The Great Northern Ski Society is well practiced at citing a laundry list of problems that plague its hill.
The temperatures are either too warm, or too cold.
There’s no snow.
The operation has trouble finding adequate staff.
It has a hard time keeping staff past the end of the season.
The season is short.
There’s little money.
Which may be true, but that’s not the problem this year.
This year, Mount Sima has been hobbled by equipment troubles.
And it is shocking how little responsibility the society directors are taking for the problems.
For example, the set of 45-kilogram rollers that fell off the T-bar recently.
Who is answerable for that?
So far, the board has taken no responsibility.
Fortunately, nobody was hurt.
But it could have been fatal.
The incident was serious enough to force Jon Standing, coach of the Yukon’s ski team, to suspend all training at the hill.
And it was the final straw for Gary McWaters, the hill’s general manager.
He quit after an ongoing quarrel with board president Ernie Berken about the hill’s maintenance practices.
Berken, who has been at the hill for 15 years, dismissed McWaters’ concerns.
But defending the maintenance record is a tough sell.
The snowmaking equipment is clogged with gravel.
The chairlift was under repair at Christmas, which is supposed to be the hill’s busiest time.
And then there’s that 45-kilo chunk of metal that dropped off the T-bar.
A millwright is supposed to inspect the lift. Apparently, that wasn’t done.
Berken did it himself, as he has for years.
“We do have insurance to cover us in the event that there was any gross negligence … it’ll handle any claims, let’s put it that way,” said Berken.
That’s a pretty cavalier approach, especially after the T-bar failure.
And if equipment is not inspected by qualified people, then it’s probable that insurance coverage would be revoked.
Now, Sima has lost its general manager.
Its ski team.
And its season.
It isn’t clear how season-pass holders will be compensated. Or even if they will.
The society has, apparently, spent all the money it received this year.
What did passholders receive? Nothing.
Now, it is promising to regroup and open next year.
It is requesting public support, and funding.
This year has been a disaster — and not because of the weather.
The maintenance issues have hobbled the operation, and that’s the board’s responsibility.
As a result, its credibility is shot.
It should be replaced and the operation restructured.
And, until it can prove it has the experience to properly manage the hill, public support and funding for the operation should be withheld.
Nothing less will restore confidence in the operation after this year’s debacle. (RM)