Expect to hear a lot about Eaglecrest’s summer operations in the next few weeks.
Eaglecrest Ski Area General Manager Dave Scanlan gave the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Public Works and Facilities Committee an update Monday on the city-owned ski area’s plans to offer expanded summer activities.
A flurry of public meetings this month will be among the first steps toward a goal that includes an aerial gondola, summit lodge, improved hiking trails, mountain coaster, ropes course, adventure maze, lift-served mountain biking and a zip line.
“That would kind of be the core of what we envision as the Eaglecrest adventure center,” Scanlan said of the project.
He said it’s hoped that in a month or so, he will be able to come back to the committee with more information about input from the public, the level of interest in the project from the private sector and potential funding options.
He said Eaglecrest’s plans should be on their website in the coming days and an online survey also on their website would follow.
A meeting with the North Douglas Neighborhood Association is taking place tonight. A July 11 presentation is planned for the Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Moose Lodge, and Scanlan said public meetings are planned for July 16 at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall and July 18 at Downtown Public Library.
Assembly member Rob Edwardson asked how the expansion would impact North Douglas traffic.
“We project it will likely be increased about 15 to 18 buses per day,” Scanlan said. “The bus traffic would definitely increase to be able to get the visitors there.”
Eaglecrest receives about 107 daily summer visitors now for zip lining and cycling, Scanlan said; low-end projections show those numbers quadrupling, high projections foresee more than 600 summer visitors.
“We have the parking, the water systems and sewer systems to handle a higher-capacity visitor experience,” Scanlan said.
He acknowledged tourists drawn to a recreation sampler platter will have change the way locals experience Eaglecrest in the summer, but said planned trail improvements are meant to offset that.
“This is to give the locals an opportunity to leave the commercial activities hub at the bottom of the lodge and gondola area and go out and leave the crowds behind and go to their favorite destinations on improved hardened trail systems,” Scanlan said.
An anticipated $35 million cost also attracted some questions.
“As you’ve been drafting this up, have you, or the board, considered some kind of phasing approach because that’s a pretty steep price tag?” asked Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale, chairperson for the public works committee.
Scanlan said after talking to other ski operators around the county that do summer operations, a “suite” of multiple activities seems to be the most successful model.
“For many mountains, their most popular product now is their all-inclusive ticket,” Scanlan said. “Let’s say for $110 you can do unlimited mountain coaster rides, and the ropes course and you can go mountain biking, and you can ride a gondola. It’s a bigger attraction when you have this suite of summer activities.”
He said paying for the project without placing a burden on Juneau taxpayers remains a goal, and it’s hoped that summer operations would draw enough revenue to end the city’s subsidization of the Eaglecrest, which receives about $950,000 annually.
“We’re really seeing the opportunities here in three different buckets — 100 percent public financing, ownership and operation being our highest-risk, highest-reward scenario but with full control of the facility with the opportunity to potentially reinvest future profits into other community programming,” Scanlan said.
Full privatization is on the opposite end of the spectrum, Scanlan said, with little risk, less reward and minimal control.
“We think there’s likely a middle ground as well,” Scanlan said.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.