City gets it right at Sima

City gets it right at Sima Whitehorse made multiple, farsighted investments in helping to finance a new chairlift at Mt. Sima. On its face, the new lift will secure and grow a unique array of athletic, recreational and economic development opportunities

Whitehorse made multiple, farsighted investments in helping to finance a new chairlift at Mt. Sima.

On its face, the new lift will secure and grow a unique array of athletic, recreational and economic development opportunities for the Yukon. Most importantly, by listening to and working with Save Our Sima, the city has fully engaged Whitehorse youth as citizens.

Save Our Sima made sure decision-makers fully understood the importance of the hill. This work is an inspiration, and a deserving source of pride for these young leaders. This leadership will inspire fundraisers hoping to finance the balance of the cost, to say nothing of youth facing other challenges.

Last winter, my trust was shaken. My son and scores of others spent close to three hours Ð mercifully in exceptionally mild winter weather Ð waiting to be evacuated on opening day. By the end of the season, I wondered whether the future of the hill implied droves of rescuers on standby and Air North flight passes for distant repair crews, low-value lift passes and parental anxiety Ð all, slowly bleeding the hill. Notwithstanding the persistence of staff and the Great Northern Ski Society board, the number of lift episodes wasn’t reassuring.

Having long shed coats, ski boots and lift worries, we made Nanaimo Wild Play Ð five years old and the first of its kind Ð a destination for our holiday this summer.

Ziplining and Monkido proved a vacation highlight. Our kids loved the challenges of the Monkido setting.

Monkido is akin to obstacle courses used for mental and physical training in the military. Each level of the course requires ever more concentration, problem solving, composure, strength, agility and internalizing of the laws of physics. No whistles, bells, drills, buzzers, scores, subject switches, refs, teachers or indoor facility to escape the elements. With minimal safety-coaching and a harness, on the day of our visit a surge of kids was unleashed to tangle Monkido in pouring rain.

Cramped-camper-inspired moods were replaced by determination. Disinterest and iPods were given the heave-ho in search of success. Success meant completing the course: applying strength, agility and calculation in the right amounts in this highly unstructured environment. As they progressed, effort and achievement fueled runners’ confidence.

Every kid insisted on going again, no hands (mostly) this time! Most of the physical and mental challenges faced Ð similar to some of those experienced in rock climbing and rappelling Ð are a crucial compliment to more familiar, structured daily experiences of organized indoor sport, school and the electronic booby trap I call home.

Watching my kids, I stood, rain-drenched witness to their determination to discover and push the laws of physics and human anatomy.

It inspires optimism in me to see the Great Northern Ski Society advancing long-term, year-round strategies like Wild Play for our community hill. Such strategies have contributed to commercial viability at other destinations Ð perhaps it will eventually be so in Canada’s most ambitious North of 60 facility.

First though, the society’s strategy is serving our community well by maximizing year-round opportunities for outdoor, low-tech challenges for bodies and minds. As a parent, I am grateful for this addition to an amazing array of human and physical infrastructure that affords such great opportunity to Whitehorse kids.

An unexpected dividend of the chairlift saga has been the opportunity for Whitehorse youth Ð the mainstay that rules the hill. The lift fiasco presented a choice, and they chose to lead.

With presence, evidence and patience Ð and an open-minded, indeed financially astute, Whitehorse Ð they succeeded.

A new lift, and strong leadership and management means the fundamentals are all right for Mt. Sima. Bet the Save Our Sima team will make a cakewalk of Monkido!

For my own part, I will have to reconcile my attachment to a plodding chairlift that ensured lots of “priceless” goofing time Ð or in my case, a merciful ceasefire after six or seven runs.

A speedy-lift, run-inducing culture will hopefully not expunge the benefits of slow.

In fact, that plodding chairlift had its merits. We’d do well to hold the best it offered Ð a chance to holler to friends below, to analyze a jumper’s technique, to take an extra fun-run, or two, before tackling “the course”Ð while being thankful for a new lift that gets us to the summit and all it has to offer.

Cristina Pekarik