Letter to the Editor

Take pride in Mount Sima I feel justified in responding to the article Sima’s problems stem from identity crisis: What kind of hill am I? (the…

Take pride in Mount Sima

I feel justified in responding to the article Sima’s problems stem from identity crisis: What kind of hill am I? (the News, January 23), even though I am now living in British Columbia.

When we lived in Whitehorse, I played a significant role in the conception and birth of Mount Sima — providing planning and design services, helping to clear ski runs and helping install the chair lift.

I have continued to be involved, most recently by providing some engineering services for the new day lodge and T-bar tow installed last year.

I disagree that Mount Sima has an identity crisis. Ski areas are largely defined by the major market they serve as either a local (or community) ski area, regional ski area or destination resort and each have characteristics that are important to their respective markets.

A local ski area should be less than one hour driving time from the market it serves and have a strong emphasis on conditions and terrain suitable for developing new skiers. Anything more than that is a bonus.

Grouse, Seymour and Cypress on Vancouver’s North Shore mountains are good examples.

A regional ski area has features and amenities that draw skiers from a market area two, three or more hours away, often bypassing local ski hills.

Mount Washington on Vancouver Island is a good example. It is a local ski area to the Comox Valley, but it has facilities far greater than needed or could be supported by the local population.

The huge regional population base that uses this area makes it a regional ski area and supports the development.

Mount Sima could be considered a regional ski area, but the population base within even a five-hour driving time is smaller than the local population.

Whistler/Blackcomb could be considered a designation resort because it has a large national and international market, but it is also a regional ski area to the greater Vancouver area.

Mount Sima is, always has been and will continue to be, defined as a local ski area by its founders.

The ski area was designed to be compact and efficient to run because of the relatively small local market.

The problems with the chairlift last season should not be blamed on either the age of the lift or lack of maintenance. The failure last year was cause by an improper operational procedure.

Chairlifts rarely die of old age. They are usually replaced because of a need for a higher capacity lift.

Canada’s first chairlift, a single seater, was installed in 1939 and used continuously until 1981 when it was replaced with a triple chairlift. Even then it was sold to a new development for reinstallation.

Mount Sima can meet its operating costs in a good season even with its low rates and the added cost of snowmaking.

How many sporting venues in Whitehorse meet their operating costs on user fees?

Snowmaking was primarily intended to only help kick-start the season. Mount Sima’s rates are a bargain in comparison to many other ski areas.

For example, Mount Washington charges $56 for and adult day pass, $46 for a junior pass and a senior (over age 65) pass and $30 for a child in comparison to Mount Sima at $29, $22 and $15 respectively.

Seniors (over 65) ski free at Mount Sima.

Mount Washington may have more lifts and more variety of runs, but an individual will make as many runs and ski as much vertical in a typical day at Mount Sima.

Weather seems to be a major in getting Mount Sima open this year.

This is not uncommon in this industry.

Last season most Ontario resorts and many European resorts either did not open or were only open for a limited time due to an unseasonable warm winter.

This season Mount Washington had a four-metre base by the end of December.

Three or four years ago they were only able to open a part of their hill about mid January and five weeks later their season was wiped out by rain.

Don’t feel bad. A bad season can happen.

Mount Sima did the Yukon proud as a venue for alpine skiing during the Canada Winter Games.

My cousin’s daughter was a member of Saskatchewan’s alpine ski team.

I know that Saskatchewan is not a Mecca for downhill skiing, but she has trained in South America during the summer and trained and competed on many of the Alberta and BC resorts including Whistler.

When she got home one of the first things she said to her parents was: “ I want to move to Whitehorse.”

Whitehorse residents should be proud of what they have got and have patience and show encouragement to the many volunteers who make Mount Sima work.

Don McLaughlin

Gabriola Island, BC