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SEATTLE-After three years of study, the U.S. Forest Service has OK’d expansion plans for Crystal Mountain Ski area. The development proposal calls for six new chairlifts and a retreat center, which includes a restaurant and a chapel.

The public can weigh in on the environmental review for the proposed expansion. The comment period began Friday and will last for 60 days. The plan is similar in size and scope to the ski area’s initial $100 million proposal submitted in 1997 by Michigan-based Boyne USA, which operates the facility.

Under the plan, the ski area would hold steady at the 4,350 acres it leases from the Forest Service, but the addition of 25 new ski trails, a 200-bed employee housing facility and 10 acres of parking would bump up the overall maintained acreage to 644 acres from 455 acres.

After comments are reviewed, the final development decision rests with the supervisor of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. If all goes as planned, ground could be broken in summer 2002.

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