The heavy snowfall that hit Juneau over the weekend may have provided gnarly powder for shredding down The Face run at Eaglecrest Ski Area, but to those who operate the facility, it's white gold.
"It's the largest turnout I've ever seen in an opening weekend in the 12 years I've been here," said Jeffra Clough, an Eaglecrest Ski and Snowboard School director.
About 1,100 skiers and snowboarders turned out both Thursday and Saturday, she said. Eaglecrest already has sold about 2,000 season ski passes, she said.
She said on Thursday about 3 inches of snow fell on the packed base of about 33 inches.
"And it just kept snowing (on Friday, Saturday and Sunday)," she said.
The fresh snowfall made great fluffy powder for skiers and snowboards to plow through, she said.
"It's not as packed down," Clough said. "It's kind of like skiing through powdered sugar."
She said all runs are open and administrators expect to have the tubing hill operational by next weekend.
A big snow was much anticipated by Eaglecrest, which suffered budget shortfalls following a particularly wet winter last year.
Aside from a six-day opening during the Christmas holiday last year, Eaglecrest didn't begin operation until Feb. 22.
Clough said along with the die-hard skiers this weekend was a big turnout for ski slope newcomers, noting that the ski school had about 40 students on Saturday.
She said anyone wanting to learn to ski this year has plenty of time to get started. Eaglecrest will be open through April 11, 2004, she said.
Chloe Watkins, a ski school instructor who recently moved to Juneau from Colorado, said the weekend skiing was the best she's experienced since coming to Southeast.
"This snow has been heaven-sent," she said. "It's like skiing on cream cheese. (Eaglecrest) was totally packed this weekend, but the lift lines weren't that bad."
She said she prefers the community atmosphere at Eaglecrest to the big resorts down south.
"This is owned by the city, so it's like coming to a recreational park rather than a resort," she said. "It's more family- and community-oriented."
Ski school instructors at Eaglecrest weren't the only ones flooded by the crowds this weekend. Ski shops in Juneau also got their fair share of the action.
Betsy Fischer, co-owner of Foggy Mountain Shop in downtown Juneau, said the store rented out most of its cross-country skis and snowshoes over the weekend.
"I was blown away by the coverage on the mountainside," she said. "There's an amazing base out there."
She said it might be wishful thinking to assume the large snowfall this weekend signifies a snowy winter to come, adding: "We always assume it's going to be a great year."