Say Yes to Yukon Winter!
Photo Credit: Josephine Matyas
Here, 5 ways to embrace the snow
In the spirit of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” a wintertime trip to the Yukon should be on the bucket list of every Canadian who loves wilderness and the outdoors.
Yes, it is cold but there’s guaranteed snow to get you out on a dogsled or a pair of snowshoes, as well as a full menu of activities to fill any length of stay. Yukoners know how to embrace their snowy winter and visitors can get double the pleasure by timing a stay to coincide with a festival or special event. The locals’ upbeat, independent energy is contagious.
How about five great ways to explore the Yukon winter?
- DOGSLEDDING IS HOT STUFF
Traditionally, if you wanted to make tracks through the North in winter, you went by dogsled. These days, outfitters like Sky High Wilderness put you at the musher’s post to lead your team of four Alaskan Huskies across frozen Fish Lake and on groomed trails through the woods.
These dogs itch to get running – they’re in their element when working as a team and hauling the sled. If an hour-long excursion is not enough, sign up for a full-day tour or multi-day overnight trips.
Time your visit with the annual Yukon Quest –1,000 miles from Whitehorse, YK to Fairbanks, AL, it’s considered the toughest sled dog race in the world, along the century-old route once followed by teams delivering mail and supplies. The best spots to catch the action are at the starting gates (about two-dozen teams depart at a staggered start) and at the 500-mile point at Dawson City, YK. You can read more about the 2015 Yukon Quest at the author’s blog: www.travelswithrigby.com.
- THE NORTHERN LIGHTS ALARM CLOCK
Many visitors come to the Yukon to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) but it can be a hit-or-miss affair. Some nights they are nowhere to be seen; other nights the swirling smears of colour across the sky put on quite a show.
Whitehorse-based Northern Tales transports guests to viewing sites outfitted with heated canvas tents (for warming up while you wait for the show to begin), snacks and hot beverages. They’ll provide camera advice as well as tripod loaners.
Even if the persnickety Aurora decide to stay hidden, the viewing sites are away from city lights and provide spectacular views of constellations and shooting stars.
- WARM UP IN THERMAL HOT SPRINGS
It’s not all layers of clothing and hot packs tucked into mittens. The Takhini Hot Pools warm things up very quickly. Large outdoor pools are filled with 40-degree Celsius mineral springwater and the mist freezes hard, coating the surrounding fir trees. It’s a frosty hop from the change room to the steaming waters, but a fantastic way to warm up after a day of outdoors play.
- FLY OVER THE WORLD’S LARGEST NON-POLAR ICEFIELDS
Hands down, one of Canada’s most spectacular sites is a flight over Kluane National Park. The wilderness park is tucked into the west part of the territory (90-minutes from Whitehorse), bordered by Yukon, British Columbia and Alaska.
If cost is no barrier, a one-hour flight with Kluane Helicopters is like living your own personal IMAX film. The smooth flight skims over the boreal forest, then rises into the St. Elias Mountains to an elevation of 8,500 ft. This is glacier territory and the highlight of the flight is a tour over the world’s largest non-polar icefields, including the expansive Lowell Glacier. The landscape is remote, pristine and wild. It will bring tears to your eyes.
A more budget-friendly option is to take an equally beautiful, flat-wing sightseeing flight with Kluane Glacier Air Tours.
- SNOWSHOEING = TAMING THE SNOW
There is nothing quite like the absolute quiet of the forest on a snowy day. One of the best ways to explore is to join a guided snowshoe outing with adventure outfitter Up North Adventures. Excursions include equipment, trail snacks and a well-trained guide to lead the way. An absolute Zen experience. In the Yukon snow.
Tips for a Yukon wintertime visit:
- This is the perfect destination to cash in air rewards points. It’s a long way from most major Canadian cities so regular fares can be steep.
- It really is a dry Pack Vaseline and lip balm to battle frostbite and an annoyingly dry nose.
- Hotels and local outfitters rent heavy-duty cold weather wear. The trick is to layer and use proper materials (cotton is a no-no; wool gets the thumbs up). Bring mittens rather than gloves. Buy single-use hand and toe warmers if the days are really cold.
- Camera batteries deplete quickly in the extreme cold. Bring extra batteries, recharge nightly and tuck the camera inside your jacket to keep it warm when outside.
- When temperatures drop below -35C, you are in frostbite territory. Guides and outfitters know how to keep you outdoors, safe and healthy, so it’s worth hiring them rather than heading out on your own to explore the Northern wilderness.
- Beautiful Inn on the Lake offers a Winter Wonderland Getaway with Whitehorse airport shuttle, accommodation, gourmet meals and a range of activities (Aurora viewing, dogsledding, snowmobiling).