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News archive for March 7, 2013

Ski group plans another glide into council chambers

Less than a year after having received $1.3 million from the city, Mount Sima officials supporters are expected to return to council chambers Monday night seeking further assistance.

photo

Photo by Whitehorse Star

RALLY, FINANCIAL DISCUSSION PLANNED – A lineup at Mt. Sima. The Great Northern Ski Society is declining to specify the financial arrangements it will seek from the City of Whitehorse as it addresses city council on Monday evening of next week. Betty Irwin left, Craig Hougen

Less than a year after having received $1.3 million from the city, Mount Sima officials supporters are expected to return to council chambers Monday night seeking further assistance.

“We’re just encouraging people to support Sima,” Craig Hougen, the president of the Great Northern Ski Society, which operates the hill, said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

While he would not say exactly what the group will be seeking, on the Mt. Sima Facebook page a note from Hougen reads:

“Dear Mt. Sima guests, visitors, friends and family.

This note is to let you know that the Great Northern Ski Society – GNSS (operators of Mt. Sima) will be approaching city council on March 11th, 2013 for a commitment to establish long-term core funding that will see Mt. Sima operate well into the future.

Mt. Sima has outgrown its ad-hoc funding model and now seeks to formalize a long-term core funding strategy.

The GNSS board of directors met with community stakeholders today to organize a rally to show city council how important Mt. Sima is to the community.

We are asking everyone to show their support in the following ways:

Be at city council on Monday March 11th at 7 p.m. for the city’s budget input session to show city council your support for Mt. Sima.

Email city council members with your support.

There will be NO interruption to any current winter operations and we are scheduled to close as planned on Sunday, April 7th.

Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you at the hill for many years to come.

Regards,

Craig Hougen

President – Great Northern Ski Society.”

One comment follows the post directing the readers to the Wikipedia site and its definition of a white elephant.

Mt. Sima officials replied by stating they’d see the comment writer at the input session.

The public input session into the operations budget is part of the council meeting, which will start at 7:30 p.m., not 7 p.m.

Hougen’s posting came after the initial news was noted on the Board Stiff Yukon Facebook page Wednesday afternoon.

That post stated: “SIMA NEEDS US!!!!

Board Stiff was at a Mt. Sima community meeting today.

We learned that without city support, Mt. Sima will not open next season. This can’t happen!!

The (city) needs to know that WE NEED SIMA!!!!!!

COME TO CITY HALL THIS MONDAY MARCH 11th at 7 p.m.!!

If we are at city hall, we can make a difference! Tell everyone! Share this! The more of us there the better. They need to know it’s not just a few shredders but all 1,279 people who like Board Stiff… plus their parents and friends and family who all need our hill. This Monday. City hall. Let’s rally!!!”

Hougen would not say exactly what the group will be seeking from the city.

Instead, he is encouraging Sima supporters to come out to make presentations as well at Monday’s council meeting about the importance of the recreational facility.

He said Sima officials had met with community stakeholders to encourage them to go to council Monday night.

By this morning, Board Stiff had created an event on Facebook for a rally at city hall on Monday.

It states: “You need you to be there, you can’t just like the posts. Mt. Sima may close unless city hall knows that we need it and it’s important to us! Bring your friends and neighbours!”

As of this morning, five Facebook members were listed as planning to attend.

Board Stiff Yukon’s cover photo was also changed to show Mount Sima with a statement that “Sima needs us!”

The financial request will be coming after two consecutive years that the hill has received more than $1 million from the city in addition to annual grants they receive.

Last year, the city put $1.3 million into the facility to support its development as a year-round facility, and last summer saw it operate a zip line for the first season in addition to mountain biking and an adventure course set up at the hill.

It was in seeking that funding that Hougen suggested the investment in the hill would start paying itself off within three years if Sima was a year-round facility.

“It’s pretty clear that in year three, the Mount Sima operation will break even, in fact a little better than even if we play our cards well,” he told council at the time.

