The Great Northern Ski Society will announce its next steps to keep Mt. Sima financially afloat on June 10.
Society board members, user groups and representatives from municipal, territorial and federal governments met on May 16 and 23 to discuss how to help the struggling ski hill.
Around 30 people attended the most recent meeting to generate ideas. Participants discussed ways to increase users at the hill, cut expenses and generate new revenue.
This could mean more school and youth programs, creating private partnerships and providing a shuttle service to the hill, said Great Northern Ski Society board member Patti Balsillie.
The society could also find ways to partner with other recreational groups, like paragliders, the TransCanada trail and different golf courses, to provide a pass that would be valid for multiple facilities for the full year, she said
But these are just ideas, said Balsillie.
“The meeting was really about how to plan a sustainable future, and not go backwards and bemoan or dissect what went wrong, but only learn and forecast.”
The society’s financial woes became public in March. The society appeared before Whitehorse City Council to ask for $400,000 in immediate funding. Without this, it would not be able to stay open after the winter season ended, the society said. It also asked the city to consider annual funding for the facility.
But city has not approved any further funding.
No one’s expecting a bailout, said Balsillie.
“Nobody said, ‘Leave it all as it is and just write a cheque,’” she said. “Nobody has their head in the sand to think that that is any kind of solution.”
The society isn’t prepared yet to say what the solution will be. It wanted to focus on long-term solutions before it addressed the short-term needs, said Balsillie. More details will be given on June 10.
“We’re not in a position yet to finalize a decision and charge forward. There’s too many people involved. There’s too much at stake,” she said.
The Yukon government is willing to help the society, Community Services Minister Elaine Taylor said this week. Community Services staff were present at the last meeting. The government has provided funding through Lotteries Yukon and the Canada Development Fund, but doesn’t directly provide money to the society.
“We’re optimistic that some solutions will be found for Sima to operate next winter,” she said. The government is willing to provide $180,000 to help cover costs of operating the chairlift, said Taylor. The society knows about this offer, but still has to accept or reject it, government spokesperson Matthew Grant confirmed.
But before other financial commitments can be made, the government is waiting to see the recommendations the board will release next month, said Taylor.
“We appreciate the timeliness of finding a solution in time for the winter season.”
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