Skiers await more snow

Snow showers in next few days could bring Eaglecrest closer to opening

Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2002

Wednesday's white Christmas didn't bring enough snow to open Eaglecrest. But managers of the city-owned ski area hope showers predicted for the next few days will bring enough of the white stuff to allow them to consider when to start running the lifts.

"The snow is nice and it's exactly what we need," Mountain Manager Paul Swanson said this morning. "We just need more of it."

Wednesday's snowfall brought about 5 inches of new snow to Eaglecrest, raising the level at the base to 11 inches, said Ski and Snowboard School Director Jeffra Clough. The level at the top was 42 inches.

"The stuff that fell yesterday afternoon is light and fluffy," Juneau Ski Patrol Director Brian Davies said this morning from the top of the mountain.

Eaglecrest can open with 12 to 14 inches of snow at the base and 5 or so feet at the top, but it must be heavy or packed down, not fluffy powder. And that's still at least a few days away.

Snow showers predicted for tonight could bring another 2 to 4 inches and more is expected Friday, according to the National Weather Service. A new weather system predicted to move in from the Gulf of Alaska on Sunday or Monday could bring snow, rain or both.

Meteorologist Brian Bezenek said it's hard to know how much snow the showers will bring to Eaglecrest.

"You can have two showers go past an area and one drops significant amounts of snowfall and the other brings only a dusting," he said. "They could detour around Juneau and dump on Tee Harbor and Taku Inlet instead."

Snow accumulation around town Wednesday varied on the location and elevation. Douglas had more snow than downtown, although a few Nordic skiers heading up Perseverance Trail found enough to try out their skis. And hikers venturing above Auke Bay found knee-deep snow at the John Muir cabin.

Despite a shortage of snow, Eaglecrest held its traditional Christmas Eve celebration Tuesday. Instead of skis, celebrants donned waterproof footwear for the annual torchlight parade.

"We termed it as the first annual Southeast Alaska Rubber Boot Torchlight Parade down the platter lift," Clough said.

About 150 people showed up for the celebration, including about 45 kids who greeted Santa, average for the event, she said.

While the lifts are closed, some winter sports enthusiasts have taken advantage of the snow to sled or hike around the slopes, said Davies of the ski patrol. A pair of telemark skiers headed down the mountain this morning, he said.

"There's quite a few people hiking on the mountain, but they really have to be careful because there's no first aid available," he said.

In addition, the snowpack includes a dry, frozen layer that raises the avalanche danger.

"There's been some small slides on ridges," he said.

Ed Schoenfeld can be reached at eschoenfeld@juneauempire.com.



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