“That is really the beginning of the end of funding that Mount Sima will be requiring from the city.

“In year three, we will break even and start contributing some dollars into our own long-term infrastructure investment.”

In 2011, a move in the capital budget saw it put $1.6 million into a new $3-million quad chairlift for the hill.

The $1.6 million became available in the city coffers after the same amount in federal funding was received to finish the reconstruction of Black Street.

In both cases, Coun. Betty Irwin was the lone vote on council against the funding.

She argued in 2011 that while she recognizes the hill’s value as a recreational facility, there are other non-profits that have to, and do live within their means.

She suggested there are others who could use the funds for more important endeavours than a new chairlift.

She also pointed out the ski hill had already received significant financial support from the city over the years.

When the $1.3 million came forward for a vote last year, she noted Hunger Awareness Week that was underway at the time and stated: “I can’t, in all conscience, conceive to loan, borrow, or otherwise spend any more money to this project ... certainly not $1.3 million to a barely-functioning non-profit, while we are being asked to be aware of hunger for a week.”

This morning, Irwin stood by her previous statements but stopped short of saying how she would vote this time around.

“At this point, we have no idea what they’re asking for,” she said, questioning if they’re asking for $5 or $5 million.

“The ball’s in their court,” Irwin said.

Given a hypothetical situation where Sima officials were seeking around the same amount of cash (separate from any annual grants) they’ve gotten in 2011 and 2012 – more than $1 million – the councillor said there may come a point where the business plan and projections for the facility would have to be given a very hard look.

In the past, options of either funding the facility or seeing the hill closed have been presented to the city.

If that’s the case this time around, Irwin said, she and the rest of council will have to look at what officials are asking for and hash that over in light of new, updated information on Sima’s finances.

In any event, Irwin said she is looking forward to hearing the presentations on Monday night.

CommentsAdd a comment

Mike

Mar 7, 2013 at 4:13 pm

HECK NO! The city should cut their losses. As a taxpayer that goes to Sima a few times a year, I’m more than happy to pay my way to use the facility, but I am not happy about all the city taxpayers having to pay for the facility. Enough is enough, no more money should be going towards the society.

Jackie Ward

Mar 7, 2013 at 4:41 pm

This just stinks of desperation. You are a private business. You do not deserve my tax dollars. Go sell some cookies. If you can’t stand on your own two feet, take a hint and close. You provide nothing to the city to deserve so much money or any for that matter. What a joke.

Seriously???

Mar 7, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I, for one, will be really upset if our tax dollars continue to financially support this facility when it seems to have no interest in supporting itself.

Arn Anderson

Mar 7, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Nope, hold onto your seats people, no need to get alarmed. Nothing says business that’s propped up by any level of government. After all, 100% of business’ needs government handouts in one form or another.

PL

Mar 7, 2013 at 5:51 pm

You have got to be kidding me.
COW is raising taxes 4% this year with continuation raises for the next 2 years and this not for profit ski society has their mitts all over the COW coffers.
I say no! 
If Sima is a not for profit society let it be just that..right now it is one big BUM.
But then I guess if SIMA folds a few prominent local winter ski businesses will feel the wrath, and that would not go over well.
This might come a big surprise to a few of “the shredders” but Whitehorse is not a ski destination..never has been and never will be.
Face reality folks.

June Jackson

Mar 7, 2013 at 6:00 pm

This business has never been viable. It appeals to and caters to a limited special interest group, skiers, snowboarders, who are obviously not willing to support the venue.

The City has sent millions and millions of dollars into this losing proposition and I, personally am not willing to pour more tax dollars into it.  The present council is jacking my taxes as it is without forking out a boatload of money to Sima. How much more will my taxes have to go up to keep this leaky boat afloat?

You can do it Council!!! JUST SAY NO!

