Compiled by the Eaglecrest Staff
In the 2000/2001 ski season Eaglecrest Ski Area celebrated its 24th year - and become the best little ski area in the world! The rich history of skiing in Juneau began in the early part of this century when skiers would hike for miles then strap slats to their feet to slide down the snowy mountains.
n the early 1930's rope tows were springing up all over the country, including Juneau. In 1932 a portable tow with 1,000 feet of quarter-inch rope was installed in the Upper Perseverance Trail area, on Alexander (Sandy) Smiths mining claim.
There was a 200 yard grassy area in his front yard, which became the first real "ski hill" in Juneau. Skiers could be towed 500 feet up the slope for a great downhill run! Later, Sandy Smith was to become the first president of the Juneau Ski Club when it was formed in 1935.
Also in 1935, the Douglas Bridge was built and access to meadow areas on Douglas Island opened up via the Dan Moller Trail which was constructed by the U.S. Forest Service. The little portable tow was moved to these sites, called 1st Meadow and 2nd Meadow, about 1 1/2 miles up the trail. Forest Service shelters were built which became 1st Cabin and 2nd Cabin. Ten years later, after returning from the U.S. Ski Troops and the 10th Mountain Division, Judge Tom Stewart and others helped to get the Ski Clubs first "heavy duty" rope tow going. This was powered by a 1945 Dodge truck engine purchased in Seward for $50, and was set up at the lower 2nd Cabin area. Ski jumping was going on at that time at "Jump Hill" near West Juneau, where hundreds of spectators would go there to see the action, including a downhill race over the Dan Moller Trail.
For as long as people in Juneau have been skiing, friends and neighbors have been there to patch them up or cart them off the slopes when the descent went awry. The Juneau Ski Patrol displays an extraordinary level of commitment to ensure that training, practice and efficiency all roll into a highly qualified team. A good person to gauge the patrols level of success on that front is Sig Olson, a Tenth Mountain Division veteran who joined the Juneau Ski Patrol in the mid-1960's and didnt hang up his patrol belt until just a few years ago. But he certainly hasnt hung up his skis. "Powder Hound" Olson is usually the first season ski pass buyer of the year, and skis Eaglecrest an average of 80 days a season.
In the early 1950's the Ski Clubs tow was moved to an upper site which became known as the Douglas Ski Bowl just beyond the Dan Moller Cabin. A warming hut was built by the Ski Club, which became "3rd Cabin." Transportation developed with snowcat operations: a Tucker snowcat christened "Oola, the Juneau Ski Train," and could carry 40-50 skiers with a sled caboose. Shortly after the Ski Clubs tow was moved from 2nd Cabin, Al Shaw started a commercial rope-tow operation under the name of Kaw-wah-ee Ski Company, so skiers now had a choice of two rope tow areas. Oola wore out in about ten years and was followed by a snowcat operation that Ink Ingledue started. Formally known as the "Douglas Ski Bowl," skiers could take a ride by snowcat ($2) or helicopter ($5). In 1970 the Ski Club purchased a Snow Master snowcat which kept running right up to the time of Eaglecrest.
With skills honed and appetites whetted by 2nd and 3rd Cabins, it was only a matter of time until Juneaus skiers hankered for something bigger and better. And in the late 1960's, wheels began turning: the Forest Service did "a little ski area reconnaissance" to see what the options were. Bob Janes and Forest Service/ski patrol colleague Craig Lindh (father of Olympic silver medalist Hilary Lindh) were assigned the task of surveying suitable sites. They scoped out five areas and preliminarily settled upon the Eaglecrest site (then known as the Fish Creek Drainage) because of accessibility, variety of terrain, exposure, and the fact that a transportation system could be put in without avalanche-path danger.
When the Forest Service put out a prospectus to entice private enterprise to develop the area, the lack of a road kept players away from the table. Along with the substantial efforts of many folks such as Robert Boochever and Craig Eastaugh, lo and behold, in 1971 Alaskas congressional delegation stepped into the fray to fight for the cause of road access. Thanks to a congressional appropriation of $950,000, which was matched by the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, road construction started in 1973. Public support for the project was such that in 1974 the ski club members were able to sell Juneau voters on the idea of building the area with monies raised through a 1% sales tax increase.
Lift construction began in 1975 and when the season of 1976-77 rolled around, Eaglecrest Ski Area was up and running with a day lodge, one chairlift and a surface lift. A second lift was added later, with money raised after passage of another sales tax initiative.
The City and Borough of Juneau started off in the ski area business much like many other municipalities have - by signing on the dotted line of a special use permit issued by the U.S. Forest Service. But it wouldnt be long before Juneau owned Eaglecrest, lock, stock, and lifts. In 1983 Juneau was able to select the land as part of a state and municipal entitlement program established when Alaska gained statehood in 1959. Hence, Eaglecrests portion of the Tongass National Forest is owned and operated by the City and Borough of Juneau.
In 2000/2001 Eaglecrest now has 31 official alpine runs, many of these covering large geographic terrain, plus 8 km of nordic trails. The day lodge hosts a ski & snowboard school, ski rental and repair shop, and good-food eatery. The road has been chip-sealed and potholes are a just a deep memory. Composting toilets in a heated structure at the top of the Ptarmigan chairlift offer luxury only dreamed of in the early days
New for 2000/2001 is a Tubing Area - a fun sport for all ages with no special experience or equipment necessary. We provide comfy, colorful tubes and a handle tow surface lift ride to the top our conveniently located tubing runs.
Another new feature at Eaglecrest this season is a terrain park designed with jumps, spines, and tabletops located on the Sourdough Trail off of the Hooter chairlift. When snow levels allow, the Ski & Snowboard School offer freestyles clinics for folks to learn how to most enjoy these features.
Eaglecrest is a locals mountain in the truest sense of the term, and not just because locals paid for it. Occasionally you will encounter snow riders who have made the trek from Whitehorse, in the Canadian Yukon; Anchorage, some 600 miles away; or from the "Lower 48" even a few from neighboring Sitka, Petersburg, Ketchikan, or other Southeast Alaska communities; but mostly you will find people at Eaglecrest who share the same zip codes and bump into each other at the grocery stores, restaurants, or the many nocturnal outlets of blues, folk, jazz, and rock & roll music.
Even though Juneau is the state capital and boasts a year-round population of 30,000 souls, it is accessible only by boat or plane - it is a wild place where ravens rule the streets and store windows advertise bear repellant. As you might expect, this means that Eaglecrest isnt one of those destination resorts whose skier visits rival the population of some countries and whose lift ticket prices brush the upper atmosphere. But because of the diversity of terrain and snow conditions, the locals say that if you can ski at Eaglecrest, you can ski anywhere in the world.