Mt. Eyak Ski Area season ends on a sunny note

The last day of the season at the Mt. Eyak Ski Area drew crowds of happy people on Sunday, April 10. Photo by Amanda Williams/for The Cordova Times

Cordovans and out of towners alike flocked to Mt. Eyak Ski Ski Area for the final day of the season. Mother nature didn’t disappoint — glorious weather and great spring snow conditions abounded. Feel good music was playing on the speakers at the base of the chairlift, and was also booming from Midway and Top Station, getting everyone amped up for an epic afternoon on the beloved hill.

“We have been really fortunate this year to have a core group of patrollers that have been holding it down,” beamed Taylor Kimbarow. “It’s a decision that people are making to be a part of it. We are doing it so people can have fun, if people weren’t here having fun, we wouldn’t be doing it. The credit really goes to the patrollers, the lift operators, and to the people that keep coming back. I think the attitude and energy has been really high this season, and it’s been an incredibly safe year, that has a lot to do with responsible skiing and snowboarding by the clients.”

Ski patrolman Taylor Kimbarow goes sleeveless on a bluebird day at the hill. Photo by Amanda Williams/for The Cordova Times

It’s clear the hard-working staff is dedicated to a safe, fun experience for all.

The crew was still busy behind the scenes a day after the curtain closed on the ski season, hauling gravel up for the hiking trails during end of season maintenance. After lunch, they planned to grease the chairlift to keep it in top working condition for next season.

“We will be doing maintenance throughout the summer,” General Manager Dave Branshaw said. “I do a lot of mowing and brush cutting up there. It’s kind of like going to the gym for me.”

Another thing on the agenda during the summer months is the haul rope (new cable) replacement, scheduled for late July, early August.

“We have a couple different contractors coming up to do that job and we will be assisting them,” Branshaw said. “We have some prep to do before they arrive (taking the chairs off the lift), which takes roughly four days.”

The cable was manufactured halfway around the world in Switzerland, Branshaw said. The cable now on the lift had a long run: over 30 years in use.

“All the equipment has a replacement and inspection schedule,” Branshaw said. “A physical engineer that specializes in chairlifts comes and looks at the lift and writes an inspection report, we comply with that and submit it to the state, and they issue us an annual operator permit.”

The chairlift has character and uniqueness all its own: it’s the oldest running chairlift in North America. Originally installed in Sun Valley Idaho in 1939, removed in 1969 and reinstalled in Cordova in 1974.

A family is all smiles waiting to get on the chairlift. Photo by Amanda Williams/for The Cordova Times

It takes a village to keep everything running on the ski hill, and the staff, along with a supportive community, made the ski season a great one.

“We had a really good season,” Branshaw said. “We got 42 days with the chairlift and 75 days with the rope tow. We started early to. The rope tow was the second week of November, and the chairlift was the first week of December. We did have a rough patch of weather there in the middle, but got a big shot of skiing during Christmas break. That was fun, everyone had a great time with that. We started off good and ended on some nice weather. It’s about as good as you could hope for.”