Territory offers to bail out Mount Sima

The Yukon government is offering to help Mount Sima climb out of its avalanche of debt.

The Yukon government is offering to help Mount Sima climb out of its avalanche of debt.

In a letter to Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis this week, Premier Darrell Pasloski said the territorial government is willing to pay $197,582.97 to cover what the Great Northern Ski Society, the not-for-profit that ran the ski hill, still owes creditors. Much of the money the society owes is to Yukon businesses, the letter says.

Mount Sima closed last month after the society decided to begin dissolving. It was grossly in debt. It had asked the city for more than $620,000 to cover its debts and ensure the hill would open this winter. The city refused.

Earlier this year, the government had offered to pay the outstanding debt of $192,221 on the chairlift if the hill would be open this winter, but the city decided to pay off that debt instead.

This means the city can lease the chairlift to the next group who operates the hill.

The society is “pleased” the government is getting involved to help the hill, secretary Lee Vincent said yesterday. But it needs more information. This offer won’t cover all of the society’s debts. It actually owes between $240,000 and $250,000, she said. She wasn’t able to say how much of that debt is to local businesses.

The society did not request this money, said Vincent. The government approached the society over this past weekend looking for information, she said.

The society has listed some of its equipment, like the T-bar chairlift and groomers, for sale online. No asking price for the T-bar is listed. But the other pieces of equipment are being sold together for $145,000. No items have been sold yet, said Vincent.

The city is also looking for more clarification from the government.

“It came as a surprise,” said Mayor Dan Curtis. The city did not ask the government for the money, he said. But if it clears off the society’s debt, it takes an “elephant out of the room,” he said.

“We view it as positive,” said acting city manager Brian Crist. It “creates a level playing field for Mount Sima,” he said. The government’s offer could help pay off the society’s debt and create opportunities for another group to come and operate the hill, he said. City council will need to approve accepting the offer, said Crist.

But the city will not be taking over operations at Mount Sima, said Curtis. “That’s never been a consideration,” said Curtis. “It would be financially devastating to think that a union shop would be able to facilitate the ongoing operations of a facility that size and magnitude.”

Premier Pasloski was not available for an interview before press time.

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