Ski hill to open this winter

Mount Sima will open this winter. When Friends of Sima president Laurie Henderson made the announcement to a packed press conference on Tuesday afternoon, the room erupted in cheers and applause.

Mount Sima will open this winter.

When Friends of Sima president Laurie Henderson made the announcement to a packed press conference on Tuesday afternoon, the room erupted in cheers and applause.

“There is absolutely no doubt, no doubt in my mind that we couldn’t have done this without the significant support of the Whitehorse community,” Henderson said.

The society plans to have the hill open for skiing by Dec. 20, assuming the weather cooperates.

“In the 30 years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen anything like this, and I’m very proud to be a part of it,” she said.

Over the course of the fall, the Friends of Sima have pulled off a surprisingly successful fundraising campaign, bringing in more than 800 pledges to buy seasons passes, and amassing more commitments from local business, ski and snowboard associations, and the territorial government.

But when Friends’ vice-president Rod Taylor was asked at a press conference two weeks ago how much actual cash the society had, he emptied his jeans pockets and shrugged.

In order to make their scheme work, the society was hoping to make good on 85 per cent of those 800 pledges. They came close, converting 500 (or just over 61 per cent) into $215,000 in cash in the bank.

Combined with commitments of $70,000 from the Yukon government, $20,000 each from the hill’s three user groups – Snowboard Yukon, and the alpine and freestyle ski associations – and another $70,000 from Softball Yukon, the ski society has a total commitment of around $500,000.

“We have about $500,000 and we need about $1 million to run the hill for the winter,” Taylor said.

Most ski hills are lucky if they can open with 25 per cent of their total operating funds already in the bank, he added.

The trail to Tuesday’s announcement wasn’t a smooth run.

Originally, the Yukon government’s contribution had depended on a “significant” contribution from the City of Whitehorse.

Earlier this fall, the society had approached the city asking for $72,000 to help run the hill, but the city refused. After that disappointment, Softball Yukon stepped into fill the gap, offering a $20,000 gift and a $50,000 one-time loan, and the Yukon government promised to honour its commitment with or without the city.

“As you know, taking over from (the Great Northern Ski Society) has been a bit of a challenge,” Henderson said.

“This is not risk free, what we’re doing. Opening a ski hill of this magnitude is a complicated thing. We have Don Wilson, who has long been involved with the hill. He has agreed to be our acting general manager. Snow, weather … we have to keep those things in mind,” Henderson said.

The society will continue its fundraising drive. Taylor said until now, the society had focused on approaching businesses with a close connection to the hill because they wanted to avoid asking for too much before they could commit to opening the facility.

With that promise now made, he said the society will be looking to the broader business community for sponsorship, and hopes to keep selling season passes as the winter gets closer.

The current price for season passes – $395 for an adult – will remain in place until Halloween. Starting Nov. 1 it will be going up, Henderson said, though she didn’t say what the increase would be.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

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