No Ordinary Adventure

Exploring Eagle Crest Ski Area: A Juneau Adventure

February 14, 2023 No Ordinary Adventure by UnCruise Adventures Season 1 Episode 26
No Ordinary Adventure
Exploring Eagle Crest Ski Area: A Juneau Adventure
Show Notes Transcript

Grab your ski boots and goggles, because we’re hitting the slopes in the latest episode of No Ordinary Adventure. Eaglecrest Ski Area is a ski resort located in Juneau, Alaska. It offers ski slopes for winter sports enthusiasts of all skill levels, with a mix of challenging runs and more beginner-friendly terrain. UnCruise Adventures is excited to feature Eaglecrest Ski Area in our new Winter Sports & Northern Lights itinerary. 

Captain Dan had a chance to speak with Kristen Strom, the marketing and events manager of Eaglecrest. They discussed what it’s like to work at an Alaskan ski resort, traveling to Juneau, and the northern lights.

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My name is Dan Blanchard. I'm the co owner and captain of the company and UnCruise Adventures, a small adventure slash expedition cruise company based in Juneau, Alaska for the last 27 years. How can I be the age I am and be in business for 27 years. I guess I started when I was 10. But anyway, today, I got a really personal I appreciate a lot because she represents something in my town here in Juneau that is a growing concern, not only for residents, but people visiting and that is Eagle Crest ski resort. Eagle Crest is 15 minutes from my home on Douglas Island. Kristin strong represents Eagle Crest as the marketing manager. And since UnCruise Adventures is starting out next year, in February of 2024, we're going to have our first ever and perhaps the world's first ever ski trip from a boat with Safari and vevor will be important for a couple three days depending on conditions and visiting Eagle Crest ski resort. I honestly believe this is the first on the planet, Kristen, and what I mean, have you ever dealt with this kind of thing before? No way. But no, it's gonna be really exciting. I think. I mean, that sounds like the trip of a lifetime. So how could you not be excited to do something like this? Well, as we'll go through, when we talk over Eagle Crest, I mean, the fact that Eagle Crest is about 20 minutes from where the boat ties up, and has, you know, cross country trails and all that great stuff. We'll get into that. Of course, the fact that you're adding a tram or gondola in the future, just makes it right and our guests will visit Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm in IndyCar as part of the trip in the middle of winter. Which is pretty exciting. But you know what, we're here to talk about you and how you got into this. So I am I am really quick that just I mean, even though we've met I don't know you well. And I would love to know how you got into this career and travel and adventure and specifically Eaglecrest How did you end up landing here? Yeah, I It's been quite the crazy road to getting here. But I'm just so happy to be here in Juneau living downtown and skiing Eagle Crest and working at a place like Eagle Crest. It's, it's really special. But the dream has always been to ski as much as possible to experience different ski areas and different ski culture, not just in the US but around the world. You know, that really started it like the internship to a company called Snow brains, which is a new ski industry news release source. And I started out there as an intern, and then worked my way up to a staff writer and got to interview experience different ski areas. And that's ultimately how I discovered Eagle Crest was my contract last winter through snow brains. And I visited here in March skied Eagle Crest for a week, you know, I couldn't believe that everything that was said was true about it. The island experience the big mountain terrain, small local feel the accessibility truly all of that I was like this lace like, you know, whatever it it won't be as good as they all say it is but I got here I was just blown away that a place like this still exists out here in the world and let alone Juneau, Alaska. I quickly packed up my life and moved here a month later and got to Juneau in April. I knew the marketing position was becoming available, but it wasn't guaranteed yet. So I came, did a big interview process and ultimately ended up starting job and June. So it's been quite the crazy whirlwind experience. But it's been. It's been amazing. Yeah, well, and thank you for coming to town. We love having you here. And I hope that the harms have just received you so well. And you know, and it's I think, you know, one of the things that's interesting to me is that you're right i mean Eagle Crest is a local mountain but but it has a resort feel to it. That's really nice. I mean nice steeps, nice flats. And and I think what's unique about Eagle Crest is it is one on an island how many ski resorts are on an island