Park City, Utah Jan. 19, 2002 (AP by Rich Vosepka)--U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft took a firsthand look at alpine security measures before skiing down a mountain Saturday as he assessed preparations for the Winter Games.
After skiing down a slope at Snowbasin, where men's and women's downhill competitions will be held, Ashcroft visited Utah Olympic Park, where bobsledders, lugers and skeleton athletes will zip down an icy track.
"How far is your perimeter,'' Ashcroft asked, turning his steely gaze to a steep, tree-covered slope in the distance.
T.J. Kennedy, a venue security official, explained that the sled track was surrounded by a 6.5-mile security zone.
Securing an entire mountainside is more difficult than protecting a building and that is part of the reason Ashcroft wanted a close-up look at alpine venues, Justice Department spokeswoman Lori McMahon said.
"It's great to see the progress and it's great to see the planning,'' Ashcroft said.
He met with law enforcement officers from the U.S. Forest Service early Saturday, McMahon said. Those agents will be patrolling the mountainsides of Snowbasin.
Before he departs on Tuesday, Ashcroft also will be briefed by officials from several agencies on issues such as intelligence gathering and military operations, McMahon said.
Looking down at the luge track, Ashcroft asked Salt Lake Organizing Committee president Mitt Romney what would become of the slick chute once the games end.
Romney explained that it will be maintained and used for future training and competition.
Ashcroft also shook hands with luger Rebecca DeWaal, of Salt Lake City, just before she took off for a practice run down the track.
Janet Ashcroft, John's wife, shouted encouragement to DeWaal as she began her run. Zach Layton, another luger from Utah who was practicing on Saturday, drew a cheer from John Ashcroft.
The Olympics begin Feb. 8.