State Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, plans to sponsor legislation in January that he says would provide tax relief for Utah's ski industry while stimulating economic development.

Addressing the Cache County League of Women Voters on Saturday, Hillyard said the Thanksgiving week opening this year of most Utah ski resorts was a boost to the state's economy."Just go to Park City and you'll see huge crowds at the local restaurants, and the sale of ski clothing and equipment has been brisk," he said.

But because most Utah resorts don't have snow-making equipment, he said, they must take their chances with the weather and cannot plan their opening dates in advance.

Hillyard said his bill would allow the sales tax resorts pay on ski lift operations to be used as a tax credit to invest in improvements to help expand the industry.

"Examples of how this money could be spent would be the purchase of snow-making materials and snow-grooming equipment, along with construction of new ski lifts," he said. "If we could tell the world to come to Utah for a Thanksgiving ski vacation, it would mean a great deal to the economy."

The senator said Brigham Young University economists have determined the state would lose about $2.6 million in revenue if his bill is passed. But, he added, "they also figure that with one extra week of open skiing we would more than make up that revenue. It would make us much more competitive if we did not have to worry about getting snow."

Hillyard said the lift sales tax is not collected at other western ski resorts, like Vail, Colo. But he said Utah already offers an advantage to skiers in the form of transportation.

"You can fly into Salt Lake, catch a bus and be at a ski area in 45 minutes, while at Vail you usually have to rent a car and drive for two hours," he said.