that we drive across the bridge from Judah lOn. And the other thing is that people have Juno in this resort. And to me that's I mean, do you find that different working with a judo owned rather than a private resort? Yeah, I mean, it's one of the great parts about the mountain is you You really have that full community passionate, full community behind you all the time. And that's what makes my job so great is that I get to be out there and engaging with the community all the time hearing what people are liking when people aren't liking and just ultimately always having you know, friends and people out there that know you support you love this place, have always skied it, and ultimately, are amazing skiers and riders too. That's, you're totally right on the mark there. It's really got some terrain for all types of skiers. And I think that's what really brings it all together. Just having that small kind of local community field, but all sorts of different types of terrain. Yeah, yeah, for sure. I, I just love that I, you know, I'm 63. And but I still ski like the devil. I ski as hard as I can, you wouldn't think it would be you actually saw me on my boards. I love it. But think about Eagle Crest is this. Everything from you know, really soft terrain down low, easy. To me hiking up to the ridge is one of my favorite things to do. It's truly something else. But I'm kind of curious, you know, your role as the marketing director for Eagle Crest. And, you know, Eagle Crest is a big employer in town during the winter months, and even in the summer, it's growing. But tell me what what's a day in the life of an Eagle Crest marketing director look like? Well, let me start by saying no two days are ever the same at Eagle Crest. And I don't think I'm the only one to say that who works up there. But that's one of the best parts about it is it's always changing. You never really know where your day is going to go when it first starts out. But you have the like structure day to day, my position is kind of a special one because it is so dynamic winter to summer, my day to day really consists of putting out the conditions and mountain report every morning, we update that twice. And then also I update the websites and social media outlets, you know, in the winter, all right, my conditions report and then I'll ultimately try to get out there to ski elaborate to before the second one comes out at 9am. And make sure what I'm writing is accurate. It's true. We know like how conditions change in Juneau, it's just like, it'll say one thing be completely different. It's so different from what it is in town. So it's, it's super important for me to be recording accurate, honest conditions. So I'll get out and do that. And then ultimately try to stay out there, take pictures if it's a nice day, ski with the locals for a little bit. And then head back to the office, work on events, ads, whatever needs to be worked on. But it's so important for our staff to be able to get out there every day and ski elaborate to during the summer and take a mountain bike lap. We really tried to make support that make sure that happens. Yeah, that's exciting. I am attracted to your lifestyle. It's I feel so lucky. It's truly one of the best jobs out there for sure. Well, you know, before I started UnCruise Adventures, one of the things on my list was a small resort in Washington state that was for sale. And I ended up not doing that and starting and I think for the right reasons, starting a small cruise company, but I get what you're putting down. So you know what we've talked a little bit about, you know, obviously the downhill skiing and riding and such but what are some of the other kind of popular activities at Eagle Crest both winter and summer? Yes, so you're totally correct. With the downhill skiing we have a great I mean great terrain for that, you know, really enthusiastic adventure person who wants to go ski big. But we also have like a great learner slope area and lesson program with instructors and have a full fleet of instructors to really make that experience individualized and to work with you. But we also have miles of Nordic trail around Eagle Crest. We have a Grimm for both classic and skate Nordic skiing. So it's Oh, it's awesome. And they are so enthusiastic and out there every day. I love to see at you. You'll be over on BlackBerry and you'll see the Nordic folk grip and buy on the trail and it's like, oh my gosh, they're not on downhill ski Blacklick or something or one of our cheerleaders. