Mount Sima celebrates success on the slopes

It's amazing how things can change in a year. Few groups in the Yukon know that better than the Friends of Sima Society.

It’s amazing how things can change in a year.

Few groups in the Yukon know that better than the Friends of Sima Society.

On Wednesday evening, about 30 people gathered at the Mount Sima ski lodge for the society’s annual general meeting, many with large grins on their faces.

President Laurie Henderson was beaming when she announced the society had ended the fiscal year in the black.

“It’s an expensive hill to run and we’re not on Easy Street,” she told members.

“But it takes a bit of the pressure off.”

This time last year, the Friends of Sima struggled to raise funds for the ski hill and its closure appeared all but confirmed.

Within the span of a few weeks, the society managed to bring in more than 800 pledges to buy seasons passes and drew financial support from local organizations and the territorial government.

By the end of the winter it had sold almost $500,000 in passes, amounting to just under half of the society’s total budget.

Revenue totalled $1,066,227 for the year with a profit of $101,850, according to the society’s financial statements.

Beyond the success of the ski hill this past winter, the society is in good financial health for another reason.

A group of eleven individuals and businesses agreed to purchase the money-losing WildPlay adventure park.

The park, which lost an estimated $35,000 this summer, was, in Henderson’s words, a cloud hanging over the Friends of Sima.

The society had inherited a $400,000 debt to WildPlay following a transfer of the asset from the Great Northern Ski Society, which went bankrupt last year.

The investors are now in the process of deciding whether to sell the park’s equipment or find a new operator for it.

As one of the investors, WildPlay is motivated to find a quick solution, board member Rod Taylor said.

It simply wasn’t feasible to keep the park going, Taylor added.

Despite an aggressive marketing campaign, the attendance numbers just didn’t add up.

“The people never came,” he said.

“Some people will say you have to operate for a few years before it becomes profitable. Well, we couldn’t afford to lose $25,000 or $30,000 every summer waiting for the business to grow.”

The ski hill, on the other hand, is highly successful from an operational standpoint.

Over 600 season passes have already been sold and the society is on pace to beat last year’s total, which was approximately 920.

The numbers are good, said secretary/treasurer Scott Casselman, but there is room for improvement in several areas.

Food and beverage is one of the areas the society wants to tighten up.

Approximately $135,000 was made in sales while $92,421 was spent on concession and lounge-related costs.

But when you factor in wages specific to food and beverages, the society lost money, said General Manager Cindy Chandler.

“Food and beverage should have given us at least a 20 per cent profit margin,” she said.

Staffing and portion controls are partly to blame.

“We had staff turnover and inexperience,” she said.

“The business background to portion control and waste management was limited so our costs ran higher. This year we have improved on the business skills required to run the food service.”

Fuel costs were another big expense last year, running at $80,136.

Operations manager Sam Oettli said the society will be getting a better rate this winter.

While that might not amount to considerable savings, it will keep numbers on par with last year’s at the very least, he said.

Casselman said one of the concerns for this winter is how well the equipment holds up on the hill.

“We got through last year without any major breakdowns, thankfully,” he said.

“Those can be very expensive if they happen.”

Repairs to the large groomer are estimated at over $25,000 alone, Henderson said, and are necessary before the season begins.

The society plans on launching its sponsorship campaign in the coming weeks.

The hill will be open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays this winter.

Beginning in March, it’ll be open on Thursdays, too.

The new ski season is scheduled to begin Dec. 5.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

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

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley gives a COVID-19 update during a press conference in Whitehorse on May 26. The Yukon government announced two new cases of COVID-19 in the territory with a press release on Oct. 19. (Alistair Maitland Photography)
Two new cases of COVID-19 announced in Yukon

Contact tracing is complete and YG says there is no increased risk to the public

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on April 8. Yukon Energy faced a potential “critical” fuel shortage in January due to an avalanche blocking a shipping route from Skagway to the Yukon, according to an email obtained by the Yukon Party and questioned in the legislature on Oct. 14. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Energy faced ‘critical’ fuel shortage last January due to avalanche

An email obtained by the Yukon Party showed energy officials were concerned

Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys), the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate speaks during legislative assembly in Whitehorse on Nov. 27, 2017. “Our government is proud to be supporting Yukon’s grassroots organizations and First Nation governments in this critical work,” said McLean of the $175,000 from the Yukon government awarded to four community-based projects aimed at preventing violence against Indigenous women. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government gives $175k to projects aimed at preventing violence against Indigenous women

Four projects were supported via the Prevention of Violence against Aboriginal Women Fund

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone

When I was a kid, CP Air had a monopoly on flights… Continue reading

EDITORIAL: Don’t let the City of Whitehorse distract you

A little over two weeks after Whitehorse city council voted to give… Continue reading

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Northwestel has released the proposed prices for its unlimited plans. Unlimited internet in Whitehorse and Carcross could cost users between $160.95 and $249.95 per month depending on their choice of package. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet options outlined

Will require CRTC approval before Northwestel makes them available

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse. Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting instead of 30 days to make up for lost time caused by COVID-19 in the spring. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Legislative assembly sitting extended

Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting. The extension… Continue reading

Today’s mailbox: Mad about MAD

Letters to the editor published Oct. 16, 2020

Alkan Air hangar in Whitehorse. Alkan Air has filed its response to a lawsuit over a 2019 plane crash that killed a Vancouver geologist on board, denying that there was any negligence on its part or the pilot’s. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Alkan Air responds to lawsuit over 2019 crash denying negligence, liability

Airline filed statement of defence Oct. 7 to lawsuit by spouse of geologist killed in crash

Whitehorse city council members voted Oct. 13 to decline an increase to their base salaries that was set to be made on Jan. 1. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Council declines increased wages for 2021

Members will not have wages adjusted for CPI

A vehicle is seen along Mount Sima Road in Whitehorse on May 12. At its Oct. 13 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the third reading for two separate bylaws that will allow the land sale and transfer agreements of city-owned land — a 127-square-metre piece next to 75 Ortona Ave. and 1.02 hectares of property behind three lots on Mount Sima Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse properties could soon expand

Land sale agreements approved by council

Most Read