Eaglecrest Ski Area had a sunny end to a sometimes-stormy season Sunday, and dozens of skiers went out with a splash.
The third "Slush Cup" in four years - some years there's not enough snow - drew about 100 contestants in costumes, shorts and tutus. They raced through a series of gates and tried to skid across the surface of a manmade pond for 50 feet or more.
Most didn't make it across. Stash Ginger did, even after turning through every gate. Some contestants skipped gates to pick up speed.
"We've got to throw in the old man contingent, show the kids you don't have to cheat to win," the 29-year-old said after hurtling across the pond easily.
He didn't win, possibly because he lost points for skiing in pants and a T-shirt instead of a costume. Three other skiers shared the title, judged on speed, costume, style and amplitude. But Ginger said the point is to gather with other skiers and celebrate a season.
"I ski by myself all the time, so this is my chance to be social," he said. "You can't take the mountain too seriously, even if you're up here all the time."
About 1,400 people plus unticketed walk-ups made Sunday the biggest day of a good attendance year. The season ended with roughly 47,200 visitors - about twice the skiing of last year's snow-starved short season, lodge manager Bill Hodge said. Attendance was aided by heaping early snowstorms but could have been higher if not for a January cold snap and late-season weekend rains.
Eight-year-old Christiana Parrish looked forward to the event all year, having watched in the past. She wore a mouse costume with makeup, a sparkly dress and a tail.
"I'm going to make it all the way across," she said as she prepared for her run.
She didn't come close, though she skied aggressively and was a fan favorite with her tail flying behind her.
"That was scary," she said afterward, shivering and wrapped in a towel.
Her mother, Anita Parrish, was glad it was over.
"This has all been (Christiana's) idea," her mother said. "I was really hoping there was an age limit that would prohibit it."
Christiana's father, Joe Parrish, said the event was a fun end to what he reckons has been the mountain's best year for families. Discounted season passes attracted more families, he said.
"This was a really fun year," he said. "The snow was good, lots of family skiing, great pass prices. It's really coming together this year. It's clicking on all cylinders."
But Eaglecrest still is facing a deficit of perhaps a half-million dollars next fiscal year, and city budget discussions have raised the possibility of changes to the subsidy, and increased ticket prices. This year, lift tickets ranged from $5 to $26. The area's business plan mentions a possible across-the-board increase of $2 to $3, plus a hike in the Eaglecrest bus fare.
Manager Paul Swanson, retiring after 16 years in his post, said that even as budget difficulties linger, he's going out on top. Eaglecrest is rebuilding momentum after some difficult winters, he said. The mountain has made significant improvements, including to its grooming equipment, and he said the crowd on Sunday reflected it.
"This is probably as many people as we've ever had up here, at least from the looks of the parking lot," he said.