Mount Sima seeks public input

Great Northern Ski Society president Ernie Berken is opening the floor to people with ideas about the future of Mount Sima at a general public…

Great Northern Ski Society president Ernie Berken is opening the floor to people with ideas about the future of Mount Sima at a general public meeting on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the ski chalet at the hill.

He’s optimistic that after last seasons’ troubles — poorly maintained snowmaking equipment and chairlifts forced the closure of the hill in late January — the facilities can get up and running.

“We’ve had one bad year out of 13,” said Berken on Wednesday. “We’re looking for interested people to help get the ski hill back on track.”

Berken is planning to step down as president, taking on less of a role in the Society’s board. But he has some recommendations for the future.

“We looking at approaching the city, to partner with them — Eagle Crest in Juneau is funded by the city there,” Berken said.

A year-round manager is essential for the hill, he added. It’s the reason they couldn’t hold on to previous GM Richard Roy, who oversaw the pre-Canada Games buildup, but left after the 2007 season.

Of course, that would cost money, something the hill doesn’t have.

Berken hopes some new blood on the board of directors will bring new ideas.

“We looking for people to get involved at the board level, and we’re also going to create a fundraising committee.”

In the past, Sima had funding from government for capital improvements. But the hill covers its own operation and maintenance costs.

Berken said that there are no plans for any new capital expenditures in the near future, and some kind of funding agreement for operation costs could improve service at the hill without making user fees too costly for skiers.

“That’s the first thing we need — to be able to run year-round — then we could talk about mountain biking or tourist hikes at the top of the hill in the summer.”

For more information, email skisima@navigonet.com or call 668-4557.