A used gondola being installed at Eaglecrest Ski Area may not begin operating until 2027, according to Goldbelt Inc. President and CEO McHugh Pierre, whose company is providing $10 million for installation costs. (Eaglecrest Ski Area photo)

A used gondola being installed at Eaglecrest Ski Area may not begin operating until 2027, according to Goldbelt Inc. President and CEO McHugh Pierre, whose company is providing $10 million for installation costs. (Eaglecrest Ski Area photo)

Eaglecrest Ski Area gondola may not open until 2027 due to CBJ delays, Goldbelt CEO says

Agreement with city allows Goldbelt to nix $10M deal if gondola doesn’t open by May 31, 2028.

This story has been corrected to note an agreement between CBJ and Goldbelt allows the company to back out if gondola doesn’t open in 2028, not 2027.

The gondola at Eaglecrest ski area may not be ready for summer operations until 2027, rather than 2026 as hoped, due to delays involving Juneau’s municipal government, Goldbelt Inc. President and CEO McHugh Pierre said Thursday.

Goldbelt signed an operational agreement with the City and Borough of Juneau, paying a $10 million lump sum for installation costs of the gondola in exchange for a share of revenues for at least 25 years. Pierre, during a speech to the Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce about the regional Native corporation’s current status, said the gondola remains a big part of the company’s summer tourism plans, but possibly further into the future than planned.

“Our plan was to have it completed and operational by 2026,” he said. And so I’m not sure that we’re on target to achieve that. It may be 2027. But it’s still within our window of expectation when we signed the agreement with CBJ.”

The agreement with CBJ states Goldbelt can back out if the gondola isn’t open by May 31, 2028, a revision made earlier this year that delays the original deadline of May 31, 2027. If the agreement proceeds Goldbelt will get between 10% and 25% of the gondola’s gross revenue for at least 25 years, with Goldbelt able to extend the agreement if the company has not received at least $20 million during that period.

In an interview after his speech, Pierre said the possible delay is a situation that’s “been brewing” at CBJ.

“My perspective of it is that the priorities for the city are — appropriately — city priorities, not business priorities,” he said. “So other things have eclipsed the gondola development…It’s no fault to the city, just the natural activities have allowed it to slip. And I think we can get it back on track. I feel confident that it can open in 2026 if we work together, we work smart. And so I want to make sure that we can help that happen.”

Pierre said he does not believe any circumstances involving the departure of former Eaglecrest Manager Dave Scanlan, who resigned at the request of the board on June 3, are a factor in the possible delay of the gondola. The Goldbelt CEO said he’s also not concerned about further delays due to the lack of a permanent general manager while a search is conducted during the coming months since the current managers are “all existing employees and they know what’s going on.”

Scanlan, in presentations to the Juneau Assembly near the end of his seven-year period as Eaglecrest’s general manager, said the hope was to open the gondola for winter operations during the 2025/26 season — when the volume of use would be lower than summer — before full-scale operations began in the summer of 2026.

An update by the city manager’s office about the gondola project is scheduled to be presented to Juneau Assembly members during a Committee of the Whole meeting next month, said Mike Satre, chair of Eaglecrest’s board of directors, speaking during a meeting of the board’s Human Resources Committee on Tuesday night.

City Manager Katie Koester, in an email Thursday responding to Pierre’s comments, stated “CBJ’s priorities for the Gondola project and summer operations have not changed since the Assembly approved the project in May of last year.”

“I am not convinced the project will be delayed, it is in the interest of CBJ, Eaglecrest Board and Goldbelt to have the Gondola operational as soon as possible,” she wrote. “The Assembly will be briefed at the July COW on what it will take to get there – it’s a complicated project and like all projects schedule, budget, and scope have to be balanced as a project advances.”

The used gondola purchased for $2 million from a resort in Austria has been controversial due to its cost — including the disclosure in December it will need nearly $2 million in parts to be used as Eaglecrest intends — as well as concerns about the impacts of mass tourism on the mountain. However, the Juneau Planning Commission in February approved a conditional use permit for a range of projects that are part of Eaglecrest’s summer development plans.

Pierre, in his speech on Thursday, said that while there might be a setback in the opening of the gondola, his company’s hopes of the number of people that can use it are growing.

“When it comes to moving people through there our projections were starting low at like 75,000 people a summer,” he said. “I feel we’re probably closer to 100,000, maybe 125,000 people our first full summer of operation just because there’s already tours that are happening there now. And I feel like once we open up kind of the opportunity to go there that you’ll just see more people wanting to go. And it’ll be really healthy for the community because you’ll see more people spread out.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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