Since the disastrous one-month-long 2007-08 season, the Mt. Sima ski resort has considered ways to become a year-round operation.
In the foreground of many discussions undertaken by the Great Northern Ski Society was the possibility of creating an adventure park featuring a zipline and an “adventure course.”
Last week, the creation of an adventure park advanced another step through a $49,000 grant from Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency to access the viability of such a park in Whitehorse.
More than simply determining where to put a zipline or plant the foundations of an outdoor adventure course, the funding is meant to ascertain whether the business model could succeed in the Yukon, taking in consideration the local market, tourist potential and overall impact on the territory.
“Does it have an impact on other operations – and what about the airspace, to do with the zipline? Does the air space have to be closed in that area?” said Craig Hougen, president of the GNSS, a non-profit organization that operates Sima. “There’s a lot of work that has to be done to make sure this whole thing is viable.”
In a manner of looking at things, the funding will bring Sima and GNSS into the third stage of turning the resort into a rags-to-riches story.
Sima received $200,000 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. After a successful reopening, seeing 16,696 skiers return to the slopes in the 2008-09 season, Sima looked at the example set by Juneau’s Eaglecrest Ski Area and research conducted by Trec International, an organization hired to seek out the best direction Sima should take to become a year-round resort – and to become financially self-sufficient.
“This report concluded that a summer business was needed and there was a number of different areas that could be looked at,” said Hougen. “The best prospect would be an adventure park – not the only prospect, but the best prospect.
“In this next phase we’re doing some geotechnical work to determine if the trees are large enough to support the structure, how many poles that have to go into the ground and different engineering aspects.
“It’s part of the due diligence. We haven’t come to the conclusion yet that it is a viable project. But this is all work leading us to the go (or) no-go conclusion, and ultimately an application for federal funding for the project.”
If the creation of an adventure park is deemed prudent, the next stage will be applying for further federal funding. However, the total cost of construction of an adventure park is strictly speculation at this point.
“It’s a bit early to say – there’s so many elements to these adventure parks,” said Hougen. “They are quite complex structures.”
Since its reopening, GNSS and Sima’s then new area manager, Guillaume Rochet, have overseen many new additions and upgrades to the resort. Most strikingly, in partnership with Equinox Adventure Learning, Sima had a 15-metre ice-climbing tower installed this past winter.
In addition to the funds allotted to Sima, last week CanNor also announced $15,000 to Whitehorse for the creation of a whitewater park for canoeing and kayaking on the Yukon River between the Yukon Energy damn and the salmon spawning channels on the Yukon River. Like Sima, Whitehorse and the Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club will be using the money for a “preplanning” stage for developing a whitewater park.
“We’re still in the planning stages, so nothing is carved in stone yet,” said Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club president John Quinsey. “As a club, we want more waves – a few more waves would be nice. Maybe we’d further develop the ones we already have. We would like to see one wave that would be competitive, in terms of hosting events here.
“There’s a world championship that’s held in different places around the world and there’s the potential that it could be held here. If it isn’t the worlds, it could be a national competition.”
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