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that is a cool thing. And the judo Nordic club is really, they're very active. Yeah. miles of trails you feel we have up there. Oh, man. Don't hold me to it, but at least two to four, depending on which loop you're doing. Yeah. And I think there's also access to other trails outside the resort area, which, you know, add to that substantially. Oh my gosh, yeah. They're, I'm so impressed by them every day. They are just getting after and they're so friendly. You too, when they when they ski by but so we have that for, you know anybody who's interested in Nordic skiing and we also have snowshoe trails, around Eagle Crest. There's quite a wide variety from you know, the mount Ben Stewart side of, of Eagle Crest behind the learners hill, up to the ridge or by Mount Troy out that area. But we also just have a, you know, a couple of warming cabins on the Hill that people can snowshoe in and out from kind of get that little experience as well. I think that's one of another thing that makes you know, so unique is the full cabin rental system. And we're really lucky that we get to be a part of it at a ski hill. Yeah, it is. It's something you don't always see. Mastery resorts. Yeah. Well, it's uh, you know, I, I've always found that the, you know, the activities that are available at Eagle Crest are amazing. But for so long, we had some people may remember this or listening for Solon. We weren't allowed to have a bar at the mountain. And what was it? Was it two years ago that right? It started with the pandemic, maybe that we were able to add alcoholic beverages to the mountain, which was cool. Yeah, just adding to that ski area experience. It's, the bar is one of those things that's just grandfathered into every ski area, whether you're ready for it or not. Well, that could be at the mountain or a town. That's right. I, you know, I know I mentioned it earlier. But you know, one of the big pluses for anybody visiting Juneau is just how close that mountain is to town. I mean, it's just literally 15 or 20 minutes from downtown. It makes the whole skate scheme and Nordic and myself and other friends oftentimes will just go up and ski a few laps in the morning, and go to work. And yeah, but for the visitor. You know, I'm curious what people can expect when they visit not only Eagle crisp, but you know, maybe a little bit about the ski town. And I'm curious, since you're relatively new to Juneau, what are the things that you really cherish about the judo experience and how it fits with Eagle Crest, I think you said it, it's, it's 1520 minutes from downtown to you know, it's really not ever, you know, busy traffic, or a busy full parking lot, or long lift lines. So it's so unique in that you can take your time in the morning and enjoy your vacation. And there's really no rush to get up there for any of those sad reasons or for fresh lines or anything like that. It's It's so unique in that you can take your time, have a good breakfast in the morning, get up there at 11 or noon and still have a full day of skiing ahead of you. And you're not you know, missing out on fresh lines, because there will always be some somewhere, they'll always be a parking spot available. It's it's the little things like that, that make Eaglecrest so special, but just that accessibility to downtown to you can be you know, at the island pub or Devil's club or wherever, and 1520 minutes and see all the same people that you just saw in the parking lot are in the lift lines, and they're all still in their gear and you're all just celebrating a great day together. And that's really really special like to say that, you know, definitely puts on a ski town cap during the winter I yeah, just love sometimes having a drink at the bar at the mountain or going down. I haven't had a lunch and one of our pubs which we have many of and of course we have a lot in judo that people don't really realize is they're not just in the summer. Oh, yeah. Yeah. And the winter atmosphere and sense of community is so alive and well here, especially when when you go crosses operating. And it's like a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, people are always out and about and happy to talk about the day and kind of celebrate all together even though you know, there are so many options. It feels still, like very good sense of community. Yeah. So I'm curious from, from your marketing perspective, what are some of the things you do to stay up to date on industry trends and changes and adventure and tourism and all that kind of thing? It's such a crazy game to try to stay up to date. I mean, especially social media, it's just ever changing and you can never really know what's going to do well and what's not going to but really I just tried to view it as informing people on what's new what's what's happening at the mountain, but also what makes us different from our other partner ski areas or, you know, other resorts that are not too far away, but a lot bigger from a and just how Eaglecrest differs. We have so many reciprocal pass agreements and partners and the access ability is truly there. So really trying to share that more, and just keep it authentic, I think we never want to change to be something different than our local Beloved Community ski area. And that's the way that we intend on