White Pass plans to double the size of its High Camp lodge and build a new guest services building to better accommodate growing crowds at the ski area.

The U.S. Forest Service revealed the proposal to the public last month, and environmental coordinator Jamey Basye said it was sent to area tribes a week earlier. He's expecting construction to start in June 2022 and said White Pass wants the project complete in time for the 2023-24 season.

An official amendment submitted by White Pass on May 21, 2020, allowed the Forest Service to begin work on environmental studies with assistance from Renton-based Re-Align Environmental, an environmental contractor led by Bill Granger. The company's sole proprietor, Bill Granger, said the project's designed to change the forest as little as possible, with no plans to add roads or take out any trees.

White Pass reported more than 213,000 visitors last season, shattering the previous record and proving the need for changes to a master plan that estimated 110,00-120,000 people every winter. Granger said COVID-19 gave people more flexibility to get out to the mountain at different times, something he expects to carry over as more businesses continue to allow employees to work remotely.

Even before the pandemic White Pass said High Camp, the mid-mountain lodge serving skiers and snowboarders in Paradise Basin, frequently saw overflow crowds. The proposed expansion would increase seating from 240 to 480 and also double the size of the restrooms, bringing the building to 8,800 square feet.

A new two-story guest services building with a 5,000 square-foot footprint would replace the existing small ticket window between the main lodge and the bottom of the Great White Express. That would allow the main lodge, where most guest services are currently located, to add 60 more seats along with additional lockers.

The Forest Service's letter said early indications show the project to be in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, and Granger said he's done a lot of work with White Pass to ensure standards are met. Granger said the next step would be to acquire building permits and Basye added that White Pass hopes to have the shells of buildings completed prior to the 2022-23 season.

"I fully expect this to have the NEPA signed off and go to construction," Basye said.

White Pass general manager Rikki Cooper declined to comment prior to approval of the project.

___ (c)2021 Yakima Herald-Republic (Yakima, Wash.) Visit Yakima Herald-Republic (Yakima, Wash.) at www.yakima-herald.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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