Winter is usually the busy season at Mt. Sima. Not this year.
There are currently two major construction projects underway at the ski resort, the installation of a new chairlift and the construction of an adventure park, and both are on schedule and on budget, said Craig Hougen, president of the Great Northern Ski Society that oversees Mt. Sima operations.
“We have two large construction projects and they are both absolutely on time,” said Hougen. “We have the Doppelmeyr chair, which is on time and on budget – arguably we’re ahead of time and on budget.
“We also have our new snow-making equipment, which we didn’t have to use last year, so we’re in a really good position to have a good year.”
The completion of the two projects will usher in a whole new era for the resort. The new lift, which is set to open for December when Sima reopens, will ensure uninterrupted ski season. The adventure park, called WildPlay Yukon, will turn Sima into a year-round operation.
“WildPlay is super excited to be part of this big project,” said Tom Benson, CEO of WildPlay Canada, which already operates adventure parks, in Nanaimo, Victoria, Whistler and Maple Ridge, BC. “It’s going to be great to bring summertime recreation to the ski hill. I’d also like to say that the lift is a phenomenal addition. By having the lift, it completes part of the plan for us to get people to the zip lines.”
The adventure park will take visitors – at least ones willing to go so high – 14.5 metres off the ground in the highest part of the main structure, “Monkido,” (a contraction of “monkey see, monkey do”), which will be constructed on 57 spars. The park will have 64 games or elements – challenges to overcome. There will also be six kilometres of cable used in the park, not counting an additional 1.5 kilometres of higher gauge cable used in the zip lines.
The main zip line, which will take passengers from Sima’s summit to an adjacent mountain peak, will be so high that WildPlay looked into closing the air space surrounding it. It will be one of the longest in North America, at almost a kilometre, propelling individuals up to 100 kilometres and hour, estimates Benson.
“It all depends on how the parabola works out, but we’re anticipating pretty fast lines,” he said.
The new lift will be a fixed-grip quad chairlift, manufactured and installed by Doppelmeyr Lifts Limited. The quad lift will be capable of transporting up to 1,800 passengers an hour, about twice as many as the old lift. The resort received $1.6 million from Whitehorse to help cover the costs of the $3 million lift.
Sima’s previous lift, which was 36 years old and was bought secondhand in the early ‘90s, suffered an estimated 21 breakdowns last season, including one on opening day that led to the first evacuation of the lift in the resort’s 17-year history.
“I’m very pleased with the progress out here and I certainly hope we are going to have a wonderful facility come winter, let alone for the Arctic Winter Games,” said deputy mayor Florence Roberts, who was invited out for a look at the construction with media on Wednesday. “We’ve run into a few snags here and there, but we’re going to make this thing a go.”
Construction on the adventure park, which became possible with an injection of $1.5 million from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency last summer, is expected to be complete by mid-October and should open at the end of May next year, weather permitting.
If Hougen had any concerns about the viability of an adventure park in Whitehorse, they were put to rest in a recent visit to WildPlay Nanaimo with his family.
“My family was down in Nanaimo, did the whole course, and it was absolutely the talk of our family for the next two days,” said Hougen. “The kids were – actually, we all were pumped.
“At dinner that night, that’s all we talked about and the next day that’s all they talked about. And when we talked about going back to Vancouver with the family, the first thing was ‘Can we go to WildPlay in Nanaimo?’ They want to go back now.
“I think we’re going to find that with, not only kids, but everyone here.”
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