It may look like ski season, but Eaglecrest Ski Area is still closed – as are most U.S. ski areas.
Eaglecrest is warning hikers that there is no ski patrol or avalanche control within the ski area boundary and out of bounds.
“They need to treat it like backcountry,” says Marketing Director Jeffra Clough.
In recent days a number of people have been hiking up the mountain to ski or snowboard, she says. Some parents even dropped off their kids at the mountain on Monday when schools were closed.
“We’re seeing hikers that are a little bit younger and they may not realize that it is a backcountry situation out there on the mountain,” Clough says. “You do need to be prepared for avalanche danger and unmarked terrain.”
Avalanches have already been seen on the mountain and the danger of slides will continue to increase.
Clough says hikers also need to beware of snow cats and other machinery working on the mountain.
She says Eaglecrest has far more snow than usual for this time of November, but Dec. 3rd is still the target date for opening the ski area.
City and Borough avalanche expert Tom Mattice says the people hiking at elevation are the major concern, but slides are not yet a problem in Juneau urban zones and Thane.
“The urban paths still have a fair amount of anchors and not tremendous amounts of snow down low yet,” Mattice says. “The people that are hiking are the biggest concern, especially in the Eaglecrest area.”
A backcountry avalanche has already claimed one life at a closed ski resort in the Lower 48. Professional ski and snowboarder Matthew Jamie Pierre – often seen in Warren Miller ski movies – died Sunday at the Snowbird Ski Resort near Salt Lake City, Utah. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the 38-year-old Pierre was swept away in an avalanche he triggered while snowboarding.