Eaglecrest Ski Area’s board of directors recently approved the creation or renovation of eight trails at the ski area, among them Juneau’s first dedicated downhill mountain biking trail.
At this point, the work on almost 19,000 feet of trails is still in the initial stages. Much of the land Eaglecrest sits upon is muskeg and wetlands, so those behind the project will need to outline which areas are what and apply for Army Corps of Engineers permits.
Given the city’s budget shortfall, it doesn’t seem likely much of the money will come from city coffers. For this reason Trail Mix Inc. president and Juneau Freewheelers Bike Club vice president Jack Kreinheder said the money for the bike trail and other improvements will likely come from a combination of grants and fundraising.
“We don’t have that problem solved yet,” Eaglecrest general manager Matthew Lillard said. “As of now, these are not funded trails, but you have to get it started somewhere. … It’s a list we think hopefully is attainable and doable. We don’t want to be pie in the sky.”
The eight trails to receive work are, in order of priority: Traverse Trail summer road to Hooter, Pittman’s Ridge Trail Loop, Log Jam Trail, Sourdough Mountain Bike Trail, Stephens Passage Overlook, Traverse Trail Hooter to Cropley Lake, Dick’s Lake Trail and Heavenly Valley Overlook.
Here are a few highlights:
Mountain Bike Trail
The downhill mountain bike trail is planned to run from the top of Hooter chairlift down to the race shack, the building used by the Juneau Ski Club for timing, warming and storage.
It’s being called the Sourdough Mountain Bike Trail, though that name may change.
The planned route is a little more than a mile long and is of intermediate difficulty, with a six to eight percent average grade. It’ll go most of the way down the Hooter ski run.
As planned, the trail will drop around 425 feet and will be used only for downhill biking. Bikers will get to the top of the trail via the mountain access road. While the trail is short for now, bikers will be able to loop around as many times as they like.
“There are a number of hiking trails, of course, that are multi-use trails, but this will be the first built (exclusively) for downhill mountain biking,” Kreinheder said.
The trail will be “flow style,” meaning that instead of being rocky, full of roots, and requiring technical expertise, the trail will be smoother, bikers can ride faster, and it will have “lots of swoopy turns,” he said.
It’ll also be completely “rollable,” meaning bikers’ wheels will never have to leave the ground, though more advanced riders will be able to do so intentionally via some of the trail’s features.
“It kind of gives a similar feeling to powder skiing in the winter,” Kreinheder said. “It’s a summer version of that, on a mountain bike. That’s the proposal.”
The Freewheelers club will help with grant applications, fundraising and volunteer labor, Kreinheder said.
Pittman’s Ridge Trail Loop: Parts of this proposed 2,500-foot-long trail were boardwalked in the 1980s, increasing its popularity. That boardwalk is “in desperate need of fixing,” Lillard said.
It starts at the top of Black Bear chair and goes over the ridge to the top of Ptarmigan, Lillard said. It would be connected by a service road.
The boardwalk will be replaced with gravel for a better surface to walk on; the loop is currently second in order of priorities.
Traverse Trail summer road to Hooter: A trail at the top of Hooter will make the ski area’s winter operations easier, Lillard said. It’ll also make it easier for people to ski off Black Bear trail in low snow years. It will serve as a hiking trail in the summer, and the trail will serve as a jumping-off point for the mountain bike trail. It’s first on the list of priorities.
Cropley Lake: Sixth on the list of priorities is a trail up Log Jam to Cropley Lake.
“It’s a great destination in the summer,” Lillard said. “Most of these either have been a trail at some point or have become a trail just by people walking up the same way — like Log Jam Trail. We’d like to put something in there to keep people on a designated trail — to concentrate traffic.”
Eaglecrest plans to do the mapping for the trails in the next few months and apply for Corps of Engineers permits over the fall and winter.
If all goes well with permitting, fundraising and grants, work on the trails could begin next summer.
“We’re excited to finally get this process going … We have a good slate of trails to start working on, to start the permitting process on,” Lillard said. “One of the highest priorities (in the Eaglecrest Master Plan) was … the community’s desire for more trail networks in the summer. We’re trying to provide that for the community.”
“Both from a hiking and biking standpoint I’m excited about it,” Kreinheder said. “Eaglecrest is the one place you can drive up to 1,100 feet and have relatively easy access to alpine areas.”
• Contact Outdoors reporter Mary Catharine Martin at email@example.com or at 523-2276.