Don’t Tell Everyone, but Eaglecrest Ski Area, AK, Is the Ultimate Hidden Gem of North America

Lucy Ferneyhough | | Featured ArticleFeatured Article
Powder skiing at eaglecrest, AK
Ski the dream at Eaglecrest in Juneau, AK — Credit: Eaglecrest Ski Area

When it comes to hidden gems, it’s always hard to decide whether to keep them closely guarded or share the wealth. Today we’re choosing to spill all the info about one of our favorite lesser-known spots: Eaglecrest Ski Area, located on Douglas Island in Juneau, Alaska. Skiing in Alaska is already a dream for many, but skiing at Eaglecrest also lets you say that you’ve skied on an island with panoramic ocean views from the top of the mountain. That alone is enough to start planning your trip. Of course, we love that Eaglecrest has virtually no lift lines, affordable tickets ($ 62-day pass), and all of the other perks of being a smaller resort, but at the end of the day, the biggest reason we keep coming back to this Alaskan paradise is for the world-class skiing. On paper, 640 acres of terrain is already pretty good, but in reality, Eaglecrest’s unparalleled backcountry access makes the entire mountain range your playground and the possibilities for adventure almost limitless.

Eaglecrest Ski Area ridgeline hike
Hiking the ridgeline is a truly awe-inspiring experience for anyone — Credit: Kenzie Morris, SheShreds.co

Even before Eaglecrest was founded in 1975, Douglas Island already had everything you could want for a ski resort: a perfect location only a 20-min drive from downtown Juneau, both north and east-facing slopes to maximize and preserve snow quality, the ability to facilitate direct backcountry access right from the ski area, and even a reliable access road free of avalanche risk. All that it needed was some chairlifts, so Juneau locals brought the community together and grew Eaglecrest from the ground up into a thriving ski area that remains independently run by the City of Juneau today.

powder skiing at eaglecrest ski area
Eaglecrest’s thick blanket of snow keeps the powder plentiful all season long — Credit: Eaglecrest Ski Area

Built by skiers, for skiers (and riders), Eaglecrest is a dream to explore, whether you’re a beginner or expert, prefer groomed or off-piste, and like to follow a trail or forge your own. Four fixed-grip double chairlifts take you up the slopes, where you can then choose to try one of the 36 marked trails (20% beginner, 40% intermediate, and 40% expert) or pick your own route down. What truly makes Eaglecrest special is that they operate with an open boundaries policy, meaning that they do not discourage leaving the ski area to venture into the sidecountry or backcountry for even more of an adventure (as long as you know your backcountry safety skills). If you’ve never tried backcountry before, this is a fantastic opportunity for you to practice avalanche search and rescue in the Eaglecrest Beacon Park, go on a guided backcountry lesson or camp, and then take your first step into the backcountry world!

eaglecrest skiing views
Would you hike along Pittman’s Ridge for these views? — Credit: @skieaglecrest

For the best of Eaglecrest, hiking Pittman’s Ridge to drop into the West Bowl will make you feel like a rockstar, breaking a trail along the ridgeline with panoramic ocean views all around you, ready to drop into an untouched spot for some fresh lines. After that, the East Chutes are another favorite for a fun run with some great steeps and drops, and if you have skins for your skis, you can always break them out to get to anywhere you want to explore further.

For many, life in Juneau revolves around Eaglecrest, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. Eaglecrest regulars are known for their friendly and welcoming nature, especially since the snow is plentiful and the lift lines are short, so the atmosphere on the slopes is relaxed, enjoyable, and just pure fun. The snow is deep, the terrain never gets old, no traffic or crowds to worry about, and you get ocean views from the top; what more could you want?

chairlift at eaglecrest ski area
Eaglecrest’s old-school chairlifts bring an authentic charm to the experience, but don’t worry, Hooter chairlift’s seat pads were replaced just this November, so you’ll have a comfy ride up! — Credit: Powder Alliance

So now that we’ve seen some of what makes Eaglecrest a true gem, you’re probably wondering why it’s still so well hidden. The truth is, while Eaglecrest is extremely accessible from Juneau by road (20-mins and no traffic), Juneau is not at all accessible by road from anywhere else; in fact, your only options are to fly or take a ferry to make it over. Luckily, there are daily direct flights from Seattle, WA to Juneau for less than 2.5 hours, or Anchorage, AK to Juneau for only 1.5 hours, so it’s not as remote as it seems, just enough to keep the lines short and the snow fresh.

