Olympic-sized rip-off

  When Salt Lake City, Utah, applied to host the 2002 Olympics, critics warned that nearby ski resorts would attempt land grabs. Now those fears are realized: A bill proposed by Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, would force the Forest Service to exchange 1,320 acres of prime real estate next to the Snowbasin Ski Resort east of Ogden for other resort land of equal value. Hansen claims Snowbasin needs the land to accommodate visitors for the popular Olympic downhill events, which will be held at the site.

Environmentalists say Snowbasin is using the Olympics as a cover to get the land it first asked for in 1989. The Forest Service and Snowbasin agreed to a swap of 700 acres in 1990, before the Olympic hype.

Alexis Kelner, a member of Save Our Canyons, says the larger land trade could harm wetlands and allow Snowbasin to become a four-season resort unaffordable to locals. It could also further entice Earl Holding, the owner of Snowbasin and Sinclair Oil, who already has a mega-resort at Sun Valley, Idaho.

Plans for the larger swap include construction of condominiums, single-family homes and a golf course - much of it to be built after the Olympics.

Mike Korlogos, a spokesman for the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee, admits that no one has studied whether or not the full 1,320 acres is needed. He says, "How else that land can be used after the Olympics - that's not our concern."

"Warren Cornwall

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