“So we have a short window to secure this lift before it goes to another buyer, or has a different fate…And what’s unique about it is it has much, much lower operating costs, much lower maintenance costs. And it’s a very simple, basic machine, yet it’s able to do what we need it to do in both summer and winter seasons.”Dave Scanlan, Eaglecrest General Manager.

Eaglecrest Ski Area in Juneau, Alaska is looking to modernize its lift system in a major way. KTOO reports the ski area is considering buying a used gondola. The used gondola in question comes from Galsterberg in Austria, which will be replaced this summer for a higher capacity lift at its original home. This lift would either replace the Ptarmigan chairlift, a fixed-grip double chairlift that has served the ski area since its opening in 1975, or could go up another route up the mountain. A fixed-grip pulse gondola is three interconnected gondola cabins, with the whole line having twelve cabins total. The ride time is less than seven minutes long and would feature a mid-station.

Financially, this could be a major victory for the under-the-radar ski area. Purchasing the used gondola would cost $2 million, and $6.5 for the installation. With a new lift though comes extreme demand for new chairlifts, with major corporations making a 25% increase in pricing and a two-year backlog. A brand new gondola would cost up to $22 million. With the gondola currently being for sale, a decision must be made by the ski area to purchase the lift soon.

While it would likely become the major lift for their winter operations, it also has major potential to be a bridge for their summertime activities as well. Juneau is one of the most popular Alaskan cruise ports, leading to over a million tourists that visit the city each year. The gondola has the potential to make Eaglecrest a major year-round destination. Some activities that could be added afterward include “mountain coaster, ropes course, adventure maze, hiking and biking trail improvements, and other activities.” With a new gondola, they are initially projecting three hundred visitors a day. A video of the lift is below…

The ski area is owned by the town of Juneau, and these plans need to be approved by the town in order for it to happen. Views of the lift between town government members are mixed. Assembly Member Carole Triem said the following: “What I am hearing tonight and from the board meeting on Friday is we are being asked to buy it, and then have the public process. I don’t think that’s the appropriate way to do this.” Assembly Member Alicia Hughes-Skandijs said that “at this point, it’s too fast, it’s too out of order with — we have community goals, community priorities. And I sort of feel like this is jumping the line.” On the other hand, Assembly Member Wade Bryson said that “When it comes down to it, the community’s going to say, ‘No, you’ve got to keep Eaglecrest open. And this is the least expensive way that we can ensure the future of Eaglecrest…Let’s put our business hats on, and let’s see if we can’t make some money. It’s not against the rules for Eaglecrest to be profitable.”

A public testimony session is planned in Juneau on February 28th, with a vote either approving or denying Eaglecrest to purchase the lift coming shortly after. Photos of Eaglecrests summer plans and the Ptarmigan chairlift are below…

Image Credits: Eaglecrest Ski Area, KTOO

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