Mt. Sima takes another step towards opening for season

Like a skier riding the fall-line down a black diamond run, Mt. Sima Ski Resort is picking-up momentum as it moves towards the goal of opening for…

Like a skier riding the fall-line down a black diamond run, Mt. Sima Ski Resort is picking-up momentum as it moves towards the goal of opening for the winter season.

Less than two months since electing a new board of directors, and later receiving a $25,000 grant from Whitehorse, Mt. Sima has received an additional $30,000 from the city this week, advancing the resort to the next stage of its plan to reopen.

“The first installment was an initial step to help us complete an inspection and start fixing the snowmaking system and to purchase parts that were required,” said Keith Thaxter, interim president of the Great Northern Ski Society.

“Now that that is completed — that was allocated as a project itself, and that money was used to complete those three tasks — the additional money was the next allotment of funds that would be required to actually use those parts, to complete all the repairs and services required on the three lift systems.”

Two mechanics from Summit Lift Company out of Kelowna, BC, have come to Whitehorse to do repairs and give top-to-bottom inspections of the lift-systems with the help of local mechanics. 

“All three of the lifts will be in perfect running order (by October), ready to open for the season,” said Thaxter.

“Provided we can get additional funding to do all the preseason activities, such as hiring staff, making snow and paying for insurance. So there’s quite a bit of expense upfront before you open the resort to the public.”

Mt. Sima closed abruptly last January when a bolt came loose on the resort’s T-bar lift, causing a heavy piece of machinery to fall near skiers.

That equipment failure forced an early end to the ski season, and left the resort with

$70,000 in debt from passes that were not honoured.

Mt. Sima’s board of directors is hoping to know by mid-September whether the government will provide the last chunk of change needed to open.

“(Otherwise) we’re going to run out of time,” said Thaxter. “If someone turns around and gives me money in November, that’s too late. I won’t have enough time to recruit staff and start making snow and doing all those things.”

If the resort does fail to open for this season, according to Thaxter, none of the funding will have been wasted since the repair work would still have to be completed to open for the 2009-2010 season.

“The worst-case scenario is that we don’t open,” said Thaxter. “But then everything is ready to go the next year.”

The resort turned a new page at the end of August, hosting its first summertime event, a downhill mountain bike race called the Mt. Sima Slamfest.

“This is our vision … to make the hill self sustainable, having a fulltime operations manager, that could look at doing off-snow-season planning,” said Thaxter. “Whatever we decided would be feasible to do in the summertime (would) raise revenue for the winter.

“There’s definitely an appetite for that sort of stuff here,” said Thaxter.

Mt. Sima’s annual general meeting will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the chalet.

However, it is likely that the question of whether skiers and snowboarders will be swooshing down this winter’s slopes will probably not be answered until the following week.