Whitehorse residents voice support for extra ski hill cash

More than 100 people crowded into Whitehorse City Council chambers Monday night to voice their support for the Mount Sima ski hill and adventure park.

100 people attended city council meeting Monday night

There is a ski hill and a new adventure park at Mount Sima. The Great Northern Ski Society, which runs the hill, said it needs another $400,000 to keep the hill open. (Moutn Sima/Facebook)

More than 100 people crowded into Whitehorse City Council chambers Monday night to voice their support for the Mount Sima ski hill and adventure park.

The Great Northern Ski Society was before council asking for funding. It says it needs $400,000 within the next few weeks, or it will cease operating, including over the summer.

President Craig Hougen acknowledged taxpayers have already invested millions of dollars into Mt. Sima’s infrastructure.

"This is a very long-term project, so we've come out of the gates and stumbled a bit for very understandable reasons. We need to rethink things and start again we can't simply quit a 50-year project because out of the gate we had some issues," he said.

Hougen said future funding should decrease as revenues improve.

Council heard from skiers, snowboarders, hang-gliders, outdoor youth groups, and users of all ages. They all pleaded with council to support Mount Sima.

"As well as the others, I'm here today to ask that council commit to establishing a plan that sees Great Northern Ski Society receive long-term funding... like the others, I believe that Mount Sima needs the community, and the community needs Mount Sima," said Don Wilson, a member of the Canadian Ski Patrol.

Asher Brault, 11, was one of the many others who asked council to help the beleaguered ski society, which runs the hill.

"If Sima wasn't open, it would suck and everybody would be really bummed," said Brault.

Callahan Guidolin, 17, also spoke, saying Sima gives him a healthy choice.

"We don't play hockey or soccer and if you're not into that, and you don't have skiing, your only options are alcohol and drugs, really," he said with a laugh. "And I'm not into that so let's keep Mount Sima alive!"

A 1 per cent tax hike would be needed, said councillor

City councillor John Streiker, who chaired the meeting, said the request for more money would require at least a one per cent property tax hike.

One resident, Jeffrey Kalles, told council that Mount Sima should put its budget online so that taxpayers can see it and hold the Ski Society accountable.

Ski society treasurer, Jody Woodland, argued the city supports other recreational infrastructure, such as hockey and curling rinks.

Not everyone at the meeting was in support of giving the ski hill more public money.

Bill Barney reminded council that it promised no tax increases during last October's election.

"That is the real issue, that is the gorilla in the room. It's all about affordable housing when you're trying to get those seats. But once you get them, raise the taxes," he said.

Barney said it's wrong to raise taxes, which make housing less affordable, in order to support recreational facilities.