by Michael Lauer
It now sounds as if the Great Northern Ski Society needs approximately $622,000 to pay its debts and have the cash reserves required to run the hill for this year.
At last week’s meeting of city council, a motion was passed to pay the $192,221 still owing on the $3 million chairlift, with title to that asset being transferred to the city. The Yukon government has also committed $180,000 toward payment of the remaining balance of the chair lift, as long as the hill is operating this season. That leaves approximately $250,000 to save Mount Sima and have it continue to operate for the upcoming season.
Raising $250,000 will not be accomplished in a week, but this dilemma took longer than a week to materialize. It will depend on whether Yukoners actually want to see this facility stay open.
According to Mount Sima’s Facebook page, it has 1,786 “likes.” Perhaps it’s time for supporters to put their money where their “likes” are! For example, GNSS could institute a youth membership fee of $50 a year, an adult membership fee of $100/yr and a corporate rate of $500/yr. Charging such a membership fee to belong to the society (if the support for the hill exists) should raise in excess of $100,000 per year. If you are not a member of the society, perhaps you would pay a higher ski ticket rate to encourage membership and raise some much needed funds.
Other fundraisers could be undertaken, such as a spring and fall gala on the hill, or bingos, raffles, and anything else that other societies and groups successfully use to raise funds. What happened to renting out the facility for things like weddings and other private events? Ongoing youth camps for kids at spring break, summer, and Christmas break are also opportunities to earn funds.
Is there a possibility of bringing tourists onto the hill to view northern lights in the winter? Is it also possible that some of the current businesses owed funds might be able to reduce the amount as well? In short, being creative in keeping Mount Sima alive is going to be much cheaper than trying to reopen the hill in the future.
Time needs to be spent now on trying to raise some non-government funds and not rushing to dismantle and sell off the facility assets. It will cost much more later to replace these needed assets to get the hill back up and running than what can be realized by selling them off now.
Once the society has a reasonable plan in place to ensure that every dollar being spent is needed and continues to work seriously on finding other sources of revenue, there may then be an opportunity to obtain some core funding if needed. The city will spend funds every year that the hill is closed to keep it safe and secure (governments certainly have an ongoing interest in seeing the hill remain open as a means to boost the local economy as well as an asset that will be needed when Whitehorse next hosts the Arctic Winter Games, likely in 2024).
The business community also has an interest in seeing the hill opened as an economic driver as well as one more draw to attract and keep staff here in Yukon. And some Yukon businesses directly benefit from expenditures related to the operation and enjoyment of this facility.
Mount Sima should have an ultimate and achievable goal of being self sufficient if it is to remain as an operating facility. The question remains – are Yukoners who “like” Mount Sima up to the task of standing up for it with their wallets?
Michael Lauer is a Whitehorse resident and the father of two active boys.