A pair of skiers are among the first to board the Ptarmigan lift on the first day of the 2023-24 season at Eaglecrest Ski Area shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

A pair of skiers are among the first to board the Ptarmigan lift on the first day of the 2023-24 season at Eaglecrest Ski Area shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Eaglecrest Ski Area opens at last with fresh snow, early-season conditions

Skiers describe conditions as excellent, but ski patrol warns people to watch for hazards.

Eaglecrest Ski Area finally opened for the 2023-24 season on Wednesday, 18 days later than scheduled due to warm and otherwise uncooperative weather, but Eva Meyer said enduring the wait and then showing up as one of the first arrivals on opening day was worth it.

“It’s powder,” she said after her first run. “It’s like really soft. It’s like there’s like a ton of coverage.”

Meyer, who’s been skiing for 13 years, said the weather was also cooperative with no wind higher on the mountain and temperatures that felt like about 30 degrees (roughly matching the official temperature from National Weather Service Juneau).

Some of the first snowboarders and skiers at Eaglecrest Ski Area complete their first run on opening day Wednesday morning. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Some of the first snowboarders and skiers at Eaglecrest Ski Area complete their first run on opening day Wednesday morning. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Dozens of cars were parked at the ski area before the 9 a.m. scheduled opening, but most of the first skiers were season ticket holders who bypassed the lift ticket window. Calvin Wade, Eaglecrest’s revenue coordinator, said he sold his first lift ticket 8:40 a.m. and had only sold two overall with about five minutes remaining until the Ptarmigan lift began operating as the sole running lift for the day.

The first skier arrived in line at about 8:30 a.m. and perhaps 20 were in line at 9 a.m., giving a cheer as a group and a shout of “let’s do it” when the lift operators allowed boarding to begin.

Among the lift operators this season is Nicole Jeri, a Peru resident who is among more than 20 Eaglecrest employees hired from aboard so far this season through a J-1 student visa worker program the ski area has used for the past decade. Jeri said she learned about Eaglecrest through a cousin who saw jobs offered at the university she’s attending and, while Peru’s cousin didn’t make it to Juneau, she and another friend were working at the base on opening morning.

“It sounds crazy, but it’s very special,” she said when asked why she chose a work option in Alaska.

Two skiers settle into a lift chair as they pass trees with fresh snow Wednesday morning at Eaglecrest Ski Area. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Two skiers settle into a lift chair as they pass trees with fresh snow Wednesday morning at Eaglecrest Ski Area. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Skies were overcast and the dusky conditions — with the sun officially rising in Juneau at 8:45 a.m. the day before winter solstice and the mountains at the ski area providing additional shadow — impaired visibility of the terrain somewhat. Justin Spurrier, head of Eaglecrest’s ski patrol, said despite significant snowfall in recent days people should be aware of potential danger spots.

“It still is early-season conditions, so unmarked hazards still exist,” he said. “A lot of our creeks are still flowing water the last time I saw them, so those can be potentially hazardous, and then just your normal ski hazards.”

The snow cover itself is largely natural snow since some piles from snowmachines haven’t been spread on trails yet, Spurrier said.

“It’s filling in and we’re much better than we were,” he said. “On Sunday we did get nine inches of snow at the base.”

A line at the Ptarmigan lift gains new arrivals shortly after Eaglecrest Ski Area begins operating for the 2023-24 ski season Wednesday morning. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

A line at the Ptarmigan lift gains new arrivals shortly after Eaglecrest Ski Area begins operating for the 2023-24 ski season Wednesday morning. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Eaglecrest is scheduled to be open daily until Jan. 7, except for Christmas and New Year’s Day when the ski area will be closed, with lift hours from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. The regular winter schedule, with Eaglecrest open Wednesdays through Sundays, is scheduled Jan. 10 to March 10. The ski area is scheduled to be open daily during its spring break period March 13-24, and conclude its season with a Wednesday-Sunday schedule through April 7.

Lift hours are scheduled to be 9 a.m.-3 p.m. until Jan. 21, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Jan. 24 to Feb. 11, and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Feb. 14 to April 7.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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