Mount Sima reopens

The chairlift of the Whitehorse ski facility was closed twice in December for separate mechanical problems. The first incident left more than 100 skiers and snowboarders dangling for several hours until they were belayed to safety on the mountain’s opening day in early December.

Mount Sima returned to full service on Wednesday after experiencing a rocky holiday.

The chairlift of the Whitehorse ski facility was closed twice in December for separate mechanical problems. The first incident left more than 100 skiers and snowboarders dangling for several hours until they were belayed to safety on the mountain’s opening day in early December.

It was the first evacuation in the hill’s 17-year history. The problem was eventually traced to a faulty cable connecting two circuitboards. It tripped safety mechanisms that prevented both the electric and diesel engines from firing.

A week and a half later, the faulty cable was replaced and the lift was back in action — although by then, cold weather kept the chairlift parked and only the hardiest skiers and riders rode the T-bar.

Then, shortly after Christmas, trouble struck again.

This time, the lift began to surge in speed for reasons unknown. At first, a sensor was considered the culprit. But that wasn’t it. Technicians eventually traced the problem to another faulty connection.

“We’re absolutely certain that we’ve got the problem,” said Craig Hougen, president of the Great Northern Ski Society, which oversees Sima’s operations.

After the chairlift’s first breakdown, Sima has equipped each chair with tubes that contain blankets and “Hot Shot” handwarmers. The mountain has also bought guns to shoot ropes over the lift towers to allow for speedier rescues.

Still, some skiers and snowboarders may, at this point, be wary of hopping on the chairlift, which was built in 1975 and purchased secondhand from an Alaskan skihill.

Hougen insists they shouldn’t be.

“We will not operate the lift unless it’s absolutely safe to do so,” he said.

The ski hill tapped the brains of electrical engineers, lift manufacturers and mechanics during the breakdowns. Hougen praised the hill’s staff for their dedication. Technicians toiled from 5 a.m. until late into the night as they puzzled over the chairlift’s mechanical problems.

To make up for ski days lost over the holidays, Sima plans to extend its operations to Mondays, starting February 7, until March break. Also on February 7, Sima will extend its hours to 3:30 p.m. to make the most of longer daylight hours.

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com.