“We are going to do as much as we can to advance this project during this construction season.” –Mike Satre, Board Chair of Eaglecrest’s Board of Directors.
Over the past couple of years, Eaglecrest Ski Area in Juneau, Alaska has been working to get a lift that would attract tourists to visit the mountain year-round. They ended up picking up a used pulse gondola from Galsterberg, which is an Austrian ski resort. Then came the shipping process, which was challenging due to Eaglecrest being located on Douglas Island. The parts arrived last fall, and since then, they’ve been figuring out the final financing portion of construction.
The Juneau Empire reports Goldbelt Inc. has agreed to give the City and Borough of Juneau $10 million by July 3rd in exchange for a share of the future profits for the gondola. The City of Juneau owns and operates Eaglecrest Ski Area. The money will go toward “the construction of towers and foundations for the gondola, installing cabling and building a gravel road that follows the gondola alignment and infrastructure for the gondola itself including bottom and top terminals.”
As part of the deal, if the gondola isn’t completed by May 31, 2028, Goldbelt can back out of the financing agreement. The city can back out at any time, but they’ll have to pay Goldbelt additional interest. Goldbelt will receive 10-25% of the summer revenue earned by the gondola until it recoups $20 million. That’s a lot of money, but Juneau’s booming cruise industry will likely make Goldbelt get its investment back within a couple of decades.
“The future of tourism is a bright spot for the economy of Juneau!” said Goldbelt’s President & CEO McHugh Pierre. “As Juneau’s Alaska Native Corporation, we recognize the immense potential of tourism as a catalyst for economic growth. With our established expertise in the tourism industry, Goldbelt is poised to invest in the community strategically, creating profitable ventures, like the gondola development, while developing job opportunities that benefit both our shareholders and the local economy.”
So far, the city has invested $2 million in the project. The full cost of the project is not yet known.
The Eaglecrest gondola will join the Goldbelt Tram on Mt. Roberts as the other aerial sightseeing attraction in the Juneau area. Goldbelt, which operates the Goldbelt Tram, is investing in the gondola for the community to grow sustainably as more tourists discover Juneau.
McHugh Pierre, who is the President and CEO of Goldbelt, described to KTOO why Juneau needs another summer attraction:
“When we evaluate the future of tourism in the community, we know that there needs to be options to spread people out so the impacts are manageable. We think that Eaglecrest, as an already developed area, is ripe for sustainable additions.”
In terms of an official opening date, that’s not exactly clear yet. Eaglecrest is currently doing engineering and geotechnical work. Once the financing is officially secured in July, they’ll start creating the access roads up the mountain, and do some preliminary construction work before the snow begins to fall again. The full construction work will take place in 2024, with an official opening date not yet announced.
Image Credits: Eaglecrest Ski Area