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There's food at Eaglecrest, even if snow's lacking

Ski area keeps kitchen, rental shop open for the few who hike up the slopes

Posted: Friday, January 05, 2001

Food service at Eaglecrest Ski Area will be open this weekend to serve the die-hards who head to the hill, like a few skiers, snowboarders and "tubers," said Bill Luedke, food service manager.

Even the snack bar staying open is a small miracle. On Thursday there wasn't even enough snow to go tubing on the bunny hill, he said. But a storm that rolled in Thursday night came in slightly cooler than one last weekend that rained away what little snow there was.

It started snowing this morning and by 8:30 a.m. there was an inch of snow on the ground.

"It's a wet snow, but it's still snow," Luedke said.

At 11:30 this morning, it was 30 degrees at the base with another inch of snow accumulated and the top mountain temperature was 29 degrees.

The snow is a welcome change for skiers. The National Weather Service reported the average December temperature was just above 31 degrees, more than 4 degrees above normal. The snowfall for the month was only 2.3 inches, more than 20 inches below normal and more than 30 inches below normal for the winter season.

While the hill has remained closed, the snack bar opened for the holiday break, serving the hikers and families inner-tubing on the new sledding portion of the hill. It did some business, but that still wasn't enough.

"We're actually losing money (being open)," Luedke said.

When the weather turned nasty Sunday and Monday, business got worse.

"There wasn't anybody up there - it was ridiculous," he said.

But making money is only part of Eaglecrest's mission. The other part is to provide a community service, Luedke said. He said he has full confidence that by the end of the season the snack bar will end in the black as it has every other year.

The city-owned ski area has come close to operating in the black the past few years, said Eaglecrest business manager Gary Mendivil. When revenues exceed the budget, the extra money is set aside in a savings account to be used in the lean years.

This could be one of those years. The hill has lost about one-third of its scheduled 96-day season. In the 1996 season, the hill didn't open until Jan. 13 but still had a 65-day season, Mendivil said.

That year the Eaglecrest board adopted a season-pass refund policy that will kick in this year if the hill doesn't open by Sunday. Season-pass holders can get a full refund before the hill opens or get a prorated credit toward a season pass next year.

The rental shop is open its normal hours, just as if the hill was open. The shop is only working on gear - hot-waxing, adjusting and mounting bindings, and so on - not renting it, said manager Bill Hodge. Business has been slow but steady, he said.

"It is definitely a skeleton crew here," he said.

Mike Hinman can be reached at mhinman@juneauempire.com.



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