Remembering Bob Janes

Bob Janes St. and son Bill at the top of Black Bear chair in 2010.

Bob Janes Sr. and son Bill at the top of Black Bear chair in 2010.

A three-year Forest Service assignment to the Tongass National Forest became 49 years in the capital city for the late Robert C. Janes Sr., whose life will be celebrated on Sunday.

He passed away at the Juneau Pioneers’ Home in March at the age of 92.

Ski area reconnaissance

Bob Janes arrived in Juneau in 1965 with the U.S. Forest Service.  Used to moving with the agency, he thought it would be another short stint.

At the time, Douglas Ski Bowl – also known as Third Cabin — had a rope tow and snowcat to get Juneau skiers to the top.

Janes had been working in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California and was soon assigned to help come up with another location for a ski area.

“The regional forester put me to work. (He) said go out with Craig Lindh and find a new ski area.  That’s what we tried to do,” Janes said in an interview a few years ago.

Lindh was also with the Forest Service. He had transferred to Juneau to work on the ski area project.

“He was pretty enthusiastic when I first came to Juneau and met him and we chatted about skiing,” Lindh said.

So the two foresters and avid skiers hooked up to find a place with better access than Third Cabin. Lindh said they had lots of input from Juneau skiers and finally settled on the Fish Creek area.

“From the top of Third Cabin area you could look down into the Fish Creek drainage and that’s what got people interested,” he recalled.

The land was taken out of federal ownership and in 1975, Eaglecrest opened with the Ptarmigan lift up the west side. The ski area is owned by the city and borough of Juneau.

By the 2009 / ’10 season, Eaglecrest had grown to four lifts. Black Bear was installed on the east side with the help of gifts from Eaglecrest users.  Bob Janes sponsored tower 21, which reads:

Supporting Eaglecrest’s past and future.”

Black Bear chairlift Tower 21

Tower 21 of the Black Bear chairlift at Eaglecrest is sponsored by Bob Janes Sr. (Mikko Wilson / KTOO)

He was 88 that year and no longer skiing. An Eaglecrest employee took him by snowmobile to Black Bear, so he could ride the lift and see the sign in place.

“It’s nice looking I think. I kind of am proud of that sign,” Janes said later.”There are many other nice signs and people that have contributed. It shows the community spirit.”

He juxtaposed the first Eaglecrest logo with the current logo. The sign reflects Janes’ early reconnaissance work and subsequent years as a skier and a ski patrol volunteer.


A love of snow

Janes grew up in California. His family writes that he could have been a beach bum, but after earning a degree at the University of California Berkeley, he joined the Forest Service and eventually started working in snow.

In the 1950s he trained in avalanche control with Monty Atwater, who was considered the father of avalanche science in the U.S. In 1960, he was  part of Atwater’s team of Forest Service snow rangers for the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, Calif.

When Tom Mattice was hired as Juneau’s emergency program manager a few years ago, Janes was on the board of directors for the Southeast Alaska Avalanche Center.

“You know, he was one of the first avalanche mitigation specialists in the nation,” Mattice said. “It’s neat to have that kind of experience in our region.”

Janes brought his expertise to Juneau, and in the 1980s worked to create a statewide avalanche forecasting system, which ended when the state dropped out. He advocated for Juneau’s avalanche advisory program and often shared his knowledge of how certain weather events in Juneau contribute to slides, Mattice said.

“How Taku wind events tend to be some of the events that lead to some of our instabilities in the urban environment, but also some of the dangers that loom in the back country up Douglas and other places,” Mattice said. “He wanted to make sure the public had the information they needed to make educated decisions.”

Lion Bob

Searching the KTOO archives produced tape of Bob Janes, the Lions Club member, selling tickets at the 55th Gold Medal Basketball Tournament.

“What do you see for the future of Gold Medal?” the reporter asked.

“Well, after 55 years, I think it’s going to go on forever, don’t you?” Janes quipped.

He missed Gold Medal this year, which was the 68th annual competition that brings Southeast communities together on the basketball court in Juneau.  It’s a major fundraiser for the Juneau Lions Club, part of the international service organization.

“That’s our motto, ‘we serve,’ and that’s where our resources come from. Somebody that wants to join the club and do something for somebody else,” Janes told the reporter.

When Ted Burke joined the Lions Club in 1987, Janes became his mentor. Burke said the education in all things “Lionism” never stopped, even when Janes moved into the Pioneers’ Home.

“That’s when he called me up and told me I had to become the historian of the Juneau Lions Club to relieve him of those duties,” he said, laughing.

Janes took on the job of historian for many of the organizations he joined.

Burke said Janes was always clued into the needs of the community.

“It was Lion Bob that started us in a quest to make sure that whatever we were able to do for our community that youth came first,” he said.

In 1980, Janes was elected as District Governor for Alaska Lions Clubs. That same year, he founded the Lions Club adaptive ski program, which continues today at Eaglecrest, under Southeast Alaska Independent Living, or SAIL.  Janes brought Joe Tompkins into the program, who went on to compete in four Winter Paralympic Games with Lions Club support.

The definition of a gentleman

Burke and Mattice and just about everyone you talk to about Bob Janes called him a gentleman. The definition in this case: A man whose conduct conforms to a high standard.

A celebration of life for Bob Janes Sr. will be held Sunday, April 20, at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center at 5:30 p.m.

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