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Sima surpasses 1,000 season passes, pays back loan

Mount Sima has a problem. So many people are visiting the ski resort its parking lot has become too small. "It's a good problem to have," quips George Arcand, executive director of Softball Yukon.

Mount Sima has a problem. So many people are visiting the ski resort its parking lot has become too small.

“It’s a good problem to have,” quips George Arcand, executive director of Softball Yukon.

In his tone is a tinge of pride - and for good reason. If not for Softball Yukon, Whitehorse might not have a ski resort, no less one experiencing a third successful season.

In the fall of 2013 Sima was on the brink of collapse when Softball Yukon came to its rescue with a gift of $20,000 and a loan of $18,000.

Due in part to a record amount of season passes sold this year - over 1,000 - the Friends of Mount Sima Society (FMSS), a non-profit group that oversees operations, was able to pay back that loan this week.

“In 2013 it looked like this hill was going to close for good, and we went to the community, the territorial government and others, and one of the ones that stepped up first to help us was Softball Yukon in a way I think was completely unprecedented in the territory in offering support from one sport group to another,” said past FMSS president Laurie Henderson.

“The chairlift uses a lot of power, the buildings take a lot of power, and we were asked by ATCO Electric to make an $18,000 deposit for two years, so we did approach Softball Yukon to use some of their funds as a loan.

“Today we give that money back because our accounts are all in good standing.”

Softball Yukon stepped up to the plate after a plea by FMSS for financial assistance to the City of Whitehorse was rejected in September of 2013. In fact, Softball Yukon offered a loan for as much as $50,000 to FMSS, interest free.

“We said, ‘We can’t let the hill die. We’re going to lose three sports, which are all in Games, and give kids a viable thing to do,’” said Arcand, referring to snowboarding, alpine and freestyle skiing, which are included in the Canada Winter Games.

Softball Yukon plans to use the returned loan to upgrade the bathrooms at Whitehorse’s Pepsi Softball Centre, said Arcand. The organization will play host to the 2016 Senior Men’s and Women’s Canadian Slo-Pitch Championships this summer and the ISF Men’s World Championship in the summer of 2017.

“Our primary fundraiser is radio bingo,” said Arcand. “We asked permission of (consumer and corporate affairs) to allow us to use the proceeds for the loan. You can’t do whatever you want with money you make from a bingo.

“The pockets are not that deep anymore. That was way back then. We’ve done a lot of work on the ballpark since.”

Sima has seen growth on a number of fronts. The resort sold just over 200 season passes the season before its near collapse, and then over 700 for 2013/14 over 800 for 2014/15.

The resort, which is open weekly Friday to Sunday, will see between 600-750 visitors on a really good day and about 400-450 on an average day.

That’s about five per cent more visitors than last year, which has led to an eight per cent revenue increase at the concession stand and a three per cent increase in the lounge.

Helping boost numbers was an early start for the resort, this year opening mid November - weeks earlier than usual.

“According to people who have been here longer than I have, that’s also a record,” said Sima general manager Cindy Chandler.

Sima had extra motivation to get the show on the road early this season. Thanks to a contribution of $160,000 from the Yukon government, Sima hosted a number of elite ski and snowboard teams for preseason training including Canada Snowboard’s para-snowboard team, B.C.‘s Panorama Provincial Ski Team and two others.

“That was really a tremendous success for us,” said Chandler. “We had over 100 athletes and then our local athletes with freestyle, alpine and snowboard were involved in that as well. It was great for the kids to come out and train with the others.”

Will any be back next year?

“All of them,” said Chandler. “Verbally they’ve all committed and we’re just doing a memorandum of understanding with the Panorama race team. They want to fit us into their five-year training plan.”

The Yukon government money was used for snowmaking equipment (snow guns), safety equipment (alpine ski safety nets) and operating costs.

In another instance of one sport group helping another, the two purchased snow guns are currently at Mount McIntyre to help the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club get set to host the national championships in March.

Contact Tom Patrick at