Mount Sima could ride again.
A new group is starting an online campaign to see what people think about the hill, and if they’d be willing to give it some money – either by saying how often they plan on skiing, or making donations. The survey should be up on Mount Sima’s Facebook page on Wednesday.
But people will have to act – or click – quickly if they want the hill to survive.
“Time is running out,” said Rod Taylor, one of the people in charge of the survey. Taylor is a member of a newly-formed group that’s dubbed itself the Friends of Sima. Taylor is a spokesperson for the part of the group that’s looking at short-term funding solutions. Other members are exploring long-term funding, while a third group is looking at governance structures in the event a new board is formed to run the hill.
Mount Sima closed just over a month ago after the Great Northern Ski Society, the not-for-profit that runs the city-owned hill, decided to begin dissolving. It was deep in debt, and city council had unanimously voted against giving the organization over $600,000 so the hill would be able to open this winter. Instead, the city paid more than $190,000 to clear the debts owed on the chairlift. This means the city can lease it back to whatever group runs the hill in the future. The Great Northern Ski Society has said Sept. 1 is the deadline for determining if the hill can open for winter operations.
In June, a group calling itself the Friends of Mount Sima paid for a newspaper ad urging people to tell city council to support the hill. This is not the same group, said Taylor.
The survey will do two things, said Taylor. First, it will try to determine what the general public thinks about the hill. Then, it will give people a chance to help pay for it. This could mean simply checking a box to say how often someone plans to ski if the hill’s open this season, or if they would be interested in purchasing a season pass. Or they could decide to make a general donation to keep Mount Sima operating.
Securing funds is the tricky part, said Taylor. The group can’t collect money until it knows the hill will be open this winter, and it can’t decide if it will open the hill unless enough people want it open.
“It makes this a bit of a chicken-and-egg (situation),” said Taylor. Once the group knows if the hill is going to open again, it will re-contact survey participants who offered to give money, he said.
But the first step is making sure the Yukon government and City of Whitehorse can see that enough people care about the hill and are willing to support Mount Sima, said Taylor.
“This is a classic Yukon situation where it really is going to take everybody. It’s going to take all parts of the community, and all parts of government to, at the end of the day, come up with a rational way to at the very least see that this great facility will be open at least for this winter,” said Taylor.
The Yukon government’s already offered to help the hill. In an open letter to Mayor Dan Curtis last week, Premier Darrell Pasloski said the government is willing to contribute over $190,000 to help the society pay off its debts. This produced some confusion and requests for more information, as the society’s debt is between $200,000 and $250,000, secretary Lee Vincent told the News last week.
The city has always maintained the solution to the hill’s financial problems needs to come from the community. Taylor agrees.
“There needs to be a demonstration on the behalf of a lot of Yukoners that this is important to them. If it isn’t, then it shouldn’t necessarily be supported,” he said.
But people need to show their support now.
If the hill doesn’t open this season, he has a “terrible, terrible feeling that it’s going to be very difficult to get this thing up and going in another season’s time. So it’s critical now that Yukoners respond,” said Taylor.
Contact Meagan Gillmore at firstname.lastname@example.org