Eaglecrest Ski Area is preparing to open for its 2021-2022 season with infrastructure upgrades and eased COVID mitigation strategies. (Courtesy photo / Nate Morris)

Eaglecrest Ski Area is preparing to open for its 2021-2022 season with infrastructure upgrades and eased COVID mitigation strategies. (Courtesy photo / Nate Morris)

Freshly up-gunned Eaglecrest readying for opening day

New snow guns and hardened nordic trails will great winter sport enthusiasts on opening day.

Eaglecrest Ski Area is ready to welcome winter sport enthusiasts back to the slopes with freshly improved infrastructure and optimistic weather predictions, said a spokesperson for the ski area.

New snow guns and reinforced Nordic ski tracks will help guests to enjoy Eaglecrest that much more, said Nate Morris, Eaglecrest’s senior marketing assistant.

“The forecast is good. We got a little rain the next few days but the next week is dumping. We’re pretty optimistic about the Dec. 4 open day,” Morris said in a phone interview. “Last year was a snowy November, but December turned rainy and we had to delay the opening.”

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There’s currently about 17 inches of snow at the base with about twice that at the summit, Morris said.

“With this kind of stuff there’s never any guarantees. But we’re starting to get a little optimistic,” Morris said. “Colder temperatures help us out a lot. That’ll help us to have a snowier winter.”

Which slopes open on opening day will depend on local conditions, Morris said.

“When we open, it’s for-sure going to be Hooter and Porcupine,” Morris said. “If we get enough snow, it’s possible some of the runs off of Ptarmigan will open.”

A board meeting later in the week will finalize exactly how opening day will look, Morris said. Devil’s Club Brewing Co. is releasing a new beer on opening day, Morris said, as a fundraiser for the Coastal Alaska Avalanche Center. The center will also hold an avalanche rescue skills refresher behind the Tower Bar at Eaglecrest, Morris said. The beer, called The White Stuff, will be available at the bar, and the can art artist, Kelsey Fagan, is having a pop-up at the bar as well, Morris said.

The new snow guns are a different design than the powered ones currently in use, Morris said, relying on force-fed cold air and cold water.

“The biggest project we’ve been working on is the updated snow-making infrastructure,” Morris said. “Dave (Scanlan), our general manager, was, without a ton of resources, able to make a lot happen.”

The new infrastructure will help keep Eaglecrest freshly powdered, even if the weather isn’t holding up its end, Morris said.

“With this new infrastructure, we can utilize this new kind of snow making guns,” Morris said. “We wanted to be prepared with the best case case scenario in case Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.”

Eaglecrest also hardened its Nordic ski tracks with locally sourced gravel to facilitate grooming vehicles that previously weren’t able to traverse the area.

“We took rock from our quarry to harden up those trails,” Morris said. “There’s a lot of muskeg out there. We can run groomers.”

While some COVID-19 mitigation measures will still be in place, Morris said, the ski area’s board is meeting soon to decide exactly what opening day will look like. Eaglecrest will push out a news release with their mitigation measures before opening for the season, Morris said.

“In a general sense, there will be some COVID restrictions, but it won’t be as locked down as it was last year,” Morris said. “We’ll be keeping an eye on the case counts and following the city’s example.”

Between 15-20 positions are still available at Eaglecrest for the upcoming season, Morris said.

“We are quite understaffed. We’re still hiring for a number of positions in the shop and out on the mountain,” Morris said. “We’re hoping to fill those as we get close to opening.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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