[R494R, White Pass], located just a dozen miles from the southwestern border of Mt. Rainier National Park, is a small hill with a huge legacy.

This is the resort that nurtured and produced the racing talents of Phil and Steve Mahre, who combined for a handful of Olympic and World Championship ski-racing gold medals in the early- to mid-1980s.

But despite the pedigree, White Pass is still the humble little ski hill the Mahre boys grew up on: just four chairlifts and one surface tow servicing 32 trails.

White Pass has a hankering to beef up those stats by expanding into the upper slopes of Hogback Mountain. The master plan calls for a fixed-gripped four-person chairlift and a high-speed quad - the two uphill conveyances would provide access to 11 new trails - and a two-story mid-mountain lodge.

The plan came closer to fruition in September when a U.S. District Court judge moved the expansion process ahead by granting the U.S. Forest Service's motion for summary judgment while denying the Sierra Club's and Hogback Basin Preservation Association's cross-motion.

In other words, the judge said the permitting process for the expansion plan can proceed.

However, there is no word yet when White Pass will actually begin breaking ground and felling trees for the Hogback Mountain project, and the recent court ruling is subject to appeal.