Legal and financial difficulties have plagued plans to build a ski resort about 60 miles from the District, but promoters said they hope to open the small Virginia resort this winter, a year behind schedule.

Fairfax developer R. Eugene Adkins bought 1,000 acres six miles east of Front Royal in May 1989 with an eye toward opening Cherokee at Linden, which would be the closest ski resort to Washington, last December.

Construction fell way behind schedule, and Adkins ran into a series of fights with the Warren County government about his efforts to control soil erosion and deal with waste water. Building contractors have also placed $1.5 million in liens on the property to cover unpaid debts, but they have agreed to wait until the resort opens before seeking payment, Adkins said.

"It's been a lot of heartache, but it's a beautiful place," said Adkins. He and his partners, he said, have invested $3.5 million in the resort.

Warren County Commonwealth's Attorney Walter E. Hibbard filed criminal charges against Adkins last spring containing 10 counts of building code violations. Each count has a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and $2,000 or $1,000 fines, depending on the count, said Warren County building official Neville H. Derflinger Jr.

However, Adkins said he has agreed to plead guilty to one charge -- that he failed to put enough hay bales out during construction to prevent erosion -- in exchange for having the rest of the charges dropped. Hibbard could not be reached for comment.

After more than a year of negotiation, Adkins also finally received approval last month from the Health Department for the property's drainage field, which will handle waste water from the lodge and restaurant. In the meantime, the developer could not get permission to build the lodge, and some of the preparatory foundation work fell into disrepair.

"When you are dealing with the local bureaucracy, sometimes you miscalculate how long it's going to take," said Adkins.

Adkins's plans call for three chairlifts on a 1 1/2-mile-wide slope and a ski lodge. The ski resort would have a 1,035-foot vertical drop, almost twice that of Ski Liberty near Gettysburg, Pa., the next-closest ski resort to the Washington area, he said.

The chairlifts and slopes are already built. Many officials and residents in the county of 26,600 people said they are excited about the resort's economic development potential.

"It's sorely needed," said Board of Supervisors Chairman Bernard Stokes. "I hope he opens this fall."