Like a skier leaving the starting gate in a race, Mount Sima is picking up momentum as a preseason training destination.
For the second year in a row, the Whitehorse resort will welcome elite ski and snowboard teams to jump-start the season. Sima will host about 190 athletes, up from 120 last year, in November.
“All the teams from last year are returning, plus we have new teams arriving in this year,” said Sima general manager Cindy Chandler.
“It was a great success and through word of mouth we’ve increased the (number of) athletes.”
Canada Snowboard’s para-snowboard team will be the first to arrive on Nov. 3. The team is bringing 12 athletes, up from four last year, including two-time X Games medalist Alex Massie.
Returning to Sima a second year for training was a no-brainer, said head coach Mark Fawcett.
“It was a really, really easy decision,” said Fawcett. “In fact, we made the decision while we were there last year. There was no question about it — we were coming back.
“The willingness of Mount Sima and the operators of Mount Sima and the community to host us, and work with us on creating the environment we were looking for. Everyone was so cooperative and easy to work with and made everything happen.
“So many of the larger resorts, their focus is selling 3,000 tickets in a day or what have you.”
In addition to hosting teams — 19 in total next month — for preseason training, Mount Sima is also hosting a major freestyle ski competition at the end of the month.
With a brand new all-season ski jump, measuring over 54 metres long and six metres wide, Sima will host the first Canada Cup series event of the season Nov. 25-27. Not only will it be the first-ever Canada Cup in Yukon and the first of the 2016/17 season, it will be the first freestyle ski competition held in North America this season.
“We have snow a lot earlier than most of the other resorts and a lot of teams have to fly out to Colorado or other locations that are pretty expensive,” said Yukon Freestyle Ski Association president Lynda Harlow in a recent interview. “Preseason training (at Sima) was such a great success last year, this is sort of a result of that. Teams left here seeing how great it was and seeing how much training they could get on it.
“I think that was key to getting this event (the Canada Cup).”
The visiting athletes, as well as locals, will also benefit from new equipment purchased by Friends of Mount Sima Society, the non-profit group that oversees operations at the resort. The equipment includes six new snowmaking jets and a Snow CAT groomer.
Friends of Mount Sima received a Yukon government grant of $145,000 in October to continue the preseason training program and to purchase the groomer. The society also received $63,000 Community Development Fund to go towards the snowmaking equipment and upgrades to the resort’s pump house.
“The new equipment, with the support of the Yukon government and Lotteries (Yukon) for the new groomer, is really not just for preseason success, but season pass holders are going to appreciate the extra snow we can make and the grooming we can do,” said Chandler.
“Our user groups, which are Alpine Yukon, Snowboard Yukon and Freestyle Yukon — the synergies of all of us working together —contributed very much to the success of preseason.”
If all goes according to plan, visiting athletes won’t be the only ones hitting the slopes early this season. Mount Sima is aiming to open the hill to the public on Nov. 25th — the second earliest on record. Last year Sima had a “soft opening” on Nov. 22, the Sunday before the original scheduled opening date.
Other visiting teams next month include: Canada Snowboard Alpine, Mont Blanc Alpine, Panorama Alpine, Ontario Park and Pipe, Ontario Freestyle, Canada Snowboard Next Gen, Canada Snowboard Next Gen Girls, B.C. Freestyle, Alberta Slopestyle Ski, Ontario Snowboard, Lake Louise Freestyle, B.C. Slopestyle, Calgary Freestylz Ski Quebec SBX Provincial and four teams from Calgary’s WinSport Academy.
“Our crew just loved it up there. It was a great experience, and it’s still really gorgeous up there this time of year,” said Fawcett. “A fear for some of the national teams was: is there going to be enough light? Is it going to be minus 50 the whole time? And we didn’t experience that at all. We experienced optimum winter condition snowboarding.”
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