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A solid snowpack generated by November storms allowed Eaglecrest Ski Area to open a week early, despite warmer temperatures and rain throughout most of the city over the weekend.
More than five feet of snow has fallen at the top of the mountain so far, and a foot and a half fell at the base. The snowpack was diminished over the weekend by a freeze-thaw cycle and some rain, but the area on Saturday still opened one lift for experts only.
General Manager Kirk Duncan said about 500 people skied Saturday, calling it "a good crowd," considering the rough conditions.
There is not enough snow to run tillers on the grooming machines so the runs are not groomed and surface conditions are challenging, Duncan said.
"We're looking for people that feel very comfortable skiing on non-groomed snow," Duncan said. "It's not any more hazardous, but you need to pay a little bit more attention. It's not the groomed corduroy you see other times of the year."
The lodge was busy over the weekend with people getting skis tuned and moving into lockers, Duncan said. Others took a few runs to "get their ski legs back," he said.
Lift tickets were $15 for adults and $10 for youth, seniors and children.
The Ptarmigan chairlift opened at 10 a.m. Saturday. It closed for about five minutes during the day, then switched over to diesel until mechanics could tighten belts causing a problem. The lift runs on electric power for the first time this season - diesel is only a backup.
The lift also closed for about 40 minutes Sunday for high wind.
Future services will depend on snow conditions, but the area is scheduled to open Saturday and Sunday. It will open daily starting Dec. 19.
Check for updated ski conditions at www.skijuneau.com.
Contact reporter Kim Marquisat 523-2279 or firstname.lastname@example.org.