The good thing about rebuilding a ski resort is that there are plenty of similar resorts to use as models. That is exactly what Whitehorse’s Mount Sima is doing as it looks to become a year-round attraction.
“We did have a very good year and I think what we’re really doing is building upon the great work that has been done by the board and all the work done in the past 17 years,” said Great Northern Ski Society president Craig Hougen. “That was phase one of the development of Sima, now we’re in phase two.”
Looking at the example set by Juneau’s Eaglecrest Ski Area and research conducted by Trec International, the Ski Society and Sima’s board of directors have waded through various options for new summer and winter activities.
On Tuesday, members of the board and Sima’s area manager Guillaume Rochet presented to city councillors initial plans to add an adventure park to Sima in the coming years.
“It’s what is absolutely the rage at ski resorts throughout North America,” said Hougen. “I think it’s something that can really add to the tourism fabric of the Yukon.
“There’s tubing and other things, but this is the one that is the simplest and the most lucrative and also what people really want.
“What you’ll do, for example, is climb up a ladder and walk across a log that is five feet above a net, which will be the junior level. You might walk across a rope that is 15 metres above the net on the most difficult level. And there are zip-lines that go from tree to tree.”
“It’s safe climbing in the trees for the whole family,” said Rochet. “You can develop the kids adventure park, you can develop (parts) just for parents.”
Many in the mountain biking community were no doubt hoping for Sima to focus its summer activities on down-hill riding. However, for the time being, and with the exception of a mountain bike festival in August, summer-long mountain biking has been ruled out.
“A lot of people have asked for mountain biking at Sima but if you look at the costs with running the chair—with two employees just to run the chair—it’s more expensive than this kind of activity,” said Rochet.
“Our chair-lift is a fixed lift, and in order to move mountain bikes up and down the hill you need a detachable claw (to secure the bikes) because people have to get on and off the lift,” said Hougen. “There’s a rule that says a lift that is moving non-skiers uphill can only move at a certain speed, we’ve determined, at that speed—we’re 12 minutes now in the winter time—would take 30 or 40 minutes to move a mountain bike up.”
Sima received $200,000 this year from the government and Lotteries Yukon to get back on its feet after closing early in the 2007-08 season following a mechanical failure on its chairlift. Sima bounced back this past winter, taking in 16,696 skiers and making a small profit. But despite the successful season, the resort is far from self-sustainable, said Hougen.
“We have had generous funding partners and we are working hard on a long-term sustainability plan that doesn’t require the same level of funding,” he said. “Every ski area is in the same situation: if you don’t have a summer business you won’t make any money.”
The adventure park is the largest of ideas intended to attract non-skiers, such as parents, to the resort. This past season visitors could enjoy a revised menu at the cafe and the new licensed lounge in the chalet. Other changes over the last season include the opening of the Summit Cafe at the top of the mountain, an uphill snowmachine race, a fenced off kids’ play area, plus summer and winter mountain bike races.
In fact, last year’s Sima Slamfest Mountain Bike Downhill race is being expanded into a three-day Mountain Bike Festival, being hosted July 31 through August 2 by Sima and the Contagious Mountain Bike Club.
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