Some people scoffed when Mt. Sima Ski Resort received $49,000 from Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (Cannor) in April to conduct a “feasibility study” into whether an adventure park at the resort would be a good idea.
“Why not just use the money to start construction?” thought some.
As it turns out, the $49,000 was just the tip of the iceberg.
Thanks to positive feedback provided by the study, Cannor announced Tuesday it will provide Sima with additional $1,555,880 for the construction of an adventure park that could open as early as next summer.
“This will offer year-round tourism opportunities. This is the sort of thing that places like Whistler aim for – they start off as a ski hill and before long they are a year-round attraction,” said Chuck Strahl, minister of Cannor. “What we hope to do with this attraction is put together the infrastructure that changes it from a two- or three-season destination to something people can come to year-round.
“Congratulations to Whitehorse for having another good reason – as if you needed more – for why people should come up here, spending some time and spending some money.”
The Mt. Sima WildPlay Element Park, as it will be called, will feature “a series of obstacles built on poles, suspended tightropes, suspended bridges, Tarzan swings, scramble nets and other different surprises at different levels through the forest, from anywhere from six to 60 feet,” said Craig Hougen, president of the Great Northern Ski Society, which oversees operations at Sima.
“These things have been put in all over Canada, all over North America and started, in fact, in Europe and are enormously popular. We expect it to be the same thing here.”
Included in the park will be the installation of two “ZOOM” ziplines. The first will run from the top of Sima to the peak of an adjacent mountain, running over a kilometre in length and propelling the passenger to about 90 kilometres an hour. A second zipline can then be taken back to the base of Sima.
“This is a critical time in the evolution of Mt. Sima,” said Hougen. “It’ll take a few years, but we will get to the point of sustainability, which is one of the goals of this project.
“Most ski hills – Whistler included – have to develop summer businesses in order to become self sustainable and Mt. Sima is no different. This will allow us to do that.”
To ensure a top-quality park is designed and constructed, The Great Northern Ski Society will be receiving consulting from Wild Play Element Parks, a company established in 2005 with four existing parks in BC.
“In terms of opening, we’re working with a consulting company called WildPlay, and we’re using this group to maintain a very high standard in terms of consistency, in terms of safety, insurance requirements, and there’s a good deal of training that will happen long before we open,” said Hougen. “We don’t have a firm timeline because this funding was just finalized very recently, but we expect to be open late next summer. We’re going to open as soon as we possibly can.”
To guarantee access to the complete Cannor investment, Sima must use the funds by March 31, 2011, a timeline Hougen is confident can be achieved. It is expected that the creation of the adventure park will create 20 new employment opportunities at the resort.
Since a disastrous 2007/08 ski season in which the resort closed after a month due to mechanical problems with its chairlift and T-bar, Mt. Sima has entered a renaissance. Aside from little things like improving food quality at the chalet and hosting weekend festivals, this past winter Sima offered snowshoe rentals and, in partnership with Equinox Adventure Learning, ice-climbing with the construction of a 15-metre ice-tower.
The last two summers Sima has also hosted Mt. Sima Slamfest downhill mountain-bike races with Contagious Mountain Biking Club.
More recently, Sima made its first foyer into offering long-term summer activities, constructing two new downhill courses and offering mountain biking twice a week. That endeavour ended abruptly last week when the hot weather caused the chairlift to automatically shut down to avoid overheating.
However, downhill mountain biking will be back August 4 and will run every Wednesday and Sunday until mid-September.
Sima found a solution to the overheating by switching the roles of the lift’s two engines. During the winter the chairlift runs on an electric motor – the one that overheated last week – and uses a diesel motor as a backup. For the summer mountain biking, the lift will run on the diesel motor and the electric will be the backup.
“We did testing yesterday when it was really warm and we are going to do more testing today,” said Guillaume Rochet, Mt. Sima area manager. “Adventure park, plus mountain biking, plus hiking – they are some of the great components you can find at ski resorts around the world. So that’s what we need up here.”
Since getting back on its feet since closing in January 2008, Mt. Sima has also received $119,200 from the Yukon government and $27,000 from the Great Northern Ski Society.
“You are an exciting part of Canada,” said Strahl. “As the prime minister has said, when the North is exciting and active like that, then the country is doing well.”
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