Adele Sandrock

Mar 7, 2013 at 7:23 pm

How about instead of pumping money into Mt. Sima the City will address the homeless people, affordable living space as well how to deal with drug and alcohol problems downtown.

Seriously??

Mar 7, 2013 at 10:01 pm

This. Has. Got. To. Stop.  When a business cannot make a go of it - they go under. I don’t care who this organization is good for - other youth organizations in the community seem to figure out a way to make it work.  They need to close the doors and stop forcing taxpayers to cover this.

Please City Council…use your heads.

Kyla

Jonathan Colby

Mar 7, 2013 at 10:44 pm

No. No. No.

We don’t ‘need’ Sima. At all.

No.

stan rogers

Mar 8, 2013 at 10:27 am

I would guess the city is not in the mood to give the hill money.

They must be after land which can be developed for housing which they can rent or sell.

After all the grants and with good weather this season has the hill made a profit?

I do support the hill and will be interested to see what exactly is proposed.

Joel

Mar 8, 2013 at 11:51 am

I like the hill and I enjoy skiing there, but this has got to stop somewhere.  Sima has become the old car in the yard.  You put alot of time and money into it so you don’t want to get rid of it….but sooner or later you have to accept the fact that you are just wasting your money

Better Options than Sima

Mar 8, 2013 at 2:03 pm

I for one do not want to see our tax dollars going to Sima. We’ve already just had a tax hike so I’m sure this fiasco will add to a larger hike next year.

In all honesty if you want to get a good ski or snowboard trip in go to the Skagway or Haines summits. Sure there’s no chairlift but you can just as easily have a friend with a skidoo tow you up. Plus it’s a million times cheaper even with the fuel lol

Marjie Klein

Mar 8, 2013 at 3:08 pm

I am not at all impressed that Mt. Sima is looking for ANOTHER hand out and is actually looking for support and is going to revisit the city for more of MY money!! Seriously this is ridiculous and should be setting off red flags for the city rather than giving the ski society the green light to spend more of other peoples money!

SCHolmes

Mar 8, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Great Northern Ski Society is eerily reminiscent of the Great River Journey debacle.  In both cases multiple levels of government have provided multi-million dollar support.  In the midst of it all is the President of each entity stating that more money is required and government does not want to see its previous dollars wasted.  This is especially so since each project was cited as a Top Waste of Taxpayers Money in Canada by the Tax Federation.  So, when is enough-enough? When the GNSS resorts to taxpayer blackmail, like Great River Journey.

bobby bitman

Mar 8, 2013 at 3:35 pm

If the people using the hill need $1 million more each year in order to pursue their hobby, they should either take a look at how to bring the costs down to equal their ski pass payments, or they should fork over more money to pay their own way.

Of course the people at the Games Center are not paying their own way, so there is an argument to be made there.
But for fun, do the math.  25,000 people in Whitehorse.  Say 15% use the hill, that’s 3,750.  Each of them pays an extra $300 a year, there’s their million dollar short fall covered.

Or, stop buying $3 million dollar quad lifts, $42,000 air bags for freestyle skiers (the 7th such air bag in Canada, according the CBC - looks like plenty of hills get by without them), etcetera.
Live within your means.  How many more Games Center type fiascos does the Whitehorse taxpayer have to support?
Like with the Games Center, ‘Too big to fail’ comes to mind.  Maybe that is why they are buying the 3 million dollar pieces of equipment - so we can’t walk away!

bobby bitman

Mar 8, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I would also like to say that downhill skiing is an expensive sport, and a sport (skis, new boots each year for growing kids, suits, goggles and so on), which also requires the involvement of parents for kids to participate in.  (rides to the hill, teaching them how to ski and so on)

This is not an activity that supports the underprivileged kids in Whitehorse.  I would feel more inclined to subsidize the hill if I believed it was serving kids who do not have a lot going for them, but this is not the case.  At least I have never heard any arguments that it is the case.

