Eaglecrest Ski Area to open early

Eaglecrest Ski Area will give Juneauites a chance to shake off their turkey hangovers with a little early skiing.

On Wednesday, Juneau’s ski area announced it is opening upper-mountain slopes one week early to take advantage of good snow conditions.

“We just want to get skiing,” said ski area director Matt Lillard.

According to measurements taken by the ski area, there is a snowpack of 51 inches at the top of the slopes and 20 inches at the base.

After a nearly snowless year last season, “We’re taking a ‘ski it as soon as we can get it approach,’” Lillard said.

Eaglecrest will open at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, and close at 3 p.m., with operating hours dictated by daylight conditions.

The National Weather Service forecast may put a damper on those hoping for good weather, however.

On Wednesday morning, forecasters at the Weather Service’s Juneau office cautioned that heavy rain and warming temperatures are expected from Thursday through the weekend.

“Storm totals between Thursday morning and Sunday morning range from four to six inches with up to 10 inches of rain possible,” forecasters said in a statement.

Temperatures are expected to be well above freezing at Eaglecrest, where the snowline will be above 3,000 feet and highs will be above 40 degrees.

Rain or not, Lillard said the ski area will be open.

“If we can ski, we’ll go skiing,” he said.

The Hooter and Black Bear chairlifts will be open to the upper mountain, and lower mountain lifts will remain closed.

The snowsports school, rental shop and food services will be closed, and the snow bus will not operate. Skiing will be limited to advanced and intermediate skiers only, as a result.

In addition to the early opening on Saturday morning, Eaglecrest is hosting from 4:30-8 p.m. what it bills as the Downtown Rail Jam in Marine Park.

Marketing and events organizer Charlie Herrington said Eaglecrest will truck snow into downtown Juneau, where volunteers will pack it into a terrain park suitable for urban skiing and snowboarding.

“We’re hoping for a good turnout,” he said.

For those who just want to watch the action, there will be music, a light show, food, alcohol and local businesses marketing to Christmas shoppers.

The terrain park is open to all skiers and snowboarders, and a small competition will take place at some point in the evening.

If the weather doesn’t cooperate the rail jam will be rescheduled for later in December.

A call on the weather will be made Friday.

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