My Turn: It's all about powder anyway

Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The comments I've read from Eaglecrest Ski Area supporters make me feel as if I'm reading arguments by mudslinging politicians or perhaps middle school students. Do we really need another issue in Juneau to divide our community?

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There are only a handful of people who spend more time at Eaglecrest in a season than I do. Whether the chairs are open or not, you can find me at Eaglecrest. I use all kinds of methods to get around in the backcountry - feet, snowshoes, splitboard, helicopters - this year I bought one of those so-called "loud, smelly, obnoxious" snowmobiles. Does this make me a traitor to the backcountry brethren?

It shouldn't.

What people seem to have forgotten is that snowmobilers and skiers are really out there for the same reasons - to enjoy the snow and the beauty of the mountains in Southeast Alaska.

As far as trash is concerned, many of the times I've hiked up the slopes of Eaglecrest I've seen more trash on the runs than I've seen on Dan Moller Trail while riding my sled. Is calling all snowmobilers beer drinkers really supposed to tarnish their image? If so, we should start looking down on softball players, hockey players, music enthusiasts and any other residents who enjoy a cold one now and then. I also happen to know from experience, and from more than one heavy pack, that many skiers using Eaglecrest after it closes have a few brews stashed in their packs.

I recently sat in the Eagles Nest, at the top of Eaglecrest, and listened to someone's outspoken views against snowmobile use. The speaker's main points were pollution, crowds and noise. I respectfully listened to her while quietly thinking about how she had just rode a diesel-powered lift after waiting in a line of people while listening to avalanche bombs explode in the background.

I'm a lifelong resident of Juneau, so I'm certainly used to hearing heated opinions on both sides of many different issues. Nevertheless, we should not let this new debate over snowmobile use turn into an issue where people need to choose sides.

I feel truly blessed to have grown up here, and I'm very proud to call Eaglecrest my home mountain. Also, I am very glad that I bought a sled and am learning an exciting new sport. Some of the lines I've skied this year off of my sled have been a few of the best of the year.

When I'm up at Dan Moller with my snowboard, I don't get dirty looks or backhanded comments from snowmobilers. On the contrary, snowmobilers have been stoked about watching me ski lines, even offering me rides up to the top for more. I only wish the skiers and backcountry users give the same respect to the snowmobilers as I've received from them.

To me, having snowmobiles at Eaglecrest means eight to 10 runs of good corn snow a day instead of one to two. Remember, no matter what mode of travel you use, it's really all about the powder. Are we really that different?

• John Bressette is a Juneau resident.

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