A new chair lift for Eaglecrest? Not really

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I agree almost completely with Steve Wolf's recent My Turn, "Feeling Squeezed?" (Aug. 27), but one example he used to illustrate reckless city spending is just plain wrong. A mention of Bartlett Regional Hospital's millions-over-budget renovation is followed by the statement, "And Eaglecrest gets a new lift."

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That "new" lift was built in 1974.

For the record, Juneau voters approved an $800,000 allocation to buy a used lift for the Eaglecrest Ski Area as part of a ballot measure last year. This summer, Eaglecrest manager Kirk Duncan got a used Riblet double chair lift from Aspen, Colo. It is scheduled to be installed as a mid-mountain lift next summer. The lift itself was free. Eaglecrest also picked up another 1970s-vintage double chair lift from Northstar, Calif., for $28,000, to use as a future replacement for the platter lift on Eaglecrest's beginner hill. Total cost for disassembling and transporting the two lifts to Eaglecrest was less than $200,000. Estimates for the installation of the mid-mountain lift have ranged from $450,000 to $850,000.

It's not anybody's "dream" lift, but the new/used chair lift will keep Eaglecrest skiable more often and make it more financially viable. The mid-mountain lift won't open any new terrain, but will start 500 feet above Eaglecrest's base lodge and should allow earlier opening dates.

Last season Eaglecrest had just 58 operating days, their shortest season ever. Once again, Eaglecrest was closed over Christmas break, normally the busiest two weeks of the ski season. The lift is a needed response to the warmer, rainier winters of the last decade.

Eaglecrest's effect on the total city budget is relatively insignificant. The ski area is not a driving force behind our inflated property valuations assessments and taxes. Nor did the city drop the senior sales tax exemption to subsidize the area. Despite a dismal snowpack last year, Eaglecrest stayed on budget.

There are many fine examples of the city's reckless spending - the $20 million lobby and classroom reduction at Juneau-Douglas High School, the taxpayer-funded clearcut behind Fred Meyer, the planned clover leafs for Egan Drive, etc. - that would have illustrated Wolf's point more effectively.

John Erben


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