Management at Mt. Sima Ski Resort will open two or three downhill courses, currently under construction, for mountain bikers sometime around mid-July.
With the completion of the BMX and mountain bike skills park at Mt. McIntyre and hundreds of mapped riding trails, this week’s announcement provides Whitehorse with the missing element that has stood in the way of it becoming a comprehensive mountain biking hotspot.
“The big thing that was missing was a downhill venue,” said Devon McDiarmid, president of the Contagious Mountain Bike Club. “Now that they’re answering that, we’re becoming a much more rounded destination for mountain biking.
“It’s great news.”
Sima management hopes to begin by offering access to the courses, which feature wooden structures for riders, two days a week – probably Wednesday and Sunday – but may add more days depending on attendance.
“It’s a test, because no one has opened the mountain in the summer yet,” said Sima area manager Guillaume Rochet. “We are planning to do some late-night sessions, open until 9 p.m., so you can enjoy the daylight after your job and come and have fun.
“We’re planning on opening mid-July, but we don’t know yet – it depends how the construction will go. We’re building brand new trails, mainly in the forest, because the trail we had (for the Sima Slamfest downhill race) was mainly for experts. But we may develop that trail for the future, so we will keep it for sure.”
Two years ago, after the resort’s first full ski season since its sudden closure from a mechanical failure on its ski-lift in January 2008, the Great Northern Ski Society toyed with the idea of adding mountain biking during the summer months. However, the idea was quickly thwarted by the realization that the chairlift was not equipped with latches to secure bikes.
Sima has now added the necessary hooks for bikes.
“That’s going to be pretty exciting – it’s new for people to take the chairlift during the summer,” said Rochet. “You’re at the top and it takes 12 minutes to go up and 15 to 20 minutes to come down.”
Although it will be the first time the mountain is open to the public in the summer months, Sima has held downhill mountain bike races called Sima Slamfest the last two summers, ferrying riders to the top using vehicles. Even with the installation of the new courses, Sima and Contagious are unsure whether a third Slamfest will be hosted by the resort this summer.
“We knew they would be building trails this year, so we decided to keep the heat off the hill and let them finish their trails,” said McDiarmid.
“At the beginning of the season there wasn’t an estimated time of when they would be finished. So we didn’t want to advertise something and not be able to hold the event there.
“There’s a small chance (Slamfest will take place) as long as things continue to move ahead the way they are projecting. If not this year, next year.
“We have looked at Carcross as a possible venue. We’re talking to the Carcross Tagish First Nations people right now about doing it there this year, but it’s just in the planning stages, so I don’t know if it’s actually going to happen or not.”
“Ideally I’d like to work with the mountain bike club,” said Rochet. “We have a good relation and we work together to get things going to get mountain biking at Sima. If we have a competition we’ll work with them.”
The addition of mountain biking is just the latest installment in Sima’s efforts to becoming a self-sustaining, year-round operation.
In May, the creation of an adventure park advanced another step towards becoming a reality with 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.
This past winter, Sima teamed up with the Equinox Adventure Learning to offer ice-climbing activities on a 15-metre ice-tower.
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