keeping it. You know, it'll never be anything crazy corporate veil, thank goodness for all of that, because we just want to keep showing the people having a good time and make sure that everybody's staying up to date. So keep it up local, keeping the vibe, that's why people come to Alaska anyway, they don't come to Alaska to expense, the experience another big corporate property, even even in tourism, you know, outside of Eaglecrest it just to make it clear for everyone listening, you can grab an airliner arrive, you know, maybe leave Seattle or Anchorage or wherever, arrived before a certain time each morning, and ski for free all day. I mean, that is so cool. And for our guests that are coming on our trips, you know, they could come in, they could come in on Friday, ski all day for free. And and then overnight, the hotel is worth about on Saturday. So I mean, it's a way of just getting the visitors to general getting really a tremendous benefit. And from the airport. I'm just guessing that what are we maybe a half an hour 40 minutes tops, to the resort. Yeah, and you're taking that early morning or even midday flight and you're in at 9am. And you can be up at Eagle grass by 10. And it's a full day of skiing. Y'all just hear that? Yeah, every day a ski, we're just coming in on the morning or midday flight over the bar. It's unreal. I am so excited about this. I know I've had I've had my family, my kids come up and occasionally take advantage of that. And they just love it. Of course the challenge is is I pick them up at the airport. And I hardly get to say hi to him because they're right on the mountain. Right. But it with me? Generally doing our own thing, right? Yeah. Kind of crazy. You got to get out there. Well, I'm trying to keep up with a 30 year old when I'm 63. You know, they've they're keeping me young. I'm sure you do just fine. Things. So be doing this for a long time. I'll tell you, you know, are there any tricks to getting the most to have an adventure in judo that you could talk about? I mean, you know, we've talked about, you know, the obvious airline thing and the different tickets that go over to there any other tips you would give folks that are traveling? I mean, I think fresh tracks that Wednesday, yeah. Powder Wednesdays? Oh, yeah, yeah, you said it truly are, you know, we never really get too crowded, even on weekends with fresh powder. You know, when all four lifts are running, we never really have a lift line. But if you come midweek, you really will get to experience that untracked powder, every time you take the lift up. And that really no rush kind of feel, you know, you're able to enjoy your morning, just take your time, don't rush it, you know, don't be stressed out to get to the hill or get your fresh tracks because it will be there as the day goes on. And you know, just spend time taking it all in to, you know, have that really like moment of quiet out on the ridge or out, you know, easeful and just really take it all in where you're at, because you get overwhelmed by the views and just how wonderful it all is. I think just really honing in on the experience itself. And how fortunate we are to use that piece of land is is really awesome. Yeah, I agree. And you know, part of what we're doing in our winter sports in Northern Lights trip, which we get to start in February 2020 fours, we were generally going to be out on about Wednesday and Thursday. But we have also designed the itinerary to try to take advantage we have a wind event and I need to move the boat someplace else and do the speech ski day a different day we were offering that flexibility. But I think the you know that the fun thing for guests, you know that some of the details are still being worked out. But you know, whether you bring your own gear will store it for you and get ship get it up to the mountain for you. Or if you're renting, we're working with you folks to have rental gear available, which is included in the cost of the trip, which is cool. What we're trying to do is just like you shared about the airline trip and just going right to the mountain, we're trying to make things as seamless as we can, which, you know, in my mind is kind of a thing that Eaglecrest has had for a long time. I mean, you guys have had buses running in from in town. for both crew and skiers for I think sets almost Inception yet. Yeah, just makes it so much easier. So put this picture in your mind's eye. You're traveling to Juneau for your first time to go on outdoor winter, us travel. And what are some of the travel essentials that when you think about judo and you think about the mountain, is there anything different that you would toss in there like I should bring this or I should plan on that or, you know, kind of speaking not only the mountain, but Judo as a whole, I would say first and foremost, for the mountain, extra socks and extra gloves. You'll just, it'll make your life so much better