Time to hang 'em up, skiers

Eaglecrest Ski Area ends its season with revenues just short of $1.1 million target

Posted: Monday, April 11, 2005

Eaglecrest Ski Area finished the 2004-05 season just shy of its $1.1 million revenue target, despite a late opening and a weak March, general manager Kirk Duncan said Sunday.

Low snowfall forced the city-owned facility to cancel its season-finale Slush Cup on Sunday, but the area closed for the season with its best weekend turnout in six weeks. On its last day, Eaglecrest reported 23 inches of snow at the base and 136 inches at the top.

Approximately 40,000 skiers, snowboarders and tubers visited the area this year, compared to 47,000 in 2003-04, Duncan said. Eaglecrest normally scores 20 to 40 percent of its revenue during the Christmas season. This season, light snowfall prevented the hill from opening until Dec. 31.

About 10,000 skiers, snowboarders and tubers visited Eaglecrest in March 2004. Due to low snowfall, the total was down to 8,400 this March.

"Ending February we were ahead of budget, and then March brought us back down again," Duncan said. "Considering we lost Christmas, we're still going to come very close to our revenue target and that's a very strong statement.

"If we would have had Christmas, this would have been a record year," he said. "It would have been a $1.3 million year."

Eaglecrest could have opened on Thanksgiving, Duncan said, if the facility had a chairlift from the top of the Hooter lift to the top of the area's east bowl. The area plans to raise money for the expansion and will need capital improvement funds from the city.

"We'd like to put in a lift that would allow us to access terrain earlier in the season," Duncan said. "That's a goal for 2007."

Eaglecrest is scheduled to buy a new $210,000 Sno Cat for grooming terrain in 2006. But Duncan hopes to upgrade and buy a Winch Cat for $270,000. The Winch Cat is a Sno Cat with a winch, allowing the machine to drive uphill, push snow uphill and navigate difficult angles more easily. It would allow groomers to reach parts of the hill which are difficult to access.

Eaglecrest's budget, with the extra $60,000, has to be approved by the city.

"Juneau likes fresh snow, and when we don't have fresh snow, the area that gets skied a lot becomes pretty hard to ski," Duncan said. "The Winch Cat is going to allow us to go in and push snow around and roto-till snow up and put a flat surface back on.

"It will expand the mountain that we can ski if we don't have fresh snow," he said. "Over the course of five years, we think that it will pay for itself many times over. It'll give people more reason to come up."

Eaglecrest is also considering digging a hole this summer and creating a man-made pond for its annual Slush Cup, where participants try to skim along the surface of slushy, ice-cold water.

"Last season they were able to push enough snow from everywhere, but last year was a considerably better snow year," Duncan said. "This year, we didn't have enough snow to push around."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.

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