Eaglecrest to end season March 13

The ski season is almost over for most Juneauites. Although snow lingers at higher elevations, Eaglecrest Ski Area is planning to halt all operations March 13.

“Well, unless there’s more snow,” said Charlie Herrington of Eaglecrest. “If there’s more snow, we will reopen, but as of now, the plan is Thursday through Sunday, and then after that, we will suspend lift operations until more snow falls.”

In an email sent Monday afternoon, Herrington said that while conditions remain good for skiers who hike up the mountain, they aren’t good for people who use the lower mountain or those who ski all the way down.

Eaglecrest employees have attempted to keep the Summer Road covered with snow to allow one path for skiers to descend, but there simply isn’t enough snow left in nearby meadows for that to work anymore.

“We have already extracted all the snow we can from surrounding meadows to patch things up. Shoveling and picking out rocks isn’t feasible when considering how much more skier traffic would be descending the Summer Road. Every turn pushes snow and reveals a new rock,” Herrington wrote.

While Eaglecrest does have snow-making equipment, it hasn’t been cold enough or dry enough on the lower mountain for that equipment to work, said Jeffra Clough, Eaglecrest’s director of sales and marketing and the snowsports school.

In humid, warm conditions, “you just don’t get snow; you get heavy water” from the snow-makers, Clough said.

It needs to be below 28 degrees for an extended period of time (and it can’t be too humid, either) in order for the snow guns to function properly.

“It’s been real frustrating,” Clough said.

Conditions at the ski area’s two cross-country tracks remain good.

In addition to the closure of the Porcupine Chairlift on Sunday, the rental shop and other lodge facilities are expected to shut down.

The early end of the snow season means no costume-bedecked Slush Cup race for a second year, and less revenue for a ski area that is supposed to pay for itself.

Counting through Sunday, Eaglecrest will have been operating for 67 days this winter. While a puny figure compared to years past, it’s better than last year, when the upper mountain was open for five days and the lower mountain (which benefitted from the snow guns) was open for 44.

Clough said the ski area “did come in with lower pass sales this year than last year,” but it was doing well before a warm, rainy period scared some skiers off.

“There definitely is interest in the community,” she said, “so we’re not willing to give up on that interest yet.”

Wes Adkins, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Juneau, said there’s still a flake of hope for skiers. A wave of showers will bring snow at higher elevations later this week, with two to four inches possible at Eaglecrest by Saturday.

“That’s some hope; I don’t know if they can stretch it on that,” he said.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com.

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