While most of us struggled for snow in the lower 48 last spring, Eaglecrest Ski Area had no such concern. With snowfall continuing for months straight, the fresh lines were plentiful. Juneau, Alaska, hosts a small Alaskan community with a great ski area. A quiet, local mountain with big terrain is one of the signature features of Juneau. And frankly, something that’s faded away in the ski industry in the last few years. Eaglecrest Ski Area in Juneau makes your Alaskan dreams a reality, serving some unique and deep terrain at an accessible rate. An adventure north with views, challenging lines, and solitude is not out of reach. The Eaglecrest Ski Area, on the southern Gulf of Alaska, is accessible and affordable to all shredder types. A short 2-hour plane ride from Seattle is all it takes to get there.
Once landing in Juneau, Eaglecrest is a short 35-40 minute drive onto Douglas Island (yes, we said island). Across the only bridge from downtown Juneau, you’re completely isolated, headed towards the heart of Douglas. A short drive up Fish Creek road or what feels like a road to nowhere into the Alaskan wilderness to nowhere, and you’re there. Enjoy the least stressful parking experience ever, with a handful of cars towards the base on your average weekday. *Moment of silence for all the parking lot hikers*
Another huge bonus to this big, small-town resort is the boarding pass deal Eaglecrest offers, which gives you a free lift ticket with same-day travel. Flash your boarding pass at the ticket office, and they’ll print you off a lift ticket for the day on the spot. So, why not take that early flight to Seattle and make your first day in Juneau one to remember? Correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s no better remedy for jet lag than skiing new slopes.
The laid-back vibe continues up the hill towards the lift with zero to minimal lift lines, enhancing that no-rush feeling in the mornings. It’s not uncommon to see familiar and friendly lift-ops greet you and send you on your way. It quickly becomes clear how tight-knit the locals and ski area community are. They’ve built the most welcoming sense of community, hooting and hollering at each other from the lifts and on the slopes. It’s also not rare for a visitor to build similar relationships and happen to run into familiar faces at the grocery store, on the lifts, or out on the town in Juneau. It’s also very easy to make friends at Eaglecrest, where you could be meeting someone while putting your boots on or a fellow hiker on Pittman’s Ridge.
Taking that into account, Eaglecrest is a community-owned resort, and there is no doubt about that strong connection the more time you spend there. The locals are passionate about this place, not just to protect it but want to share the highlights with everyone who visits. They love their days at Eaglecrest, and there’s no doubt why.
Eaglecrest Ski Area has steered clear of recent resort pricing structures and remains affordable to locals and visitors at the low day pass price of $68 a day. The resort values the community around it and makes it accessible for all to ski, a rare quality to find these days. Even the local 5th graders get a free season pass to encourage them to get up there and find their love for skiing at an influential age (parents, can I get a heck yeah?).
The ski area consists of three main chairs and one bunny hill chair; all original fixed-grip two-seaters from back in the ’70s! The main lift, Ptarmigan, gives you access to virtually the entire resort and is about a 12-minute ride to the top. You could ski Ptarmigan all day and never take the same run twice. It houses some tree runs and powder rollers on either side, not to mention a wacky-fun slalom course and park. Many of the goods remain inbounds at the resort, with stashes lasting long past the previous storm.
If you are looking for more isolated runs, the hike out of bounds is a short boot pack to unlimited lines off both sides of Ptarmigan. It’s a good call to carry your beacon, shovel, and probe pack out there, as ski patrol does not maintain this terrain. It also doesn’t hurt to have a local’s lead, as their experience can help guide you down the best lines, all while prioritizing safety!
This terrain is accessed by a short boot pack, where you can choose one of two ways to traverse. Pittman’s Ridge to the West provides access to tree skiing, steeper lines, and tight chutes. It also presents ocean views, cornices, and surrounding mountain peaks. On the other hand, to the East is access to the Blackbear lift area, which serves wide-open bowls and low-stake powder turns, all leading towards the main chute back to the base. Either side gives you a 360-degree view and builds appreciation for this different type of island resort! It’s up to the shredder which side their favorite is, and get ready to back it up during your apres reminiscing with the locals!
Even days after the most recent storm, it’s not rare that there are still untouched lines at Eaglecrest that are easy to get to. The showboat slopes are to the left of the parking lot and have challenging but manageable terrain above the resort. There’s also outstanding backcountry right out of the Eaglecrest parking lot if you’re still seeking complete solitude. Rumor has it that locals are likely hiking to the goods on nearby summits when the parking lot looks fuller than usual.
Finish off any day with some après and friends (new or old) in the parking lots. Here you can bring or, better yet, probably find friends with fresh salmon and two or three different Alaskan Brewery beverages of choice. Because who doesn’t want to look back on that type of day? That little mom-and-pop sense of ski community is out there and is so fun to experience.