Eaglecrest Ski Area business manager Gary Mendivil said the recreational site in Douglas has been losing money since its inception 26 years ago because people have a misconception that skiing is not affordable to ordinary people.
"Skiing is not an elite sport, especially not in Juneau," Mendivil said. "Our daily lift ticket is $26 for an adult. In Aspen, Colorado, their daily lift ticket costs $72. And you don't need to buy brand new ski equipment in Juneau. We have an annual sale so people can buy used gear."
But as Eaglecrest is projecting a shortfall of $652,000 next year, it is considering raising the fee to make up for its deficit. Adult season passes may jump from $249 to $279, and child season passes may increase from $99 to $149.
Eaglecrest is also requesting that the city's Finance Committee grant an additional $100,000 in general fund dollars, besides the $300,000 the city gives to Eaglecrest every year.
The committee heard the Eaglecrest Board's plea Wednesday but will not decide until early June.
"We have a good hospital, a hockey ring, and a ski area. All of these help create the ambiance of the community, but the bottom line is money," said Jeannie Johnson, chair of the Finance Committee. "We have received a lot of requests. We have to weigh all of them and hopefully finish the work in our next meeting on June 2."
The $100,000, though relatively little, is essential to keep Eaglecrest afloat, ski area officials said.
"Eaglecrest was never designed to be a for-profit venture but fully contributes to the community as a wintertime recreational area for Juneau residents as well as for communities throughout Southeast Alaska," said Eaglecrest manager Paul Swanson, in a letter to the committee.
"Reductions to services and drastic cuts are regressive measures during the very time that you are asking the area to be progressive in planning and development," Swanson said.
To make Eaglecrest more profitable, its management and board have been working with the Juneau Economic Development Council to draft a long-range business plan.
The board proposed turning Eaglecrest into a year-round facility. Right now, Eaglecrest opens only about 100 days in winter. The ski area could generate more income from summer-related activities such as dog sled tours, a walkway through treetops, cabin rentals and food sales.
"The $100,000 we request is only a small contribution to balance our budget, but we hope the long-term business plan will eventually bring more revenues," Mendivil said.
City Manager Rod Swope said he doesn't think Eaglecrest will ever make a profit because of lack of users, unpredictable weather and the continuing increase of operating costs. But he hopes the Finance Committee will grant Eaglecrest's request.
"I hope the money can give Eaglecrest a year to find ways to reduce costs and generate revenues," Swope said.