Mount Sima transformation underway

Of course, Jon Standing hopes his lucky streak continues. “Every new hill I’ve moved to has had a great season,” said Standing,…

Of course, Jon Standing hopes his lucky streak continues.

“Every new hill I’ve moved to has had a great season,” said Standing, the new alpine sports co-ordinator at Mount Sima.

“I’m three for three — and it’s snowing right now, which wasn’t in the forecast.”

A new sports co-ordinator is just the beginning of the changes at the hill, which has already benefited from the upcoming Canada Winter Games, just four months away.

 “There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes,” said Mount Sima president Ernie Berken during a media tour of the improvements on Wednesday.

The most obvious change is the new ski lodge, which is still a work-in-progress at this point.

The $1.7 million chalet is two-and-a-half times larger than the old building, and will feature a balcony with a view of the hill.

The ski-rental facility will be housed in the basement level.

“We’re hopeful it will be ready on time, the target date is December 10,” said Berken.

The old chalet was taken apart and rebuilt on a smaller scale on the former rental lodge site. This building will house the alpine, freestyle and snowboard club offices and will also function as an overflow common area.

Materials from the old lodge were also transported to the top of the hill for use in a new warming hut.

“For a $20,000 budget, it’s a remarkable building, but it could only be possible with the generous support of volunteers,” said Berken.

A new T-bar lift is also in the works, which will access the half-pipe and terrain park and the north side of Dan’s Descent.

“On those colder days when we cannot run the lift, due to safety reasons, we can still run the T-bar,” said Berken.

Improvements to the snowmaking equipment will have the most direct impact on actual skiing, according to Mount Sima general manager Richard Roy.

“Besides the lodge and T-bar, I think the biggest legacy will be the snow making. It’s going to make the snow more consistent, there will be a baseline, and the conditions are going to be good, anything above that will be a bonus.”

Roy added that skiers were impressed with the quality of the runs last year, after improvements to snow making started.

“It was not a very good year for snow last year, and I had people in January saying, ‘If I knew conditions were like this, I would have been here since the beginning.’”

This year, snowmaking equipment will allow for the more central runs on the hill to be covered with less hassle.

“A lot of people were surprised by what we have to offer,” said Roy. “People who go Outside to go skiing, I think they need to come and take a look at us.”

“When I first came here, last year, it looked like a community hill,” said Standing, who will double as Yukon’s head coach for alpine and freestyle skiing for the Canada Games. “The old lodge, it can’t think of a flattering word for it … but all of a sudden it’s become a resort.”

Standing is a veteran of several large ski operations, and he envisions big things for Sima in the future.

“We have the potential, if we work at it and continue to develop our programs, to make this into a major training centre for skiing, both alpine and freestyle. We can have Olympic athletes coming out of the Yukon.”

One future improvement that Standing recommended was installing lights on the hills.

“If we could have night skiing here, that is the one piece of the puzzle that is missing, to develop high-performance athletes in the Yukon.”