The thinning number of springtime skiers at Eaglecrest Ski Area continues to jump when the mercury flickers winter, but despite thoughts of dumping "teaser" snow downtown by the truckload, the lift season will end with next weekend's annual Easter festivities.
Sweet while it lasted, the 2008-09 season marked the third-straight year of record revenue for the ski area. An 11.6 percent rise in season and multi-visit passes sold over a year ago brought in 9.9 percent more revenue, a difference credited by General Manager Kirk Duncan to a successful "bring-along" discount and steady snowfall.
New this season, the discount knocked $100 off the renewal cost for past season pass holders who found a first-time buyer to tandem-purchase with them. Duncan credited the program for "nearly all" of the increase from 1,983 season passes sold a year ago to 2,197 passes this season.
The visual reminders Duncan credits for the extended success - lingering drifts and men made of snow downtown - held out until recently, helping to keep residents "thinking skiing."
"Last year we didn't have any snow downtown, and I had someone approach me in February asking if we had anything up here," Duncan said. "I said 'what part of 225 inches at the top do you not think is snow?' We always talk about trucking loads down and dumping it right across the bridge downtown just so people can see it."
While some interest fades with the backyard drifts, Duncan also admitted that the season seems to have a natural endpoint of its own.
"One of the reasons we close is ... the market just fades off after awhile," he said.
If the usual activities fail to draw full lifts over final weekend, Duncan is hoping the return of the Slush Cup and skiing Easter rabbits will bring the usual holiday crowd back to the mountain.
The Slush Cup - an annual hodgepodge of daredevil skiing, splashy falls and themed costumes centered around a small, man-made pond at the base of the hill - kicks off the festivities on Saturday morning. Last season's event was canceled because the water pipe from Cropely Lake was still frozen and organizer's were unable to fill the usual pool dug into the snowpack.
"I've got no comment on the Slush Cup," Duncan said. "Basically, we dig a hole 100 feet long and 30 feet wide, line it with plastic and fill it with water. Then people try to ski or snowboard across it. It usually draws a pretty good crowd."
The theme of this year's event is "Springtime in Alaska" and contestants will be judged on style, theme and distance traveled across the pond. Registration starts at 10 a.m. and the event is expected to wrap up by Noon. Duncan said the event will be limited to "about 30" participants, and early registration is possible by phoning 790-2000 extension 221. The cost is $5 per participant.
Sunday's Easter celebration kicks off at 8 a.m. with a featured breakfast of eggs Benedict. A full schedule of egg hunts and bonnet contests follows, with the popular bunny chases and bunny toss starting on Platter at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.
"The bunny doesn't necessarily like (Easter at Eaglecrest), but the kids sure do," Duncan said. "We'll also have an obstacle course set up. It's mostly for the kids, but everybody can try to get through it."
All lifts will close for the last time at 4 p.m. Sunday, with the following half-hour reserved for "tearful goodbyes" on the official celebration schedule.
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