Juneau crowds flock to Eaglecrest Ski Area on Saturday to enjoy the official opening of the ski season. The mountain was limited to only utilizing the Porcupine Chairlift, but additional lifts are expected to open in the coming months, according to staff. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

Juneau crowds flock to Eaglecrest Ski Area on Saturday to enjoy the official opening of the ski season. The mountain was limited to only utilizing the Porcupine Chairlift, but additional lifts are expected to open in the coming months, according to staff. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

Eaglecrest Ski Area successfully lands soft opening

Additional lifts to open soon.

Eaglecrest Ski Area officially opened chairlifts to skiers and boarders alike on Saturday and while only the Porcupine Chair with easier Muskeg and Dolly Varden runs was available, that didn’t stop crowds from making the trek up the mountain for what marketing and events manager Kristen Strom ultimately deemed a successful weekend.

“Everybody I talked to was excited to be out there and warming up their legs, it was just a super weekend, no wind, cool temperatures, it was really nice. I think everybody had a good time,” Strom said. “I think a lot of people were just happy to have any lift running at all.”

Jada Kahl takes her daughter Azalea Kahl up the Porcupine Lift at Eaglecrest Ski Area on opening day, Saturday. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

Jada Kahl takes her daughter Azalea Kahl up the Porcupine Lift at Eaglecrest Ski Area on opening day, Saturday. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

Tyson Fick, 49, has been an Eaglecrest passholder since the early 2000s and said it’s one of his favorite parts of being a Juneau resident.

“We’re home again, I love it,” Fick said. “Last year, I think I got 85 days up here and that might be the high watermark for a minute, but I’m going to do everything I can to keep coming every single day I can. We love our mountain, let’s keep doing it.”

Lifelong Juneau resident Micaela Bauer has been skiing Eaglecrest her entire life as her father used to be a ski instructor throughout the ‘90s. Bauer said it’s always an exciting time of year to make it back up the mountain for some skiing, especially now that her son Koa Daniels is getting to an age of being able to join her.

“We thought it was going to just be a regular shakedown day for us but we ended up doing 10 runs, which is pretty big for a four year old,” Bauer said. “It’s great to be up here, this place is pretty special to Juneau, it’s a big deal.”

With heavy snowfall expected within the week, Strom said that crews are hopeful they’ll be able to open the rest of the mountain by next Saturday. Strom added that with the recent cooler temperatures on the mountain, it’s allowed the staff to hone in on snowmaking, especially for their Hooter chair, which is what Strom said staff is looking to open next.

Muskeg and Dolly Varden runs were available for Juneau skiers and boarders during Eaglecrest Ski Area’s opening weekend on Saturday, Dec. 3. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

Muskeg and Dolly Varden runs were available for Juneau skiers and boarders during Eaglecrest Ski Area’s opening weekend on Saturday, Dec. 3. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

“We’re really focusing our snowmaking under Hooter and up Sourdough and to the base of Blackbear,” Strom said. “We’re really needing mother nature to help us out, it’s supposed to start snowing this week, at least a few inches, so we’re pretty optimistic about the east side of the mountain opening by Dec. 10.”

Additionally, Strom said that while staffing is overall in much better shape than it’s been in recent years, Eaglecrest is still looking for help in the repair/rental shop and lift operations. Thanks to current staff members offering additional hours of their time to fill in some of the gaps, Strom said they were able to cover all positions for opening weekend.

Though Eaglecrest is still hoping to fill some additional positions for the season, the rental shop was all systems go in time for the ski area’s opening day on Saturday. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

Though Eaglecrest is still hoping to fill some additional positions for the season, the rental shop was all systems go in time for the ski area’s opening day on Saturday. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

“It was kind of helpful to have this slower opening where we just had Porcupine running so that everybody could kind of get real scenarios under their belts this weekend because it’s a lot of our first winter’s working at Eaglecrest,” Strom said. “We still need a couple more folks, but we’re looking much better than we were at the end of the summer.”

Strom said while exact attendance figures aren’t yet available, she could confirm that the Porcupine Lift stayed consistently busy with crowds of roughly 20 to 30 people rotating in and out throughout the day with a good mix of familiar and new faces, Strom said.

“I met a couple of folks who had come to Juneau to visit on a vacation and had heard about Eaglecrest opening and decided to try their hand at learning how to ski and snowboard, which is just really cool because it’s beautiful out there and there’s no better place to learn than on Porcupine,” Strom said. “Overall it was just good to be out and about and see everybody back up at Eaglecrest again, and we’re really excited for it to snow this week so we can hopefully start offering more runs.”

• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at jonson.kuhn@juneauempire.com.

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