Eaglecrest receives financial windfall

Foundation awards $700,000 for ski area improvements

Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Eaglecrest Ski Area leaped forward Tuesday in solidifying financial backing for its three-year improvement plan to bring two new lifts and a new building to the mountain, among other projects.

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The ski area announced a $700,000 grant awarded by the Rasmuson Foundation on Tuesday.

The money means management can move ahead with its plans for on-mountain improvements, said board President Jim Calvin, and that a ski patrol and alpine race team building could be constructed this summer.

"This adds real money to the project so it can happen sooner than later," Calvin said. "We still have a lot of work to do, but this grant makes it conceivable this summer."

Projected materials costs are $400,000 for the new building, and the grant awarded $284,000 to that project. Planning and design will move forward this winter, with hopes that ground will be broken at the base area in the summer.

The building, which will provide space for ski patrol, race team members and public storage lockers, will be located between the maintenance shop and the base lodge.

"Both groups are being revitalized now," General Manager Kirk Duncan said of the ski patrol and the race team. "When they have their own dedicated space, they can attract even more members."

The three-year plan also calls for a new mid-mountain lift that will take skiers and riders to the top of East Bowl and a new beginner lift to replace the platter lift, which isn't conducive to learning due to difficulty snowboarders have riding it. Also in the plan is a multi-purpose surface corridor that will help serve summer recreation.

The award includes $300,000 for the new lifts and $100,000 for the surface corridor, which will be built in conjunction with bringing a new utility line to the mountain.

The award also includes a challenge grant for $16,000, which will be given if the ski area can raise $16,000 in matching funds.

Since the nonprofit ski organization raised $228,000 for the mid-mountain lift - chiefly coming from local businesses and avid skiers - Duncan said he felt confident the community could meet the grant challenge. He wasn't sure Tuesday what type of fundraising would be used.

The grant application was submitted in September.

The foundation announced winners of $7.7 million in awards to 15 Alaska nonprofits Tuesday. Eaglecrest's award was among the highest, with Volunteers of America of Alaska receiving $1.2 million for a youth residential substance abuse center and Skagway receiving $800,000 for a new medical clinic.

Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho said the grant demonstrates that Eaglecrest's plan is well put together.

"The Assembly historically has been concerned at the degree it's had to subsidize (Eaglecrest)," Botelho said. "The board and management have been working very hard to try to close that gap ... (The grant) is a really good housekeeping seal of approval."

Ski area officials said they hope the grant marks the beginning of a long-term relationship with the foundation.

"We view this as a real vote of confidence for Eaglecrest," Calvin said. "And now it's up to us to get it done and get it done right."

Tuesday's grant helps fund the first of a three-year plan of improvements at the mountain. Future improvements include developing new ski runs, a mountain biking and hiking trail system, and a day-use cabin at Cropley Lake. A base lodge expansion and support for the mid-week school program are also part of future plans.

The Rasmuson Foundation was created in May 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband, "E.A." Rasmuson. It is intended to promote a better quality of life for all Alaskans through nonprofit financial support.

• Contact Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or kimberly.marquis@juneauempire.com.

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