Sima’s struggles common: ski expert

Mt. Sima is not unique. That's the message from Kevin Grogan, general manager of Vista Ridge All Seasons Park near Fort McMurray, Alta.

Mt. Sima is not unique.

That’s the message from Kevin Grogan, general manager of Vista Ridge All Seasons Park near Fort McMurray, Alta.

Grogan was in Whitehorse this week for the first of two meetings held to discuss ways to help keep the Whitehorse’s ski hill operating.

In March, representatives of the Great Northern Ski Society, the not-for-profit group that runs the city-owned hill, asked city council to re-consider how Mt. Sima is funded. The society wanted $400,000 in immediate, emergency funding. It also wanted the city to consider annual funding that would decrease over time. The society suggested the annual funding start at $400,000. It would also begin this calendar year.

But council refused to cough up the cash.

“I’m really hopeful a solution will be found,” Mayor Dan Curtis said on March 25. “But it will be a community solution. Quite frankly, I don’t have a cheque for $800,000 in my back pocket.”

Representatives from the ski society, the city, territorial government, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, businesses and sports organizations are discussing options for supporting Mt. Sima. They met on Thursday and will meet again on May 23.

Most ski hills don’t make money, said Grogan, the chair of the Alberta-Saskatchewan-Manitoba zone of the Canada West Ski Areas Association.

“I don’t think there’s any magic potion that solves these issues,” he said.

He can’t say what Whitehorse should do, but most hills can’t run without some annual funding, he said. Constantly worrying about funding can tire board members. And ski hills provide important recreational activities.

“To me, the ski hill in a community is similar to the rink except it doesn’t have a cover over it. It’s part of the fibre of our communities,” he said.

But not always part of the budget.

Vista Ridge does not receive annual funding from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo for its operations, although the municipality has helped fund past construction projects. A non-profit group runs the ski hill’s operations, while the city owns the facility and equipment.

Vista Ridge also turns a profit, he said.

More than 40 per cent of small ski hills in Western Canada are not profitable, he said. And many of those facilities serve larger populations than Whitehorse.

“We’re past that break-even point,” said Grogan, explaining why Vista Ridge doesn’t receive municipal funding.

But operations have been bumpy at times. In the mid-1980s, Spruce Valley Ski Hill opened, run by a not-for-profit organization. But equipment was old and unreliable. By the end of the decade, operations were in trouble. In 1992, the board agreed to have the City of Fort McMurray take over operations.

That was not successful. Different groups formed to save the hill, but it closed in 1994. Around this time, some community members decided to save it. The Vista Ridge Recreation Association formed in 1995. Grogan was hired shortly after.

Then, Vista Ridge was similar to Mt. Sima in terms to the population it served. But now, Fort McMurray has nearly three times more people than Whitehorse does.

“We’re just fortunate because the population grew, and it’s a young population. We’re the ‘flavour of the month,’” said Grogan. Companies will often mention the ski hill when recruiting potential employees, he said.

And Vista Ridge has worked to create “fans” out of people who don’t ski or snowboard, said Grogan. Its tubing park, opened in 1999, was Alberta’s first, he said. Just as many people come to tube as they do to ski and snowboard, he said.

People who are new to the country really enjoy it, he said. “As Canadians, everyone goes and slides somewhere.”

The park’s mandate is to operate all year. It plans to open a WildPlay park, similar to the one at Mt. Sima, next year. Construction will begin this summer.

The main thing Mt. Sima needs to do is listen to the people, he said.

“We’re in the business of creating smiles,” said Grogan. “And if people leave happy, well, they’ll come back and do it again.”

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

mgillmore@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Eric Schroff, executive director with the Yukon Fish and Game Association, poses for a portrait on Feb. 20. Schroff says he is puzzled as to why the Yukon government is cutting back on funding for the association. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News file)
YG cuts Yukon Fish and Game Association funding, tried to vet outgoing communications

Yukon Fish and Game Association says 25 per cent government funding cut will impact operations

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Nov. 27, 2020

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read