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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Brian Rae, right, Sherri Humphrey, center, and Eric Sandberg and dogs Sunny, left, and Ronin, hike up the Eaglecrest utility road that crosses the lower ski slopes on Thursday.

Let it snow

Eaglecrest receives first significant snowfall of the season

Posted: October 19, 2012 - 12:00am
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Melanie Brown hikes through the fresh snow with her dog, Riffle, with the Black Bear chairlift in the background at Eaglecrest on Thursday.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Melanie Brown hikes through the fresh snow with her dog, Riffle, with the Black Bear chairlift in the background at Eaglecrest on Thursday.

Those snow dances and prayers paid dividends yesterday as roughly six inches of snow fell on the top of Ealgecrest Ski Area, marking the first significant snowfall of the 2012-13 season for the city-owned ski hill.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” Jeffra Clough, Eaglecrest’s snow sports school director, said. “We have 1.6 inches at the lodge and we’re estimating we received between three to five inches on top.”

Ultimately, the snowfall tally reached six inches.

Trailside at Eaglecrest, more than a dozen hikers, walkers and dogs traipsed through the powder headed either up hill or out to the Nordic trails. Crews took to the lifts to clear snow and check equipment. There was even some eager skiers and snowboarders who hoofed it to the top for what was likely a bumpy and brief ride down.

Overall, reactions in the community seemed positive as many lunch conversations buzzed with mentions of how low the snow level had dropped. One teacher reported that a preschooler ran into her class yelling “there’s snow in the mountains!”

Local tire centers, too, predictably reported an uptick in activity.

Greg Pendergrast, a supervisor at the Costco tire center, said he’s seen a marked increase this week and last in all-season tires and new tire purchases.

This is Eaglecrest’s first decent snowfall and it’s keeping pace with other resorts in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and Canda, which have already received a dusting. Alyeska Resort in Girdwood is reporting a total snowfall of six inches this year. Stevens Pass Ski Area, in Washington, shows light snow blanketing the upper portions of the area, as well as on the sides of roadways at the top of the pass. And at Whistler Blackcomb Resort, in British Columbia, Canada, weather has brought snow to the peaks, with more in the forecast

Of course, with our temperate rainforest climate, it may be a bit too early to strap on the backcountry skins.

Clough said at this time of year, anything can happen.

“We want to see the ground freeze,” she said. “We could experience warmer temperatures and it could be gone.”

Frozen ground helps to retain snow, like a cooler preserves its contents. Once the ground freezes, she said, and enough snow has accumulated, crews will begin the process of packing down the snow to create a sound base for grooming.

Next week’s local forecast is calling for overcast to sunny skies with temperatures predicted to hover around 35 degrees F.

Brian Davies, director of snow safety at Eaglecrest, said those sustained low temperatures are the kind that could finally freeze the ground, prepping the ski area further for more snow that will (hopefully) stick around for the rest of the season.

 

• Contact Outdoors Editor Abby Lowell at abby.lowell@juneauempire.com.

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