to have that extra just layer of support and really bringing your waterproof gear too, because Eagle Crest is close to sea level. And we really kind of ride that line between wintering mixed precipitation and snow precipitation. So just always being prepared for what the forecast may hold or what it may not hold. It just makes your triple a whole lot better to experience. But yeah, I would say extra socks and toe warmers, maybe and then extra gloves, your waterproof gear, your extra tough boots, love the extra tough boots, it's the Alaska sneaker, so any of you who come out to judo and you're aware of extra tariffs Euro automatically in the game, and I'm concerned to avoid the visiting questions. Is this a local? Exactly? You know, part of our thing is that we're not only coming up for the winter sports, but we're also looking for Northern Lights. Have you had any personal experience with Northern Lights recently? Yeah, I'm actually Eagle Crest is one of the best places to be when they when they go off when I cabin Hill, the dam up there they were, the sky was just lighting up in it is unreal. And you know, I've never experienced anything like it and you you don't really know that it's actually real and happening until you actually see it and it's just unlike anything else I am amazed at I probably sat with hundreds of northern light shows. But I am. Each one is so different. And we moved over to Douglas last about a year and a half ago. Okay. I've got my Lawson Creek and we look over the city of Juneau and right on the Y. And one of the things that I find amazing is there's what your eye sees that then the camera you actually shoot pictures sometimes you get get other colors that that doesn't pick up those two. And on your iPhone. No less. Yeah. It's amazing. For instance, you barely see some of the ribs with the human eye. But yeah, camera lens brings the reds out when they're there. It just always amazes me the difference and how that the camera tends to pick up the green a little bit more too. But yeah, yeah, it's a wonderful experience. I could sit here and talk about Eagle Crest at Judo, knowing until until the end of time. And you know, even though I'm talking about bringing guests to judo during the winter and we're gonna have a ball the good thing is it's still a small number of people that are going to be able to experience not only what Eagle Crest a local great mountains like be able to experience the real June Oh, in winter i i love i don't know if you've noticed, but there's now a bunch of old ski chair some Eagle crafts that have been mounted downtown. Six locations that start to feel like a ski town. That's right. I probably just go crazy here. Don't Don't forget it too. It's a friendly reminder when people are out and about that. Oh, yeah, Eagle Crest is just right. During the winter Yeah, that's right. So you know you're you're a pretty energetic. I would say open personality and such. Can you share you know, maybe some travel stories in general whether it involves ego quest or anywhere around the world just you know, the group that's the same list of travelers that are seeking, you know, not industrial tourism bed, authentic adventure travel, wherever they go. Can you share any stories that might fit it? Or might it lightless about you? You know, the best type of experience I've had traveling has never been the nicest, you know, hotel or resort or rental car or town or anything like that. It's always about the experience and where you're skiing the company you have while you're doing I will share pre pandemic I went to to Lake Tahoe to visit my younger brother in college and we all have been seeing Tahoe has been getting insane storms and crazy powder and that this was not one of those times this was a Tahoe was the snow was lacking for sure. And they were making do with what they had. But we didn't want to buy ski passes, we were really just trying to be you know, as conservative spending wise as we could I was right out of college. So I was just trying to visit my younger brother and just kind of ski around the rim. And we didn't have any backcountry gear. So we booted up the Tahoe Ridge, like we found the end of a cul de sac and just like started hiking up the ridge and it was God awful Snowdin just his heavy snowpack underneath it. I wouldn't even say it was powder underneath. It was just some of the worst conditions I've ever experienced. But we just had so much fun being out there in the sun and looking at the lake. And the ski down was so terrible every time but we just had the best time and our ski boots just being out there in nature, experiencing it being amongst like the trees and the wind and away from town. It's just, it's so nice. And I feel like that's something that's going away more and more these days. And that's what makes Eaglecrest so special, too. Are those moments of peace and quiet and no no noise in the background just you being