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Eaglecrest budgets for good snow and bad

Posted: January 22, 2013 - 1:05am

“The weather is going to happen,” Eaglecrest Ski Area General Manager Matt Lillard said when asked to forecast snow.

Conditions for the 2012 through 2013 ski season have left many Eaglecrest users thinking fondly of the powder days in late 2011. While the ski area is again shooting for its benchmark cost recovery of 70 percent, the previous ski season boosted cost recovery to more than 72 percent.

It is this hit-and-miss nature of the snow sports industry that guides Lillard in this budgeting process.

“We budget high for when we have a banner year or we need to build,” Lillard said. “We want to have the money there. We don’t want to have to go back [to the city] and ask for more” to fund instructors, grooming and other variable costs.

Lillard and the Eaglecrest Finance Committee met Monday at the ski area’s main lodge where they discussed a draft budget report commissioned by the City and Borough of Juneau.

CBJ operates on a two-year budget. The current budget runs through the end of 2013. The city is interested in wholesale changes to the second half of the budget cycle, Lillard said.

“For us there is not,” Lillard said.

The report details how the Douglas Island ski area expends its energy and cash. Included are numbers on profits from its repair center and retail shop, sale of food and beverages and ski, snowboard and locker rentals. Costs include fireworks and other special events, lift operation, lights, maintenance and heat, avalanche mitigation and training, among many other services.

“It is not inexpensive to run a ski area,” Lillard said.

Eaglecrest’s budget is handled somewhat different than other city entities, Lillard said.

“We’re a ski area,” Lillard said. It can create revenue through the sale of tickets to food and ski wax. Even with city funding, Eaglecrest operates much like a business. Ski instructors must be hired to make money on ski lessons.

Eaglecrest expects to submit a budget to the CBJ at end of February.

Lillard did make a conservative snow prediction.

Although the snow level is a little below average, the ski area’s groomers were able to groom the runs well, Lillard said. He said he anticipates that the low visibility and lackluster snow will break by late February.

Late February and March can be the snowiest time of the year,” Lillard said. “Hopefully we close out on a good year.”

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

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