Pro Tip – The Boarding Pass Deal: If you can make it to Eaglecrest on the same day you arrive in Juneau, showing your boarding pass (either plane or ferry) at the ticket office will get you a free lift pass for the day.

experience an alaskan adventure at eaglecrest ski area
You’ll always catch a fresh line at Eaglecrest — Credit: Travel Juneau

In general, plentiful powder is one of Eaglecrest’s best features, thanks in part to its perfect location. Juneau is situated in the Tongass National Forest, the largest temperate rainforest in the world, but Eaglecrest’s elevation means that the average 230 days of precipitation annually mostly fall as snow in the mountains, adding up to 320” of snowfall on average. Last year Eaglecrest even got over 500”, the 6th most snow of any resort in North America in the 2020-21 season, more even than Jackson Hole, WY, Alta, UT, and Grand Targhee, WY. Conveniently, the north and east-facing slopes also help shelter the snow, so it stays well preserved enough that you’ll be finding powder pockets on any given day, regardless of how recently the last flakes fell.

It might not be the fanciest ski resort in the world, but Eaglecrest still has you covered for anything you might need while enjoying the snow. For dining on the slopes, Eaglecrest Grill’s breakfast burrito is the perfect choice to fuel up in the morning, Mountain Lift has your back for a coffee or snack break, and Tower Bar is great for an après-ski drink. Once the sun sets on the slopes (don’t forget you’re in Alaska, so that’ll be around closing time at 3:30 pm), downtown Juneau will be calling your name, with a wide range of locally-run breweries, bars, restaurants, clubs, and more for you to kick back and enjoy.

a snowy Juneau day
Downtown Juneau’s warm glow will welcome you in after a long day of skiing — Credit: Kenneth Gill

When your legs need a day off from the slopes, Juneau is a beautiful city to explore both downtown and in the surrounding natural environments. Some can’t-miss activities to check out include:

  • Hiking, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing across Mendenhall Lake to see the famous Mendenhall Glacier up close, or even going with a guide to explore inside the nearby ice caves
  • Trying out all of the best tasty treats on the Juneau Food Tour
  • Walking around downtown to see all of the totem poles, drop by a museum, or marvel at the work of local artists in one of the many galleries
  • Strolling along the beaches on Douglas Island before catching a show at the Perseverance Theatre
  • If you’re in town when the annual Wearable Art Extravaganza is on (usually early-mid February), definitely try to make it to the main event of the fundraiser: a giant pop-up fashion show where local artists get to share their breathtaking designs with the community!
  • Enjoying a delicious meal at one of the local favorites like The Hanger on the Wharf or The Island Pub
  • Sampling the craft beers at one of the many breweries in town, Barnaby Brewing Co. is a classic, or Forbidden Peak is excellent if you want to sit outside on their heated patio
Skiing eaglecrest is a snowy dream
Views and lines like these are just a typical day at Eaglecrest! — Credit: Chris Miller, @csmphotos

If we’ve convinced you to check out Eaglecrest while it’s still flying under the radar as a top-tier resort, here are all the details you’ll want to know:

  • The season begins early December and ends mid-April, dependent on snow conditions
  • Open Wednesday – Sunday from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm, and open daily over Christmas, Spring Break, MLK Day, and President’s Day
  • Adult lift ticket: $62, or deals available for multiple days or through the Indy Pass or Powder Alliance

Whether you like to take it smooth on the groomers, play around in steeps, deeps, and drops, or adventure in the backcountry, Eaglecrest Ski Area should probably be on your bucket list, even just for the panoramic ocean views alone. Eaglecrest is Alaska’s best-kept secret, made for the adventurous and creative, the skiers and riders that love to push the boundaries and constantly keep exploring.

For the first time, Eaglecrest will also be hosting two IFSA competitions this year: a 2* Freeride World Qualifier event and a 2* Freeride Junior Tour event. To see what skiing Eaglecrest is really like, be sure to check out the events online or in person if you’re in Juneau on March 4-5, 2022.

ski eaglecrest powder
Moments like this are just a plane ride or ferry away! — Credit: Eaglecrest Ski Area, Youtube

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One thought on “Don’t Tell Everyone, but Eaglecrest Ski Area, AK, Is the Ultimate Hidden Gem of North America

  1. My favorite thing to do when exploring downtown as a local is watch the homeless give themselves and each other vaccinations in the doorways of seasonally closed buildings.

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