When pulling into Mt. Sima’s parking lot, it’s easy to spot one of the resort’s newest attractions: an ice-tower reaching more than 15 metres into the sky.
Ice climbing and snowshoeing are just two new activities offered by the ski resort as it attempts to expand its operations, even looking to become a year-round facility with mountain biking and the construction of an adventure park in the summer.
Sima’s success in rebuilding after closing early in the 2007/2008 season due to a calamitous problem with its chairlift has not gone unnoticed.
Thursday, Northwestel and Latitude Wireless announced the largest sponsorship deal in the resort’s history, with the two companies each contributing $5,000 a year over the next five, totalling $50,000 by 2014. Sharing in the deal is the Great Northern Ski Society, which oversees Sima’s operations.
“Part of the reason why we’re sponsoring this activity is because, as the population continues to grow in the North, we really want to create a healthy environment and vibrant society, so how do we encourage healthy and active lifestyles?” said Paul Flaherty, Northwestel president and CEO. “Northerners in general are active anyway, so this is another opportunity and encourages people to get out and be active, have fun and enjoy the North.
“In terms of Mt. Sima, I think the thing that’s really appealing to us is the vision that has been created for the future that talks about it being an outdoor facility that Yukoners can look forward to year round.”
“We see the Canada Games Centre as being the indoor facility for the Yukon, eventually we’d like to develop (Sima) into the outdoor facility for the Yukon,” said Craig Hougen, president of the Great Northern Ski Society.
“You’ll hear a number of things from us over the coming months. We certainly are going to expand our mountain biking this summer. There was a point last year where we thought there were some technical reasons why we weren’t able to do that, but we have overcome those.”
Since entering rebuilding mode, Sima has twice hosted downhill mountain bike races over the last two summers, including last summer’s three-day mountain bike festival, put on its first-ever uphill snowmobile race event and rejoiced its success with a weekend-long celebration called Simapalooza. In July, the ski society announced its intention to build an adventure park that will feature climbing apparatuses and possibly a zip line.
“We’re working very diligently on an adventure park,” said Hougen. “It’s a big, big investment that we’re working with the federal government on – there’s a lot of hoops we have to jump through and it’s not at all assured. But it’s certainly something we are working on and will help us to long-term sustainability for Mt. Sima, which is our ultimate goal.”
The benefit of having a long-term sponsorship deal allows ski society executives to focus on the future.
“It represents five years of commitment, which is very helpful for us on our operations side of Mt. Sima because now we can be sure of this sponsorship level for four or five years,” said Hougen. “It allows us to build deeper and richer programs within Mt. Sima.”
According to Sima’s ski area manager, Guillaume Rochet, the resort’s top priority is “electrifying the mountain,” having power outlets installed on the slopes that could lead to music being piped throughout the mountain and night skiing under lights.
“We are looking for a quotation for putting electricity on the mountain for next summer,” said Rochet. “We need to ask Yukon Electric what we can do to have electricity at the top (of Sima). So we are going to meet with them next week.”
Not only can patrons take skiing or snowboarding lessons, snowshoeing and ice-climbing lessons, outdoorsy types can do all three in one with new multi-activity lessons.
In fact, Equinox, which operated out of Takhini Hot Springs in years past, has created a tower that is both challenging for the experienced climber and also well suited to beginners.
“This year we’ve been able to use some of the snowmaking equipment,” said Equinox owner and operator Chris Gishler. “We basically set it for a slush setting and it makes similar ice to what we’ve made in the past, except it’s easier to climb; it’s easier to get the ice axes and crampons in, and it makes more ramps, which are easier to climb. So it’s better for new climbers to come out and try it.
“We’ve also created some pretty crazy overhangs. Overhanging ice is hard to find, even in nature, but it makes for some fantastic, exciting climbing.”
This winter, Sima even has something to offer those who don’t like the cold. In the chalet’s Last Run Lounge, people can now enjoy draft beer or bottles of Sima’s exclusive Last Run Lager, with a label designed by local artist Stephanie Ryan. Or, if an appetite needs attention, the lounge has a new menu featuring homemade cuisine.
“After just six days, everyone is talking about the fresh cut french fries at Mt. Sima,” said Rochet. “Last Saturday we sold over 100 pounds of french fries.”
Mt. Sima also plays host to events for Snowboard Yukon, the Yukon Freestyle Ski Association and the Alpine Ski Association of Yukon.
More information can be found at www.mountsima.com.
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com