Will Woolford, 13, airs down Muskeg trail during the opening day of Eaglecrest Ski Area on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2018. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Will Woolford, 13, airs down Muskeg trail during the opening day of Eaglecrest Ski Area on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2018. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Eaglecrest opens its doors

Snow guns make bunny hill operational

Raincoats and ski masks were out in full force for the opening day of Eaglecrest Ski Area.

Around 100 skiers and snowboarders came out for a wet and blustery start to the ski season on Saturday, getting in their first turns on a small finger of the mountain just outside the Porcupine Lodge. The skiing and riding was limited to Muskeg Trail, a short and mild-sloped run serviced by the Porcupine Chairlift, as the surrounding hills and slopes remained dormant with only a shallow layer of snow.

Eaglecrest staff deployed newly-acquired snow guns on Muskeg a week earlier to make the trail operational. General Manager David Scanlan said weather conditions cooperated for a 65-hour window from last Friday to Monday that allowed the machinery to do its job. Air temperatures must be 28 degrees or cooler in order for the snow guns to operate, Scanlan said.

Scanlan, who was hired before the start of last season, said the hard work was well worth it.

“It’s like the family’s coming back home, because it is — it’s like a big family,” he said of opening day. “When we’re open and all the friendly faces are up, it’s a really good feeling. That’s why we work hard all season long, is to provide a great experience for all of our customers. So it’s great seeing them all come back up and seeing the smiles on the faces and seeing the little kiddos.”

Rowan McGraw, a freshman at Thunder Mountain High School, was making the most of the opening day.

“I’ve been waiting for the past year for it to open,” said McGraw, who picked up snowboarding last season.

Noelle Derse stood watch outside the lodge as her sons, Will and Eero Woolford, zipped down the slope with purpose and an eye for terrain to launch over. The skiing siblings and several of their friends took turns hopping off a small jump near the bottom of the hill.

“They were so eager to get up here and they couldn’t wait,” said Derse said. “They were here right when it opened.”

The brothers, 13 and 12, respectively, both hope to master several new tricks this season. Eero has his mind set on landing a 360, a stunt he started working on long before Saturday.

“My younger son practices his 360s without the skis on in the house,” she said.

• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nainsworth@juneauempire.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.

Skiers ride up the Porcupine Chairlift on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Skiers ride up the Porcupine Chairlift on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

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