Alcohol is coming to Eaglecrest.
At Monday night’s City and Borough of Juneau Assembly meeting, the Assembly approved an ordinance allowing alcohol to be served at the ski area. The ordinance passed by a vote of 8-1, with Mary Becker as the only Assembly member to object.
Eaglecrest Interim General Manager Nate Abbott said there’s still plenty of work to do before the taps start flowing, and that he’s not sure if the ski area will be able to start serving this coming season or the following season. Eaglecrest’s Board of Directors will now determine all the details of the drinking establishment.
“We have a rough outline of what we want to see,” Abbott said, “but we’re gonna have to really nail it down. A lot of that’s gonna come from the new GM, when he comes in.”
David Scanlan, the ski area’s new general manager, begins June 26 and Abbott said Scanlan is fully on board with selling alcohol at the ski area. The ski area he ran in Maine — Mt. Abram Ski Area — serves alcohol.
The alcohol area at Eaglecrest will be separate from families and children at the ski area, Abbott said. That was one of Becker’s primary concerns during her objection, that many children are at the ski area throughout the winter, and that the prospect of other patrons drinking could set a bad example.
Assembly member Jerry Nankervis, on the other hand, pointed out that drinking already goes on at Eaglecrest. Skiers sometimes gather in the parking lot to have a few drinks before they hit the slopes, Abbott has pointed out in the past, and Nankervis said he felt that supervised consumption is better than unsupervised consumption.
“I think this is overdue,” Nankervis said. “It should have been done a long time ago.”
Alcohol sales would start at noon and would stop selling within one hour of the lifts closing, according to Eaglecrest’s plans. Sales would be limited to beer, wine, alcoholic ciders and similar beverages, not including hard liquor. The intent is not to supply a place for people to spend hours drinking, but a place where skiers can enjoy a beer after their day.
Eaglecrest now joins the majority of ski areas in selling alcohol, as Mountain Guard — Eaglecrest’s insurance company — has said that 95 percent of the ski areas it insures sell alcohol. Avid skier and ski instructor Lucy Squibb agreed, saying that almost every place she’s been around the country and world serves alcohol.
Squibb, who was the sole member of the public to make comment Monday, said the sales could also serve another purpose.
“Financially, I think it’s a really good idea to add some more to Eaglecrest,” Squibb said. “Over the years, we’ve had some tough seasons, and if we can move away from taxpayers’ dollars and a more self-sufficient Eaglecrest, I think that can help us a lot.”
That financial aspect was another small reason for implementing alcohol sales, Abbott said. When Eaglecrest staff put together its Master Plan in 2012, it stated that beer and wine sales could result in as much of $50,000 in gross revenue. Eaglecrest’s moneymaking capacity is tied to the amount of snow the ski area gets in a given year, so its profits can be very unpredictable.
Abbott is confident that the mountain will remain as safe as ever, and that the ski area has a good relationship with the state, which is responsible for keeping the road to the ski area clear and safe. He ensured that the ski area won’t pursue hard alcohol for a while, and the priority will be consuming responsibly.
Responsible serving is the most important factor in preserving safety, Mountain Guard has advised Eaglecrest. The ski area’s employees will not be the ones serving the alcohol, as Eaglecrest will bring in outside servers who all have Training for Alcohol Professionals (TAP) certification.
Though there’s still a great deal of work ahead, Abbott was pleased as he left Monday’s meeting, knowing that the Assembly’s support was as overwhelming as it was.
“It shows that the Assembly was for it, the community was for it, so I think it’s a good thing for the ski area,” Abbott said. “Staff is excited about it. It’s another thing to bring a little more excitement to the ski area.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 523-2271.