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Eaglecrest sees spike in use

Increasing demand spurs plans for new learning center

Posted: June 22, 2012 - 12:05am
Eaglecrest General Manager Matt Lillard speaks about a proposed new building called the Learning Center to be built at the ski area to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during their their luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Eaglecrest General Manager Matt Lillard speaks about a proposed new building called the Learning Center to be built at the ski area to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during their their luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday.

Eaglecrest Ski Area’s General Manager Matt Lillard gave an overview of Juneau’s latest ski season to the Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

“We are really starting to make inroads with the Southeast area,” Lillard said.

In response to an increase in almost every user group, Eaglecrest is seeking $6.8 million for a new learning center and renovation to its main lodge.

“We saw a great increase in our key revenue streams,” Lillard said.

Lift ticket sales increased from the previous season and season pass sales went up $75,000.

“We’ve increased the number of people who use it regularly,“ Lillard said. “But also the people who may just want to give it a try.”

Lillard gave credit for the increase in traffic to last winter’s bucketloads of snow and the recent addition of two new chair lifts, Black Bear and Porcupine.

The infrastructure investment is “really starting to reap its rewards,” Lillard said. “People are using and enjoying the new editions.”

Eaglecrest staff taught more than 4,500 lessons, Lillard said. Its rental center revenue increased revenue 37 percent over last winter.

“A huge increase in the amount of rental gear,” Lillard said.

Cross country skiers also used the Eaglecrest area more, Lillard said. Eaglecrest sold 500 Nordic day tickets, “a doubling over the year before,” Lillard said. The resort plans to make small strides into renting that equipment in 2012 and 2013, he said.

With this growth, Eaglecrest was able to recover 70 percent of its costs, Lillard said. The resort’s goal is to offer snow sports at a affordable price to Juneau residents and visitors.

Eaglecrest supported 100 students in its Books to Boards program. Certain students receive free lessons, skiing or snowboarding, and free bus rides up to the mountain.

“These students visit the mountain a thousand times, he said.” “It can really be a transitional program,” he added.

Fifth-grade students can look forward to free Nordic and downhill lift tickets in the upcoming 2012-2013 season, and this summer Black Bear will get new lift chairs, he said.

“We’re getting away from the center pole,” Lillard said. “So you can all look the same way and not get hit in the head.”

The Hooter Chair Lift will lose its diesel engine for an electric motor, reducing noise and operation costs, Lillard said.

Lillard said Eaglecrest is looking for funds to expand to meet growing demand.

“We are simply running out of space,” Lillard said.

Eaglecrest’s base lodge was built in 1976 and renovated in the 1990s.

One potential source of funds to build a new facility at the ski area is from the City and Borough of Juneau’s 1 percent sales tax.

The proposed Learning Center would house Eaglecrest’s snow sport rental department, retail and repair shop, ticket window, classroom, staff offices, restrooms and adaptive learning facilities.

“We want it to serve as the go-to location,” Lillard said.

Lillard said the new facility would allow youth direct access to the nearest lift without having to walk up a hill.

“Hauling kids and gear up a hill tires them out and doesn’t start off to having a great day,” Lillard said.

In the second phase of construction at Eaglecrest, space vacated by the rental shop and store will be renovated to improve the lodge for hosting events.

It will also give 5-year-olds in the Wee Ski program a place to relax.

“They need a place to go inside and have a hot chocolate,” Lillard said. “We are looking forward to more space for the kids.”

Room will also open up for the ski school with a new building, he said.

“They’ve been stuck in a small closet for some time,” Lillard said.

And the resort will have space for more rental lockers.

“We can get that waiting list down to next to nothing,” Lillard said.

A third phase would expand the upper level of the base lodge, increase the food area and food offerings and improve space for events such as weddings.

“We want to get more events up to the mountain,” Lillard said.

Lillard said Eaglecrest could take in $151,000 in additional revenue with the new learning center.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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