Forest Service rejects appeals of White Pass expansion proposal

Yakima, Washington (AP) 10-07

The U.S. Forest Service during October rejected four appeals of a decision to allow the White Pass Ski Resort to expand into a roadless area long defended by conservationists.

In June, the Forest Service had selected a preferred alternative for expansion that would nearly double the size of the resort located on U.S. Highway 12 west of Yakima in Washington’s southern Cascades.

Under the proposal, the ski area would expand to 1,572 acres and add two chairlifts and 18 trails. Included in that acreage would be 767 acres in the Hogback Basin, a pristine area favored by backcountry skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts.

The resort would still be smaller than Washington’s largest ski resorts, even with the expansion.

Four appeals were filed, including two submitted by the Sierra Club and the Yakama Nation. The Sierra Club had argued that the environmental study for the expansion was inadequate, while the tribe said the area where the resort would expand had cultural and spiritual significance.

Those claims were rejected in a decision released by Deputy Regional Forester Calvin Joyner.

The idea of expanding White Pass to the southwest has been around for two decades. Expansion supporters, primarily the White Pass Co., have argued the project is needed to accommodate growth. The ski area has seen an annual average of nearly 110,000 skiers over the past five years.

Previous efforts to expand the resort have been thwarted by lawsuits that centered on road-building in the Hogback Basin.

The proposal was one of five considered, and Forest Service officials have said it strikes the best balance between meeting the needs of the ski area and protecting the environment through mitigating measures.