Friends of Sima bloodied but unbowed

The Friends of Sima say they aren't giving up just yet. On Monday, city council voted against giving the society $65,000 to help run the Mount Sima ski hill this coming winter. That is the same amount it will now cost to mothball the facility.

The Friends of Sima say they aren’t giving up just yet.

On Monday, city council voted against giving the society $65,000 to help run the Mount Sima ski hill this coming winter. That is the same amount it will now cost to mothball the facility and keep it in good running order for a possible re-start next season.

It was a heavy blow, but the group isn’t prepared to quit, said the society’s Rod Taylor.

“We’re not prepared to see our kids have this critical asset taken away from them when we’re down to the same amount that it would cost to mothball it,” Taylor said.

“I am still inundated with emails from people saying, ‘Do not give up.’ People are offering to come and brush the hill, season passes are still being pledged right now,” he said.

The organization has received more than 800 promises to buy seasons passes this year. It needs about 200 or 300 more pledges to completely eclipse all the user revenue from last year, including day pass sales, Taylor said.

“We increased the season’s passes by reducing the cost to $400, which made the hill more accessible and more affordable. The revenues were exponentially greater, and most importantly, they’re guaranteed,” he said.

The passes are a safer bet than relying on day-use fees, Taylor said.

“Those season’s passes, once they are sold, they are sold, and it doesn’t matter if the weather changes,” he said.

Except that they aren’t sold just yet. On Monday, city council expressed concern that the Friends might face challenges getting people to pay for the passes they promised, but Taylor said he is confident people will pony up.

“The city said they don’t trust Yukoners to pay up. But we do. We know these people. These are not people in Whitehorse Correctional. These are families. They’re going to give us the money,” he said.

Taylor said he conducted a straw poll of the business community to gauge its reaction to the city’s decision, and that reaction has been surprise and frustration.

“One of the quotes was, ‘Either the councillors’ business acumen is circumspect or they have been completely disingenuous all along.’” If they don’t support it in any way this year, why would we ever assume they’ll support it in the future?” Taylor asked.

“Mount Sima is a real economic generator,” said Craig Hougen, who owns a number of sports stores in town.

“Not only does it provide direct employment for the employees that are up there. It also generates sales in skis and snowboards and clothing and accessories that go along with it. I know other stores that have said they’re now considering closing some of their winter clothing orders,” he said.

Hougen is also the president of the beleaguered Great Northern Ski Society, which ran the hill for the past two decades. The group is in the process of settling its debts and dissolving.

“City council has not considered that, beyond the direct loss of the ski hill not operating, there is also going to be the whole issue of training these athletes. Within the alpine ski group personally, I know there are kids who have been training right up to this day who don’t know how they’re going to continue with this program,” Hougen said.

SportsLife is one of the stores that Hougen owns, and it operates the rental shop at Mount Sima. Some critics have said the shop should be turned over to the new society to use as a potential revenue stream to support the hill.

If the Friends of Sima, or anyone else, wants the rental shop, they can have it, Hougen said.

At most big ski resorts, rental shops are a cash cow, Hougen said. But Sima is not most ski resorts, and the rental shop can’t rely on high numbers of tourists to rent equipment, especially with its short season.

“That business, over the period of the last 20 years, has done no more than probably break even. It is really weather dependent. There is a lot of risk involved.

“I have offered on numerous occasions to turn that over to anyone, the society or anyone that wants to operate it. We consider, as a business, operating it as a public service. It’s not a real money-maker for us. If anyone wanted to come forward and operate that facility, we would gladly stand aside,” he said.

Taylor said that with the city’s refusal to help, the Friends of Sima is now looking at other options to find the additional $72,500 needed to open the hill this year, including the business community.

“That option is definitely on the table,” he said.

Contact Jesse Winter at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 30. Hanley announced three more COVID-19 cases in a release on Nov. 21. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three more COVID-19 cases, new exposure notice announced

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, announced three… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: COVID-19 strikes another blow at high-school students

They don’t show up very often in COVID-19 case statistics, but they… Continue reading

The Cornerstone housing project under construction at the end of Main Street in Whitehorse on Nov. 19. Community Services Minister John Streicker said he will consult with the Yukon Contractors Association after concerns were raised in the legislature about COVID-19 isolation procedures for Outside workers at the site. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Concerns raised about alternate self-isolation plans for construction

Minister Streicker said going forward, official safety plans should be shared across a worksite

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, pictured at a press conference in October, announced three new cases of COVID-19 on Nov. 20 as well as a new public exposure notice. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New COVID-19 cases, public exposure notice announced

The new cases have all been linked to previous cases

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

City council was closed to public on March 23 due to gathering rules brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is now hoping there will be ways to improve access for residents to directly address council, even if it’s a virtual connection. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Solution sought to allow for more public presentations with council

Teleconference or video may provide opportunities, Roddick says

Megan Waterman, director of the Lastraw Ranch, is using remediated placer mine land in the Dawson area to raise local meat in a new initiative undertaken with the Yukon government’s agriculture branch. (Submitted)
Dawson-area farm using placer miner partnership to raise pigs on leased land

“Who in their right mind is going to do agriculture at a mining claim? But this made sense.”

Riverdale residents can learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s plan to FireSmart a total of 24 hectares in the area of Chadburn Lake Road and south of the Hidden Lakes trail at a meeting on Nov. 26. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Meeting will focus on FireSmart plans

Riverdale residents will learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s FireSmarting… Continue reading

The City of Whitehorse is planning to borrow $10 million to help pay for the construction of the operations building (pictured), a move that has one concillor questioning why they don’t just use reserve funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Councillor questions borrowing plan

City of Whitehorse would borrow $10 million for operations building

Most Read