Mount Sima looks to build on successful season

As the snow vanishes, Mount Sima Recreation Area is trading its boots and boards for bikes and helmets. After a disastrous '07-'08 season, which saw the facility close in January after troubles with its chairlift,

As the snow vanishes, Mount Sima Recreation Area is trading its boots and boards for bikes and helmets.

After a disastrous ‘07-‘08 season, which saw the facility close in January after troubles with its chairlift, Mount Sima bounced back this past winter, luring 16,696 visitors to its slopes, which were closed only 22 days due to cold weather.

“It was a big challenge to restart the hill and we did it,” said Guillaume Rochet, Mount Sima area manager.

At the end of August, Sima hosted its first downhill mountain bike race, the Mt. Sima Slamfest, with 67 participants snaking down trails from the summit to the base. The event was so successful organizers are expanding on the idea, turning the one-day race into a three-day Mountain Bike Festival, being hosted July 31 through August 2 by Sima and the Contagious Mountain Bike Club.

Besides biking, the festival will feature live music, pancake breakfasts, a beer garden and more.

Rochet would like to see mountain biking beyond the festival, but is unsure if that will be possible.

“Right now we don’t know because there’s a lot of maintenance to do on the slopes because we had a lot snow this winter and it was melting fast the last few days,” said Rochet. “We have to do a lot of stabilizations and erosion control first.

“After the Mountain Bike Festival, we would like to develop another competition during August.”

Striving to offer the public as many activities as possible, Mount Sima executives are toying with the idea of adding a climbing wall for the summer, an ice-tower for the winter and a zip-line year-round.

“(The zip-line could run) from the mountain in the forest between the trees,” said Rochet. “It will be great—you can do it between skiing and ice-climbing at the end of the day, or something like that.”

In fact, Rochet is in talks with Equinox Adventure Learning, currently operating out of Takhini Hot Springs, about expanding their climbing operation to Mount Sima. Equinox also builds and operates ice-towers during the winter, this year constructing one 15-metres in height.

However, at the moment nothing has been set in stone.

“It’s all talk at this point,” said Chris Gishler, operator of Equinox. “They’ve been looking at doing some summer operations there and we’ve been giving them some ideas.

“If they built an ice tower there I imagine it would be us; I can’t see them doing it on their own. It’s all rumours and innuendo right now.

“We’re quite happy with the (Takhini) Hot Springs, so it’s not an either-or kind of thing, it would be an ‘and.’”

Another idea being thrown around for next winter is the addition of snowshoe rentals, which is perfect for parents who don’t ski, said Rochet.

“You can drop off your kids (to ski or snowboard) and the parents can walk around with the snowshoes,” he said.

To counter the limited daylight hours during the winter months, Rochet is promoting an idea of electrifying the mountain, which at some point could lead to lights for night skiing.

“It’s a big product—I don’t know if it will be possible this summer or next summer,” said Rochet. “I’d like to have electricity throughout the mountain so we can put in lights for night skiing. It’s an idea, but it’s really expensive.”

Much of what is being discussed in terms of next ski season is simply directed at ensuring quality outings for its customers.

Instead of spraying man-made snow

willy-nilly onto the slopes, Rochet is creating a snowmaking plan.

“Our plan is to become more professional,” said Rochet. “Last year there was no plan. We want to make sure all slopes will have snow at the beginning of the season. We want to start (in a certain order) to know where we’ll make snow first.”

Perhaps even more importantly, Mount Sima recently had its chair-lift motor inspected to prevent a situation similar to the season-ending breakdown of January of 2008.

“Everything was inspected by Oscar’s Electric Limited in the city,” said Rochet. “They did a full inspection and changed a lot of parts in the motor, so it should be just perfect next year with no trouble.”

Of course, to make everything run smoothly on the slopes, Mount Sima needs a good outdoor manager, a position the facility is hoping to soon fill.

“He manages everything outside, so ski patrol, lift operators, mechanics and guest services outside,” said Rochet.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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