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Skiers will have to wait

Eaglecrest GM says not enough snow yet to open mountain lifts

Posted: December 6, 2012 - 8:20pm  |  Updated: December 7, 2012 - 1:12am
An Eaglecrest snowcat packs down the cross country trails in the lower loop for the first time this season on Wednesday.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
An Eaglecrest snowcat packs down the cross country trails in the lower loop for the first time this season on Wednesday.

Although Eaglecrest Ski Area officially opened for the season last Saturday, with the Porcupine Chairlift offering rides to skiers, there is not enough snow on the mountain for the upper mountain lifts to open for business just yet, General Manager Matt Lillard said Thursday.

Speaking to Eaglecrest’s board of directors, Lillard said the lightweight snow, which has been finer and drier than is typical for Juneau, has not piled up enough to support a full day of activity on the slopes.

“The type of snow we have and the amount we have is just not there yet to open the rest of the mountain,” said Lillard. He added, “It’s not there, and we’d really, really like it to be. Hopefully this storm on Sunday will bring in some wetter snow, and we should be off and running for the next weekend.”

In reference to the conventional wisdom that lighter snow is preferable for skiing, while wetter snow is less desirable, board member Carlton Heine joked, “I can’t believe we’re complaining about light, blowing snow and wishing for heavy, wet Juneau snow.”

But the board members agreed that the current snow conditions are treacherous right now.

People hiking or skinning up the slopes on their own to ski down have been able to take advantage of the light snow layer, Lillard added, but the conditions are not there for a full opening.

“While the skiing for those people hiking is outstanding, quite frankly, it’s just not going to hold up,” Lillard said. “There really is no base snow underneath it.”

Lillard said many of those skinning agree that the conditions right now on the mountain are “dangerous.”

“If we could limit it to just true experts and we were confident that only experts would go up there, it’d be one thing,” Lillard remarked. “It takes a lot of stamina to swim in this stuff.”

But Lillard said the limited opening last weekend went well.

“We did meet our scheduled opening date in some fashion,” Lillard said. “It was well received. I think people went up there and had a good time.”

The ski area has been closed since Monday, but Lillard said the Porcupine lift will open again this weekend.

Eaglecrest is running a special sale on season passes starting Friday and running until Dec. 16. Passes will be sold at the “early bird” rate, a $200 saving for adults.

The adult unlimited season pass’ regular price is $699.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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