Elias Lowell, 15, balances his way to the end of the pond during the annual Slush Cup at Eaglecrest Ski Area on Sunday, the last day of what officials called and up-and-down season. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Elias Lowell, 15, balances his way to the end of the pond during the annual Slush Cup at Eaglecrest Ski Area on Sunday, the last day of what officials called and up-and-down season. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Up-and-down season at Eaglecrest ends on splashy note with Slush Cup

Ski area’s annual beach party features ice-filled water, snowy shores and showboating skimmers.

Cole Jensen was dressed for a beach party in his swim trunks and bikini top, and hit the water almost immediately after his arrival. Alas, the water was full of ice chunks and rubber ducks, and the shore he waded to was a snowbank.

Jensen was among about 80 people ending the season at Eaglecrest Ski Area on Sunday in a daring and often drenching way, attempting to cross a 100-foot-long pond on skis, snowboards and at least one device firmly in the category of “other.” It was his second straight year of taking a full-body dunk in the icy pond, but said while still dripping wet after climbing out there was no hesitation about signing up again for the annual event.

“It’s the Slush Cup, dude,” he said when asked why.

Colton Johns wades to shore in his beachwear after falling into the water during the Slush Cup at Eaglecrest Ski Area on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Colton Johns wades to shore in his beachwear after falling into the water during the Slush Cup at Eaglecrest Ski Area on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The Slush Cup has been a season-ending event at Eaglecrest for many years, although a lack of snow caused a multiyear disruption until it resumed last year, with staff digging a trench in the snow near the base of the mountain and filling it with water from a snowmaking machine. Participants starting several hundred yards above try to maintain enough speed and balance to make it across, often while showing off costumes and/or tricks in the process.

Among the competitors in beachwear who went for an involuntary swim was Kennily Richardson, 14, a first-time participant who quickly emerged shaking and in search of quick refuge.

“I thought it would be easier to dry off quicker,” she said, explaining her choice of clothing.

Craig Brown (left), Mia Holloway, 8, and Swanee Bure, 9, reveal scorecards for Michael Dale, the overall winner of this year’s Slush Cup after he performed a 180-degree turn at the beginning of his crossing of the 100-foot-long pond at Eaglecrest Ski Area on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Craig Brown (left), Mia Holloway, 8, and Swanee Bure, 9, reveal scorecards for Michael Dale, the overall winner of this year’s Slush Cup after he performed a 180-degree turn at the beginning of his crossing of the 100-foot-long pond at Eaglecrest Ski Area on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Fortunately for her and other soaked competitors, conditions were relatively mild with no rain or wind — but it was cold enough for light to moderate snow to fall during much of the event. Conditions on the mountain were also above average for a final day of spring skiing, with the resort reporting 12 inches of fresh snow during the weekend.

Event officials, wearing drysuits along with various costume accessories, watched along both sides of the pond, quick to jump in and help participants stopping short of the artificial turf at the far end — an essential task given how the drenched contestants were laden with sopping clothing, ski gear and the sheer cold of the ice-filled water.

Charles Gueriera tries to cross the pond at the Slush Cup with Tango Two, a stuffed whale named after a humpback whale calf that died last summer after apparently being hit by a large boat, during the last day of the season at Eaglecrest Ski Area on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Charles Gueriera tries to cross the pond at the Slush Cup with Tango Two, a stuffed whale named after a humpback whale calf that died last summer after apparently being hit by a large boat, during the last day of the season at Eaglecrest Ski Area on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

“When I was in there I could not move,” said Charles Gueriera, a second-time participant who fell in for the first time this year. “It was very shocking.”

Gueriera could have offered a fishy excuse for his splashy finish, as the snowboarder was showcasing a large stuffed whale while making his attempted crossing. The whale — Tango Two — was named and carried in memory of a humpback whale calf named Tango that was found dead last summer after possibly being hit by a large vessel.

“I’d like to blame it on that, but I know that’s not the case,” Gueriera said. “I blame skill and speed.”

Brett Weideman wipes out while trying to cross the pond during his first Slush Cup at Eaglecrest Ski Area on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Brett Weideman wipes out while trying to cross the pond during his first Slush Cup at Eaglecrest Ski Area on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Brett Weideman, taking a spill into the pond while participating in his first slush cup, said he couldn’t guess the temperature of the water, but “it’s pretty cold. It feels a little cooler than the polar plunge I normally do.”

However, unlike the contestants dressed in swimwear, Weideman arrived dressed for duty — of a sort. He was wearing a customized Ghostbusters outfit, complete with a name patch.

“I would have worn the (proton) pack, but I was afraid I was going to go into water, which I did,” he said.

Ethan Welch tries to keep his Ski Bike upright while crossing the pond during the Slush Cup at Eaglecrest on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Ethan Welch tries to keep his Ski Bike upright while crossing the pond during the Slush Cup at Eaglecrest on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Other people wore inflatables, capes, wigs and plenty of other accessories during their crossing attempts. But while the means of transport was much more limited — either skis or snowboards for nearly all — a notable exception was Ethan Welch who tried to steer his Ski Bike across the pond during his Slush Cup debut.

He didn’t make it.

“Oh, I totally just lost the controls and wasn’t able to keep it in a straight line,” Welch said afterward, describing his strategy as “sit back in the rear end and hope for the best.”

Adalee DiMarzio clutches a beach ball while her brother, Bryer, contemplates a chunk of snow as well as a ball during the Slush Cup’s beach party on Sunday at Eaglecrest Ski Area. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Adalee DiMarzio clutches a beach ball while her brother, Bryer, contemplates a chunk of snow as well as a ball during the Slush Cup’s beach party on Sunday at Eaglecrest Ski Area. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Hundreds of spectators along the pond and on the hillside — many of them wearing beach wear and costumes — tossed beach balls, ate hot dogs off the grill, and offered verbose judgements about the skill and style of those trying to cross the pond. Gathered near the launching point of the pond were official judges who gave scores on a 10-point scale for best costume, best skim technique and most committed.

The overall winner was Michael Dale, who got scores of 10, 10 and 9.5 after performing a 180-degree turn during his launch into the pond. Best costume was won by Nettle Hart, most committed was presented to Tania De La Cruz and best skim style was awarded to Quinn Slayton. Nancy Peel and John Jensen were given honorable mention awards by the judges.

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

(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

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