Eaglecrest Ski Area can't handle a mix of skiers, snowboarders and snowmobiles, says a new group formed to keep the machines off the city's ski hill.
"We are rallying the thousands of people that use (Eaglecrest)," said Andy Romanoff, an organizer of Supporters of Eaglecrest.
"We feel they (snowmobilers) can go farther. They can access tremendous amounts of country. They have their place, but they don't mix" with sportsmen on foot, he said.
"If they get what they are looking for now, they will have the whole island," he said.
Members of the new group are gathering information to fight a Juneau Snowmobile Club proposal to use Eaglecrest trails to reach backcountry playgrounds on Douglas Island.
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"We are looking at 30 years of Eaglecrest history. We are looking at all that and painting a picture of the future as we see it," Romanoff said. The area was built to be used by hikers, skiers and snowboarders, the group says, not for noisy, smelly machines.
"A lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into that goal," Romanoff said.
They had a first meeting Monday, and roughly 25 people showed up, even though the meeting was not publicized.
The snowmobile club's proposal, which was submitted to the Eaglecrest Board on March 12, involves three parts. First, it would establish a five- or six-foot corridor for snowmobilers just outside the area's northeastern patrolled boundary. This would be open whenever snow conditions are favorable whether the area is open or closed.
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To learn more about Supporters of Eaglecrest, call 463-4942 or e-mail email@example.com
The club proposes to use a corridor up the Logjam and Raven ski runs to get to the back side of Pittman's Ridge. This corridor would only be open to snowmobiles after ski season. The back area is difficult to access and hardly used, but snowmobiles are allowed.
The club also has proposed to organize an annual snowmobiling event to be held following ski season on Eaglecrest property.
Ultimately, 10 to 40 snowmobilers would use the area each day, depending on the time of season. Snowmobile club members were surveying policies at other ski areas that allow some sort of mixed use.
Brian Schott, spokesman for Big Mountain Ski Resort in Whitefish, Mont., said his resort offers guided snowmobile tours, although the machines and skiers don't use the same areas.
A key concern for Supporters of Eaglecrest is enforcement. Romanoff said a bad precedent has been set by snowmobilers at Spaulding Meadows.
"It is a phenomenal cross-country ski area, but there is no barrier, no way to enforce (the boundaries), so they are all over the place," he said.
The snowmobile club has proposed a few ways to manage this potential problem - including installing a camera and strapping violators with steep fines.
Post your comments and check out other people's remarks at The Muskegger: Snowmobile Club's proposal.
In the early winter, snowboarders and skiers build jumps in the East Bowl. After lifts close for the season, people still hike up and ski down. On a recent weekend, Romanoff said he counted 18 people in one of the bowls on Mount Ben Stuart, which is only accessible by foot.
During the recent Eaglecrest committee meeting, ski area manager Kirk Duncan said it would be nearly impossible to determine how many people use the area outside the season.
Snowmobile Club President Ray Howard formally submitted the proposal to the committee during that meeting and offered several incentives in return for access to portions of the mountain.
He said the club would donate labor and money to build a separate parking lot and would help with routine maintenance and upgrades to the resort.
Nonmotorized users are willing to pay too, even for off-season permit fees, Romanoff said.
"If it is about money, we are telling the board that we will pay, we will counter their money," he said.
"Recently Friends of Eaglecrest painted all the outbuildings for free. Endless things like that have happened over the last 30 years," he said.
A public hearing is scheduled from 6 to 10 p.m. May 1 in the Assembly Chambers.
Brittany Retherford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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