Yves Titley

Mar 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Yes Mt. Sima may need some funding to get back on track. Hey,some of my tax dollars also go to services that I don’t use but I don’t mind contributing.  GNSS needs to have a good plan which I am not privilege to but let’s hear what they they have to say. I think we are sometimes a bit self-centered, years ago I did not approve to fund long term care facilities or nursing homes but now that I am approaching that age that all changes, so I don’t mind at all to approve perhaps a long term funding plan to help the hill especially for our youths.  I wonder what those youth would be doing or be if the hill would not exist.

concerned

Mar 8, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Unbelievable! So, how does Watson Lake have a ski hill operate when Whitehorse can’t. I bet they both are non-profit. Kudos to the Watson Lake group.
I have gone to the hill in both the summer and winter and it is one of my many recreational interests, but support from the city must be balanced.
The Whitehorse Curling Club is also a non-profit, has balanced books but the books will become unbalanced if the CoW ups their lease as suggested next year.
City, support the existing rec groups stay viable that are viable at this time.

Tom Rudge

Mar 8, 2013 at 5:55 pm

When so many folks are suffering in so many ways and the cost of living is keeping families from affording healthy food and a home to call their own, the absolute last thing the City should do is offer yet more money to this private business.

No way.

Northone

Mar 8, 2013 at 7:00 pm

I’m as critical of miss-spent public money as anyone, but the reality is that our small city does not have the population base to support existing recreational infrastructure without infusions of public cash.
The Mt. McIntyre complex has been the recipient of public money in the past and the Games Centre has been a government funded endeavor since they broke ground for it.

Sima is no different.  If we want this infrastructure, it will need more funding than can be raised by lift ticket sales and that will remain the reality unless the population of our city increases dramatically. 
Sima does a better job of getting Whitehorse youth outdoors doing something healthy during the winter than any other facility so I for one see it as a good investment for the community.

Let's be fair

Mar 8, 2013 at 9:30 pm

I think the ski hill hill should take a step back and realize that they did well in getting their 1.3 million. To put things in perspective Whitehorse Minor Hockey and Whitehorse Rec Hockey have been asking for full size glass around the playing area as well as stalls in the dressing rooms to no avail! This would cost 10-20 Thousand to do, the city has said no! but 1.3 million to sink into a hill that will never turn a profit or break even seems unfair. Share the wealth, every sports body deserves their fair share not just those with a Hougen attached.

Bill Polonsky

Mar 9, 2013 at 11:09 am

Just some thoughts on the subject.
Great Northern Ski Society is a non profit society that runs Mount Sima. In the past 2 years ( 2011-2012) they have received ( extracted) 2.9 million from the city.
They are now talking about asking for core funding for their non profit. What Yukon non profit wouldn’t want core funding for their organization?

What would it take for your non profit to receive $2,900,000 dollars from the city of Whitehorse? I’ve never seen that check box on any grants the City offers. What (community good) could your non profit do with this kind of loot?
What kind of non profit takes this money and says it will close if they don’t receive more? We have all heard about ” too big to fail”.

Please think about your answer before you decide and attend the open meeting at city hall this Monday evening.

Max Mack

Mar 9, 2013 at 11:23 am

The ski hill is a welcome addition to the community.
But . . . city taxpayers should not be expected to saddle these costs.
2.3 million in direct operating grants to date, plus how many tens of thousands in project grants, plus massive indirect subsidies from the city.
Now Mt. Sima is looking for permanent core funding from CoW.
My taxes are already going up and up.

I say no more.