out in nature. And that's that's always my favorite part of the experience. Clears the cobwebs out was Yeah, it sure does. Talk about you know, in time. So we've been through during the pandemic, I think nature and a piece that brings to us is saw many of us through difficult times. So I I am just a believer in good rock and roll. Loving your life. And while they cheer. Those three things put together. It's hard not to succeed, right? Yeah. Yeah. I'm kind of curious, you know, as we wrap up or anything new happening. I mean, there's the G word that I know what's going on. What? What's going on with the gondola? Yeah, it's, it's exciting. Well, the gondola is here. It's in the lower Nordic parking lot. It's unloaded. And installation will be beginning this summer, and will hopefully be operational, if not by the end of this summer by summer 2024. And this is really exciting for us, especially in years like this, where our snowpack has been almost there, but not quite at the base. So we're pushed a little bit back in time for for opening but really to have that, you know, mid mountain up experience there will be will be awesome. But gondola is here ready or not? So excited about that. Yeah. And we're talking, you know, mountain biking, skiing, Nordic skiing, and just so many other adventures to come with it. It's you know, I know that, you know, a big press within our town has been to get more use out of new crest during the main visitor season. And you know how to love mountain biking. In the past we've had zip lines and is there any news on zip lines at all? Hopefully coming back this summer. zipline tour was not in operation this last summer, I believe due to staff but it shouldn't be back going again this year from what we've heard. But just to have all those kinds of different adventures up there during the summer will really help pay for you know, our wintertime operations and continue to give locals that good experience at Eagle Crest with that extra summer boots behind us. Oh yeah. Yeah. Well, I think that, you know, for visitors having that gondola, whether they're biking or are really going up to visit trails, it just the scenery is so amazing. At the end of the springtime and well spring beating really into June, when we start getting our wildflowers going. Oh my gosh. It's gorgeous up there. It's unreal. So what how can anybody interested in finding out about Eaglecrest? What's the best way to find you on social media and email and phone and all that stuff? skied Eagle is our website. That's where we update all our events, conditions, kind of our local news, what's happening there. And then on our socials were at Ski Eagle Crest on Instagram and just Eagle Crest ski area on Facebook. We're also on YouTube, too. We have a great YouTube channel. We have a amazing videographer who's constantly uploading new stuff on there. So definitely go check us out on YouTube and really get up Feel for our community? Yeah, I think that's an easy way to contact you. I would suggest people get, you know, following you on on YouTube and all those other sources because if you're an outdoor winter enthusiast, you need to learn about Eagle Crest. Well, anything in closing that you want to add or say to the to our followers here. Thanks for having me. We're really excited for this movement forward with the winter tour and adventure. I think just spreading the love for UnCruise and Eagle Crest and moving things forward is just really exciting for us. We're, we're super stoked about this. Yeah. Your hometown. Mountains, your hometown. small ship life. That's right. Combination. Small business. Go go go. Big terrain. Small Business big trade big ocean big ticket. Yeah, where that comes from. That was off the cuff. But I want to thank you very much, because I will look forward to Crossing Paths talking to you before we get up there. And enjoying the time. Yeah, hopefully I'll see you on the Hill soon, too. Okay. Sounds good. Okay, awesome. Thank you so much. Well, you know, to wrap up, the winter sports and Northern Lights trip, I just want to share you as a local general night and all of you that are listening know that if you can't tell I'm very excited about bringing you to my home during the winter. And the town owned Eagle Crest ski resort is looking forward to welcoming you. I hope you'll take advantage of this opportunity. We only operated six weeks every year aboard the safari endeavor. And it is guaranteed to be a very different type of trip than you may be used to a waterborne ski trip where you can be on top of an island and see the beauty of the Inside Passage and when it clears Northern Lights. We hope for that. Anyway, folks, I appreciate you listening to this podcast. appreciate and thank Kristin for joining us. And I just want to say thanks for for joining no ordinary adventure with me dan Blanchard, the co owner and chief captain of UnCruise Adventures. Thank you good day.