It’ll be a long while before Whitehorse hosts another event on the scale of the Canada Winter Games.
For Mount Sima, that means it is in the enviable position of having more resources than it needs to satisfy local recreational skiers and snowboarders.
The Games brought a half-pipe, aerial site and mogul run to the hill, as well as improved snowmaking equipment, a new chalet and a T-bar lift.
“It’s going to be difficult to pay for all this stuff with lift tickets — so some decisions will have to be made,” Sima general manager Richard Roy said Tuesday.
Some of the improvements, like the aerials site, have almost no recreational use, and even the half-pipe has kept all but the most daring at bay.
“People look at the 17-foot walls on that thing – it’s a little intimidating, because of the size of it,” said Roy. “Unless we’re going to be hosting a major competition in the half pipe, we’re looking at a scaled down version.”
Roy said that the Mount Sima board of directors has to decide which facilities are more valuable for athlete development. Sources of athletic funding to maintain those need to be found.
It’s a fundamental question for the hill, which finds itself at a crossroads — who does it serve?
“This is a transition year, and there will be other transition years, where we’re going from a small non-profit area to what could best be described as a resort,” said Jon Standing, the alpine sports co-ordinator at Mount Sima.
“The moguls, half pipe and air site are going to enable us to run high-performance programs out of the Yukon.”
Standing thinks Sima, and Whitehorse, enjoy some factors that would draw elite ski teams from the south here to use the hill.
“We’re looking at early season training — as long as we can get our snowmaking system up and running early enough — I think we’ve got a superior facility to Apex, (in Penticton) and it’s easier to get to from Edmonton or Calgary.”
For good or bad, the frigid temperatures during the Games gave potential customers a taste of Yukon skiing.
It wasn’t cold enough to cause more than a couple hours delay in most cases (the super-g race was pushed back a day). With a little tape on racers’ noses and cheeks to protect from wind-chill injuries, things proceeded as planned.
“It’s not like it’s never happened before, but typically races would be postponed for those sorts of temperatures, ” said Standing.
The junior nationals freestyle championships, held as a pre-games test event at Sima, also ran during a cold snap.
“It may be a bit of a stretch to convince Freestyle Canada to come back, but I think we’ll succeed,” said Standing with a laugh.
He added the cold will come in handy in the fall, for making snow.
If this season is an indicator of climate change in Whitehorse, skiing’s future looks good.
Whitehorse received more than its share of snow this winter, which made for great running conditions on the hill.
“Everybody’s raving about how good the snow is,” said Roy. There was close to a metre of natural base – twice as much as last year. “It’s probably one of the better years we’ve had.”
Mount Sima will be open, depending on conditions, until April 22nd. Roy said if the snow stays and people keep coming out — he may push it another weekend to the 29th.
As for the competitive season: Yukon’s alpine team has finished, and the freestyle team has a final training camp next week.
Standing is already looking ahead to next year, with plans to increase the appeal of entry-level skiing programs for kids six to 12 years old.
The program already includes some gymnastics and trampoline training.
“We might put some pickup soccer in there,” he added. “It’s about building general sports skills before specific skills.”
He also wants to set up a bridge program between the entry-level and competitive team, for skiers 10 to 12 years old.
Meanwhile, Standing and Marc Boulerice are running entry-level coaching certification courses for both alpine and freestyle skiing on April 13 to 15 — call Standing at 456-7282 for more information.