Miriam Smith

Mar 9, 2013 at 2:23 pm

As a single parent with a son that starting accessing Mt Sima and enjoyed skiing and moving into snowboarding I see the benefits - he worked hard and starting using his own money to support the fees associated.  I understand that in the past there was a time when Mt Sima had transportation that you could access to get to the hill.  For whatever reason this stopped. This would have given my son alot more access to the hill given my work schedules etc. I would like to see the organization re-invest in transportation to get people out there -with reasonable fees I’m sure people would use it. There are lots of teens with no license or transportation that may use the hill alot more.  It’s hard to keep supporting the idea of the ski society getting more money when I also had kids in soccer, hockey etc and see what has been done in those organizations.

north_of_60

Mar 9, 2013 at 6:06 pm

NO WAY, not one more public dime to the Ski Bum rec centre.  I’m sick and tired of my taxes being jacked up every year to support this bottomless money pit.
Charge your members what it costs to run your facility or go under, I couldn’t care less, just get the heck out of my wallet.

The previous CoW Mayor and Council used road maintenance money to fund the ski hill and they got turfed out for it.  This new Mayor and Council had better learn some lessons from that.

flyingfur

Mar 10, 2013 at 4:04 pm

If any more of our tax money is thrown down this hole I for one will be attending the next council meeting and asking for the resignation of any municipal politician that obviously has lost their mind and should no longer be at the deciding end of the expenditure of our tax money…starting to enter the surreal here people

whatever

Mar 11, 2013 at 7:48 am

And you call snowmobilers an “elite group” , at least we pay our own way!  Don’t look for handouts from the City.  BTW how’s that new bylaw working out for you?  How much did that cost the Tax payers to satisfy the stick jockeys?  And a better question; is it working??  Not!
This group is like a bad child.  If they put their hand out once and get money, they will do it again and again and again….
They should close that money pit, make it a playground for us.  BAHAHAHA!

SC

Mar 11, 2013 at 8:52 am

I’d rather see my tax dollars go to skiing rather than hockey!

dg

Mar 11, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I think that Mt. Sima should cut their losses if they can’t manage to support themselves after ALL these years and they have already received over 2 million to help them become “self-sufficient”. There are many issues that are more important than financially supporting a special interest group.  If they start to give them core funding then they should start doing that to the rest of the non profit groups such as hockey etc.

north_of_60

Mar 11, 2013 at 8:13 pm

No operating grants to the ski hill unless all the other sports groups get equal support from the existing ‘operating grant’ budget.  No increases in that budget item.  The City can provide support in other ways like operating a bus service to the hill on weekends and school breaks.

Elitist's pound sand

Mar 11, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Ya know folks…I “thought” I had much to say on this scene. Turns out others before me said many of my points already…cool.
Saves me from beating my head against the wall.

One thing I will ask though, did Chief Teresa Spence take over Mt. Sima management?

...sure seems as though!
The spin coming out of tonight’s meeting in our “local” news should be colourful to say the least.

Derp

Mar 12, 2013 at 10:49 am

SC Wrote: I’d rather see my tax dollars go to skiing rather than hockey!

Your tax dollars don’t go to hockey. Like most other amateur and rec sports in Whitehorse hockey is funded by its own users and sponsors.  This is the model Sima should be using and if it doesn’t work then it is time to cut the losses.

common sense

Mar 12, 2013 at 12:05 pm

by common sense,  So your son or daughter chose hockey over skiing,  Derp you should share your magic wand with Mt. Sima of how the multiplex got built without affecting any budget. They’re all positive centres, try a day at the hill its amazing.

flyingfur

Mar 12, 2013 at 2:10 pm

The multiplex was built with YG and federal, as well as municipal dollars as far as I know and it costs to use any of those facilities now.  This is a far cry from Mount Sima coming to COW every year asking for a bail out and for tax payers to foot the bill for their laziness and lack of wanting to fund raise on their own.

Joel

Mar 12, 2013 at 3:12 pm

The multiplex is a city facility originally built to replace other city facilities (pool, hockey rink, etc) and is used by far more people for far more time and for far more things.  Sima is not.

Janni Korhonen

Mar 14, 2013 at 5:45 pm

I think they should glide into insolvency. Weee

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