Winter is coming, which means a flurry of activity is preceding eventual flurries of snow at Eaglecrest Ski Area.
Discover Eaglecrest Day was held Saturday and this year’s festivities included food, multiple vendors, and a chance to purchase Eaglecrest gear for the upcoming season. According to Eaglecrest marketing and events manager Kristen Strom, the annual event is a great opportunity to get squared away for the coming winter season as well as learn more about the resort and various clubs and other community groups.
“It’s really a day to spread the word and spread winter stoke for Eaglecrest, we’ve got ticket sales information, youth programs, adult programs, we have people walking through the new cabin, it’s a good chance to see all of our off season programs, too,” Strom said. “The support has just been unreal today.”
Strom said that while it’s an annual event, the vendors and activities vary from year to year to some extent depending on who is able to make it up the mountain. Disc golf and mountain biking are yearly regulars, but this year, Strom said, they were excited to welcome some brand new editions.
“This year we’ve really got all of our bases covered, there’s really something for everyone. This year in addition to mountain biking and disc golf, we have porcupine rides, Trail Mix, SAIL (Southeast Alaska Independent Living), ORCA (Outdoor Recreation and Community Access), Ski Club, a lot of these great organizations supporting the day,” Strom said. “We’ve got lift towers along with the new cabin, we’ve got a new electric car charging station we’re pretty excited about, so a lot of new stuff and the community’s just kind of coming together to see all of it for the first time.”
Wages increase for winter staff
As the winter season is nearing, Eaglecrest General Manager Dave Scanlan said there are still many positions the ski area is looking to fill. In an effort to address those concerns, a special meeting of the Eaglecrest Board was held on Thursday to discuss wages and options to increase recruitment success for winter staffing. The board agreed to raise wages an additional 7% on top of another 7% increase that was made last January.
“Coming into this year, the labor market as we all know is just so competitive right now, there are so many vacancies, we’ve got around 60 seasonal positions we’re looking to fill and we’re just not anywhere close to being competitive,” Scanlan said. “What we’ve come up against is we’re having way fewer applicants as we’ve had in the past and then when we do have somebody interested who applies, when it comes time for us to talk about pay, we lose them.”
Scanlan said it’s because they’ve seen more solid revenue streams over the last few years that they were able to increase wages by 7% in January, which, counting the 7% increase made during Thursday’s meeting, moves them closer to their ultimate goal of a 22% increase. Now, Scanlan said, the challenge has become filling the large number of seasonal positions and making the wages competitive.
The gondola has landed
Strom said one of the main intentions behind Discover Eaglecrest Day is to celebrate the end of summer and the beginning of the winter season. As part of that celebration, Strom said they’re especially excited to be able to show off the new arrival of the gondola, which will continue to be on display for the public’s viewing while the project slowly gets underway.
“We also have our gondola cabins unloaded in the Nordic lot, which is nice, people can kind of stop and see them if they want to,” Strom said. “People are welcome to pull over and take a look, it looks really good, it was just unloaded in the last two days.”
In March, the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly agreed via 5-4 vote to spend up to $2 million on the gondola.
Scanlan said it’s going to be a multi-year project that won’t see construction in earnest until next summer. Scanlan added that depending on contractor availability and supply chain issues, the project is likely to take up to two years before it’s fully operational.
“We’re trying to stay ahead of it as much as we can and do as much preliminary work in case there’s availability from contractors that we can accelerate the schedule, we’re going to be trying to do so,” Scanlan said. “It’s a really big project involving a really impressive ski lift system that I think Juneau is going to be really proud of once it’s fully installed.”
Discover Eaglecrest Day also served as the first opportunity to purchase Season Passes, something that long time Juneau resident Casen Spickler knows plenty about. Spickler said this year marks his 34th year skiing at the resort, something he’s been doing ever since he was 3-years-old. Now as an adult and parent of a Mighty Mite racer, Spickler said it’s important to him to be able to find ways to give back to the mountain that’s given him so much back in return.
“We’re up here with the Juneau Ski Club helping people sign up for registration and I was manning the bake sale for a couple of hours just trying to raise funds.”
Spickler said this was the 4th Eaglecrest he’s been a part of and thanks to the plentiful sunshine and warm weather it was by far the best attended he’s ever seen.
“The attendance this year looks great, it’s pretty good numbers it looks like. I think there’s even more vendors this year than I’ve seen in past years, too,” Spickler said. “It’s good to see Juneau showing up to support our mountain and I think this is probably one of the best things you can do if you’re going to live in Juneau is to spend time up here.”