Don’t confuse Friends of Sima with the ski society

Rod Taylor In response to some of the media coverage regarding the efforts of the Friends of Sima volunteer group, I would like to clarify the following points.

COMMENTARY

by Rod Taylor

In response to some of the media coverage regarding the efforts of the Friends of Sima volunteer group, I would like to clarify the following points:

The Friends of Sima volunteer group is comprised of passionate volunteers created out of the public meeting hosted by the Great Northern Ski Society at the hill on July 17, 2013. Our goals are to ensure that in the short term, Yukoners do not lose the use of Mount Sima for the coming winter and in the long term that a sustainable business model for the hill can be achieved.

While the current board members of the ski society have been extremely supportive of our efforts, including to agree in principle to allow us to utilize the facility this winter, we are not affiliated with the ski society in any way.

The ski society is responsible for dealing with the debt accrued up until the hill was shutdown this spring. The Friends of Sima is only involved in the plans going forward to keep the hill operating and to work towards a long-term, sustainable future for the hill.

As of Sept. 3, 2013, after approximately one month of activity, the online pledge campaign initiated by Friends of Sima has received 661 season-pass pledges for a total of over $220,000. We have set a target of a total of more than 800 season passes to be sold via this campaign. Based upon the recent success of the campaign, the early bird pricing will continue to be sold until Sept. 30th at which time the prices will be increased.

The total season’s passes sold for 2012-13 were 220. An additional $40,000 in donations and another $55,000 in corporate sponsorships have been realized so far.

There were over 400 respondents to the survey portion of the pledge form. Overall the responses have been overwhelmingly positive. Friends of Sima is currently attempting to revise the coming winter’s operating budget for the hill.

The goal is that the total revenues generated by the hill – including season passes, daily lift tickets, individual and corporate donations and sponsorships, food and beverage sales and other revenue sources – will cover as much of the expenses of the hill as possible, while still ensuring that a safe and responsibly managed experience is provided for all.

This is not an easy task. Mount Sima, as we know it today, remains an under-funded and under-resourced legacy facility of the Canada Winter Games. Legacy facilities such as the Canada Games Centre receive significant and consistent funding from taxpayers, while Mount Sima does not.

That said, Mount Sima is the primary venue for the athletic efforts of Yukon’s alpine, freestyle and snowboard teams as well as a prime recreational asset for many Yukon families as the number of season pass pledges will attest. An alpine facility is not at all comparable to a Nordic centre, or a curling club. The risk profile is significantly more pronounced and many specifically skilled and trained employees are required to run the facility competently.

Recognizing the significant investment in the hill to date by both the public and private sectors as well as the costs projected to be required to keep the facility shutdown and preserved, it would seem that every collaborative effort should be made to keep the facility operating. Yukoners who want to see Mount Sima remain open need to show they care and will pay for the opportunity. The response to the current fundraising campaign would suggest that many Yukoners feel this same way.

As a member of the mining community said to me recently, “My family is purchasing passes and making a cash donation because Sima is part of the fabric of our lives in the winter. Infrastructure like Mount Sima is one of the lifestyle advantages we use to recruit employees whom we hope will decide to live in the Yukon. This helps to lower our costs, in turn helping us to remain economically viable during the lean times. People need to recognize the interconnectedness of all of this.”

At the end of the day, there may simply not be enough critical mass to ensure that the hill is sustainable but that does not mean we should not explore every option to keep this wonderful facility operating and available to Yukoners.

Rod Taylor is a spokesperson and member of the The Friends of Sima.

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