Business as usual at Mt. Sima by next weekend

Skiers and snowboarders should be hitting the slopes by January 13, said Mt. Sima general manager Richard Roy.

Skiers and snowboarders should be hitting the slopes by January 13, said Mt. Sima general manager Richard Roy.

The ski hill’s chairlift has been out of commission since December 22, and the mountain will not be getting the repaired parts back until today.

“There were a number of things — but one of the things that went wrong with it is the seal broke and oil was leaking into the brake-drum area, which is the back-up brake – it’s an emergency brake,” said Roy.

“Because of the oil leaking onto those brakes it caused them to overheat and there was quite a bit of smoke that was generated at the time.

“It wasn’t a dangerous situation, it was just a situation that we couldn’t tolerate; we had to find out what was wrong with it.”

So the Great Northern Ski Society, a non-profit society that runs Mt. Sima, decided to take down the string of chairs and use a heavy-duty crane to remove the faulty parts.

The mountain lost 10 days of operation over the Christmas season, normally the mountain’s busiest time of year.

It cost the non-profit society up to $40,000 in lost revenue, said Roy.

“It obviously has had quite an effect because it occurred when we were probably busiest,” he said.

At this point, season pass holders will not be getting a refund, said Roy.

The break-even point for pass holders is 14 days on the slopes, and the society views a 65-day season as ample opportunity to accumulate those 14 days, he said.

“If at the end of the season we don’t get our normal 60 to 65 days of operating days then the board would address it at that time,” he said.

An adult season’s pass costs $435.

The chairlift breakdown also hindered training for the Yukon’s alpine and freestyle skiing teams, which were preparing for the 2007 Canada Winter Games.

“Christmas is one of our biggest times for training of the year because we have two weeks of solid days that we can train,” said ski coach Jon Standing.

 “In a regular month we’ll typically have 10 opportunities to train; during the Christmas vacation alone we’ve probably got 12 opportunities to train if we give athletes appropriate rest.

“So, basically, it’s a month of training all packed into a couple of weeks.”

However, training continued through some creative solutions on the part of Sima and Standing.

The athletes were pulled up the hill on sleds towed by snowmobiles.

This actually took some finagling on both the mountain and the team’s part — their insurance packages didn’t allow skiers to be brought up the mountain by sled.

At the last minute, a deal was struck between the two insurance companies, allowing the skiers to be hauled to the top of the hill by sled if they stuck to a designated area of the hill, signed waiver forms and provided a ski patroller.

“We certainly had a few hoops to jump through,” said Standing.

“But everything is going well, the hill was very flexible and we’re very grateful to Richard Roy and the board up there for being flexible with us and allowing us to train … they could have just said no to us and they didn’t. They were very flexible.”

The chair lift was built in 1975, and Mt. Sima bought it from the Alaska’s Alyeska resort in the early 1990s.

Although much of the lift had been overhauled in the 1980s, the seals and bolts weren’t part of that work, said Roy.

The ski society estimates the work on the lift will cost $20,000 to $30,000, bringing the loss in revenue over the holiday season to about $60,000.

Roy doesn’t think the cost will break the mountain for the year. If the weather co-operates, the season could be saved, he said.