Mt. Sima’s WildPlay park still fails to turn a profit

Mount Sima's WildPlay adventure park lost money once again this summer, raising doubts about whether it will reopen.

Mount Sima’s WildPlay adventure park lost money once again this summer, raising doubts about whether it will reopen.

Rod Taylor, a board member with Friends of Mount Sima, said there are a number of reasons why the park failed to meet expectations this summer, losing an estimated $35,000.

The original business plan had relied on locals enjoying multiple visits to the park and even potentially buying season passes.

There were hopes that large groups would show up, as well.

“To that end we offered a Yukoners’ discount and a really large group discount, but even then, the numbers just weren’t there,” Taylor said.

“The weather didn’t help as well, but it’s hard to believe that even with a sunny summer, the numbers would have been substantially better.”

Taylor said early plans assumed that large groups would visit the park.

That never materialized, despite aggressive advertising and marketing campaigns.

Friends of Sima hired a marketing firm to do a digital, print and radio advertising blitz.

The group believed that by following the successful model of its winter operation, the Mt. Sima ski hill – lowering prices, staying open fewer days and reducing the number of staff – they could stay above water.

“There was no stone left unturned,” Taylor said.

“It was quite clear that it simply wasn’t enough. The product itself, the park itself, was not thrilling or exciting enough to get guests to want to come back multiple times. That’s really what is required in a community this size.”

WildPlay was announced with great fanfare by the previous operators of Mount Sima, the Great Northern Ski Society. The adventure park was seen as a way of turning the hill into a bigger, year-round business. Disappointing visitation numbers during the opening summer of 2012 were blamed on the park’s late opening that season.

The park closed in 2013, after the ski society went belly up.

At the time, they owed WildPlay roughly $400,000, although the exact amount was never determined.

The adventure park was resurrected earlier this year when a royalty-sharing agreement was struck between eight Yukon investors and WildPlay.

Taylor approached the company and offered them a way to get some of their money back.

Under the agreement, the park’s value was split up into 12 investment shares, each worth $15,000.

Investors who bought in would get one per cent of the royalties generated by the park’s operation.

Yukon investors bought eight shares while WildPlay bought four units.

Half the proceeds of the shares went to WildPlay, to make up for some of the money it was owed by GNSS.

The other half went to the management of the Friends of Mount Sima to help run the park itself.

Taylor said there is a “significant amount” of money left over from that.

He said he wasn’t in a position to say how much, exactly.

It’s up to investors to decide what to do with those funds, Taylor added.

They can dispose of the asset entirely, or they can make another go at saving it.

If investors decide to sell the asset, they’ll have accomplished what they set out to do, Taylor said.

“We certainly would have preferred to have had a vibrant park that was bringing people there in the summer,” he said.

“If that’s not to be, we will still end up in a position where the winter operation is no longer burdened by the WildPlay obligation.”

WildPlay also gets to recoup some additional money if the park is sold, which works to their advantage, Taylor said.

“We knew that if it came to the point where we had to sell the asset, who better to find a potential purchaser than the WildPlay people themselves,” Taylor said.

“They are now incentivized to go out and help us do that, because that’s how they realize their money as well.”

The ski hill, meanwhile, is running on all cylinders following a successful winter season.

Last year, over 1,000 season passes were sold to the hill.

Taylor said it was the perfect winter, which doesn’t come along very often.

“Now we need to hustle on the marketing and fundraising side so we can ensure we’re in the same fiscal position as last year,” he said.

“The AGM is the beginning of that process, to get people excited about the hill again.”

Friends of Mount Sima will hold its annual general meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 8.

The meeting will start at 7 p.m. and will be held in the Last Run Lounge at Mount Sima.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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