Eaglecrest Ski Area is asking locals, "how long do you want your season to last?"
Most years the Douglas Island ski area shuts down not because of lack of snow, but because employees return to summer jobs, local interest wanes as spring arrives and weather (namely rain) can pose challenges for grooming machines.
But this year Eaglecrest is offering a unique "Extend the season" pass option. If you haven't heard about it already, here's how it works: If 300 people are willing to commit $79 by Nov. 8, the ski area will stay open two additional weekends in the spring of 2010. Specifically the dates of April 17, 18, 24 and 25. Should the area not get 300 people to sign up for the offer, those who put in a deposit will not be charged.
Eaglecrest General Manager Kirk Duncan said he gets requests that the mountain stay open longer every year. But, he said, it's a desicion that needs to be made now so the business-related arrangements can be put in order. He estimates it will cost the ski area about $23,000 to run during the four offered days.
"If we're going to make this desicion, we need to make it now," he said. "I think it's going to be very difficult for people to understand."
Tyson Lupro, who was born and raised in Juneau and has been a season pass holder for 15 years said he thinks the new offer is a good one.
"I think it's a good idea because the last few years we've had plenty of snow and it seems like (the area) could have stayed open about a month longer," he said.
Chris Dionisio, an avid backcountry enthusiast and Juneau resident since July 2008, opted not to sign up for the pass option.
"I'll be up there skiing regardless of whether or not the area will be open," he said.
Dionisio said he opted out "mainly because the (season) pass price went up and was unwilling to throw down more money."
But overall, he said he ultimately thinks it's a good thing for the area. "It's worth it to have more people skiing and enjoying themselves, instead of having it closed and feeling bad about that fact."
Erin McNally spends nearly every day at the ski area as a program director for the Juneau Ski Club. She said her feelings are mixed.
"I think it's a great idea because it extends the season, but then I see (Eaglecrest's) point of view from a business standpoint. Once all the snow is gone in town, people are thinking about preparing for spring," she said.
McNally said it is understandable why the mountain would see a revenue drop during that time of year and opt to shut down.
"Many of the users left on the mountain are season pass holders," she said.
Longtime Juneau resident Cassandra Squibb remembers when Eaglecrest offered a similar incentive two years ago.
"But they offered it at the end of the season," she said.
And it was on the heels of a winter tallying record snowfall for the area.
"It was more relevant then. You knew exactly how much snow was left, so you knew it would be amazing," she said.
But that year the support fell short, a disappointing surprise to Squibb, and the mountain did not stay open as she had hoped.
On this year's offer Squibb said, "I think it'd be great. But, as with anything Eaglecrest related, it can't just be a couple people."
Should it work out, Squibb thinks it "would be fantastic for sure."
"If we had that extra two weeks, it would be an opportunity for people to use the (terrain) park," she said.
With the lift running, riders would be able to take advantage of the park.
Duncan however said that at this point no decision has been made regarding the park or its potential upgrades.
But regarding the pass option Duncan said the mountain is trying to follow through with its "it's your mountain" slogan.
"We're giving people a chance to vote with their wallet. If they go for it, great," he said.
The extended season pass offer is available on the mountain's website (www.juneau.org/eaglecrest/) under the "Extend the Season option." Interested participants are asked to print out the provided form and mail, fax or e-mail it back by the November deadline. The area's website noted that should the snowpack fall short, there will be no refunds for those who signed up.
• Abby Lowell is the Outdoors editor and can be reached at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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