Mt. Sima’s future looks brighter after funding

The Great Northern Ski Society is very keen to start repairs at Mt. Sima. In fact, the group is so eager it has started predicting the future.

The Great Northern Ski Society is very keen to start repairs at Mt. Sima.

In fact, the group is so eager it has started predicting the future.

At city hall Monday, immediately after Whitehorse city council voted to grant the society $25,000 for repairs, interim president Keith Thaxter began handing out a pre-written media release announcing the funding.

And in an even more risky show of optimism, the society had already booked a ticket to fly an expert north to inspect the ailing ski hill.

“We have to get rolling on this particular project, it being the first step to show some physical activity on the hill,” said Thaxter.

“That’s what’s really important right now — to show that we can start to make progress.”

The city grant will cover repairs to snowmaking equipment and a lift inspection by Randy Gliege from Summit Lift Co. of Whistler, BC.

Gliege will be arriving on Thursday to confirm the parts and repairs required for the chair lift, handle tow and T-bar, said Thaxter.

“So the first thing is we bring him up and he gives us a proper work plan.”

The society plans to start repairing the snowmaking equipment on August 20.

Local volunteers, including Klondike Welding employees, will weld the breaks in the snowmaking pipes to help minimize the cost of this work.

“We’ve got to look at our immediate concerns that we have — we’ve got to fix those three lifts and fix the snowmaking system.”

Mt. Sima was shut down last season when a 40-kilogram chunk of metal fell off the T-bar, nearly hitting skiers.

The close call was the culmination of a series of serious problems with lifts and snowmaking equipment at the hill.

Council voted unanimously to grant the money for the repairs, despite concerns raised by some citizens.

“I think the exact quote that I got from one person is, ‘A lot of money has been poured into Mt. Sima over the years,’” Councillor Doug Graham said on Tuesday.

“Is there some way of ensuring that from this point on they’re not going to be coming back every year for $25,000 or $30,000?”

There is a very real possibility that the ski society will be back for more money, said Graham.

“And I’m not saying that’s such a bad thing, if they only need a little bit each year to keep them going.”

In addition to the grant money, the city may be giving the Great Northern Ski Society up to $5,500 worth of in-kind support such as access to city employees and equipment.

If the city is going to provide in-kind support, then council should have expressed that on Monday night, said Graham.

“That way they know that they’ll have enough money to do everything that they have to do,” he said.

“Let say we’re going to do it, rather than goof around.”

“It seems like that’s the story of our lives — we have to do 100 things instead of doing one thing really well,” he added.

“I just believe that if that’s what they need, then let’s make it clear that that’s what we’ll give to them.”

After the inspection and snowmaking repairs, the remaining grant money from the city will be used to purchase the parts necessary for repairing the lifts, said Thaxter.

“Once you order them, you’re looking at two to three weeks before the parts arrive, so we want to order them now,” he said.

“Then when we get additional funding we can begin work as soon as possible.”

Some of this additional funding may come from the territorial government.

The ski society sent an application to the Yukon government two weeks ago and is still waiting to hear back.

The city grant could increase the society’s chances of receiving money from the territory, said Thaxter.

“Hopefully it shows that other funding agencies are coming to the table to provide some support,” he said.

“And the other thing that’s really positive is that we’ve been proactive enough that we can start work three days after the city announced funding.”

The society is asking the territory for a lot more money, said Thaxter.

He was unable to say exactly how much that would be, because Community Services Minister Archie Lang has requested that the application be kept confidential.

The ski society has made a third application for funding from the federal government through the department of Indian and Northern Affairs.

The extra money should allow the hill to achieve its goal of self-sustainability, said Thaxter.

This would include employing maintenance personnel year-round.

“In the past, we were in fire-fighting mode where you’re just trying to fix what’s broken and get the hill going for another week,” he added.

In the future, Mt. Sima may even become a year-round facility with hiking, mountain biking and guided tours.

“I’ve been told that Whistler makes more money in the summer than they do in the winter, because of all the tourists,” said Thaxter.

“So that’s an untapped market.”

The Great Northern Ski Society will be discussing plans for the future at its annual general meeting on September 9 at 7 p.m. at Mt. Sima lodge.