Eaglecrest backers to host berry festival

New nonprofit working to promote support for municipal ski area

Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2003

Friends of Eaglecrest, a newly formed nonprofit organization in Juneau, is hoping for at least two comebacks at the Eaglecrest Ski Area this year. The first, of course, is snow. The second, and one that falls more within range of the group's powers, is the "blue cakes" that used to be served at the Channel Bowl Cafe.

"Sunday is our festival day, and the Channel Bowl Cafe is going to come out of retirement for one day to make blue cakes for us," said Debbie Hart, one of the founders of Friends of Eaglecrest.

The organization, whose sole purpose is to promote community recreation at Eaglecrest, is hosting a Blueberry Festival at the ski area Saturday and Sunday.

The Southeast Road Runners will hold a run up Eaglecrest Road at 9 a.m. Saturday. Following the run, the public is invited to join Friends of Eaglecrest in a blueberry-picking expedition.

The next day, participants in the race will benefit from a two-for-one breakfast special at the blueberry pancake feed. Nonrunners will be asked to pay $5 for pancakes, juice and coffee, and $7 if they want ham with their pancakes, Hart said.

Preseason ski and snowboard passes will be on sale, as well as local arts and crafts and blueberry pancakes. A blueberry culinary contest and races are planned for Sunday afternoon.

Hart began talking about forming Friends of Eaglecrest with Maureen Riley and Carolyn Morehouse soon after the close of the 2002-03 ski season.

"It was definitely kind of a realization that Eaglecrest was headed for some rough times and we figured that the community needed to step up to the plate," Hart said.

Now, the group has around 100 members, a Web site - www.friendsofeaglecrest.org - and plans to expand community use of the recreation area.

"Even if you're not a great skier you can still come up to the mountain and enjoy things," Hart said. Some of those plans include music on the mountain some Sundays during the upcoming season, and possible summer use of the facilities for plays, music, films and retreats or camps.

The ski area recently solicited local businesses for proposals to use the facilities during the off-season. The deadline for proposals is Aug. 18.

Eaglecrest management welcomes the formation of Friends of Eaglecrest as a way to increase its year-round visibility, said Paul Swanson, ski area manager.

"I see them doing a lot of good with putting a good vibe out in the community so people know there are a lot of skiers and snowboarders that use the area," Swanson said. "... It's really kind of uplifting to see so many people wanting to get involved here at Eaglecrest."

Members of Friends of Eaglecrest already have supported the area by giving the lodge a paint job over the course of two weekends in July, Swanson said.

Last season's late opening and overall poor snow conditions, combined with a similarly poor 2000-01 season, left the area about $400,000 in the hole, Swanson said. The area is asking the city for $240,000 to help close the deficit.

Another move to help the ski area is the abandonment of the area's refund policy for bad snow conditions. Last year, the area offered 40 percent refunds to all season pass holders, and 75 percent refunds to those who turned in their ticket before the season opened in February.

Instead of offering the refunds, the area cut the rate for season passes - an adult pass, which used to sell for $375, will sell for $249 before Nov. 8. After that date, the price jumps back up to $375.

Friends of Eaglecrest, though not a fund-raising entity, plans to help sell season passes, Hart said.

To encourage participation, Friends of Eaglecrest offers a "ski bum membership" for $1 per year.

Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.

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