When Doug and Kim Wilkinson retired, their plan was to invest in a number of Haliburton County-based businesses that were “fun.”

But in 2021, when Sir Sam’s Ski/Ride was put up for sale, Doug Wilkinson said the family could not pass up the opportunity to purchase it “and help ensure it would thrive in a post-COVID world.”

Now, he said he is looking for investors for the hill, that turns 60 in 2025. Wilkinson said they are opening up ownership to the local community – individuals and businesses – whilst still maintaining a 20 per cent share themselves. Wilkinson said he’ll use capital raised to look for other investment opportunities in the Highlands.

“A community-based hill will ensure its ongoing existence in perpetuity,” Wilkinson said.

While being admittedly “coy” about sharing financials, Wilkinson said in his three years of ownership, the hill is in “great” financial shape and debt-free.

The Highlander asked about climate change and the impact on ski hills – referencing an article entitled Climate change and the skiing industry in Ontario: exploring the importance of snowmaking as a technical adaptation. The report found the average ski season was projected to reduce 0-16 per cent in the 2020s, seven to 32 per cent in the 2050s and 11-50 per cent in the 2080s. Wilkinson was asked why someone would want to invest in the industry.

He replied the hill had been around since 1965 and “is not going anywhere.”

Wilkinson said they have the added advantage of being further north than other southern Ontario ski hills. “Our weather is not as bad as some of the hills that are to the south, or closer to Georgian Bay, such as Collingwood.” He said they are traditionally one of the first hills in Ontario to open.

He added snowmaking equipment “has come a long way, where you can make more snow with less water more efficiently.” He said they have good snowmaking equipment, with more to come, as well as experienced snowmaking staff.

Wilkinson added it is no longer just a ski hill, but a three-season destination. In 2021, Sir Sam’s introduced the Eagle View Wedding and Events Centre, and started planning to build the Eagle View observation tower to add additional revenue streams and create a new colour venue in the County. He noted the Dorset tower gets 60,000 visitors every year, and Sir Sam’s Ski/Ride would like a piece of that pie.

He estimated the hill gets 40,000 visitors a year now, creating local jobs and spin-off spending at Highlands accommodations, restaurants and stores.

“It’s a hugely sentimental hill, it’s been a destination beacon for Haliburton County for a long time. We want to turn this into a community hill. We’re hoping this community will want to see that happen as opposed to selling to some big corporation.

“Obviously, we’re doing this because we want to be transparent, especially with the community, around what we’re trying to do. And, as a family, we’re not going anywhere. We’re still as keen to support the hill as we were the day we bought it. We’re continuing to look to invest further into the community and this is just something that’s going to enable us to get back on to our original track in terms of what our plans were.”

In outlining the business model, Wilkinson said the plan is to bring in a general manager for day-to-day operations and continue to market in Peterborough and the Kawarthas. He said a new governance structure would be set up with the general manager reporting to the new ownership group, as determined by the executive committee, of four to five key owners.

The equity offering is being completed in five per cent blocks. Wilkinson said new owners will receive an annual dividend and payout of income based on their ownership and determined by the executive committee. Wilkinson also expects the group to set up an ongoing reserve fund to ensure there are sufficient funds for future capital projects at the hill.

Contact Doug at sirsams.com