Travel and Leisure

The Spectacular Northern Lights Of The Beautiful Yukon

Yukon’s Unusual Beauty Lies In The Spectacular Northern Lights

Winter brings hot soaks, dog sleds, and hair-freezing competitions to this rough patch of northwest Canada, along with the twinkling northern lights.

The Yukon is a wedge of northwest Canada, roughly 186,000 square miles, spanning from British Columbia to the Beaufort Sea across the Arctic Circle.

Its long winter nights and boreal location make it one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights, and 2024 may bring the best shows in years as the sun’s magnetic field approaches the peak of its 11-year cycle, bringing more charged particles into the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

The long subarctic nights also produce a lot of pent-up energy, which Yukoners release with the exuberant (and rather unconventional) Yukon Rendezvous, a festival in Whitehorse that is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, right as the sun starts to come out again in February.

The national tourism organisation, Destination Canada, has been promoting wintry experiences and festivals like Yukon Rendezvous more and more. Although summer is when most visitors to the Yukon come, there has been an increase in winter visitors prior to 2019. The number of foreign visits rebounded after suffering during the pandemic; however, it was still 21% below levels recorded in 2019–20 during the previous winter.

Mittens, feathers, and fishnets

Luann Baker-Johnson, 64, of Whitehorse, finished second in Rendezvous’s wheat-packing competition in 1988 after carrying 494 pounds of flour 30 feet. The demanding event was inspired by the Klondike gold rush of the late 1890s.

Owner of Lumel Studios and glass blower Ms. Baker-Johnson now crafts some of the awards for the festival’s competitions, such as a glass axe that is almost three feet long. Shanta Ferguson, 31, a Rendezvous champion and daughter of Ms. Baker-Johnson, won the women’s category in 2019 with a chainsaw throw of 32 feet. The appeal of this sport is obvious to anyone who has ever had trouble starting a chainsaw in subfreezing weather.

The Gather Café and Taphouse, which is owned by Ms. Ferguson and her 32-year-old husband, John Ferguson, is located next to the glassblowing workshop. Fresh local ingredients are used in the cuisine, which is quite the logistical challenge in the far-flung, freezing North where imported produce can often appear a little rancid. Greens from nearby shipping containers are hydroponically grown and served alongside the Arctic char tacos. According to Ms. Ferguson, “people are surprised by the quality and calibre of restaurants up here.”

The festival receives $100,000 in operating financing from the tourism office of the territory government, which also advertises it on the Travel Yukon website and social media platforms, even providing advice on Rendezvous attire, which usually consists of wearing plenty of warm clothes, braces, feathers, and other 1890s accessories.

A flavour you’ll never forget

Travellers are still drawn to Dawson City, which was a popular destination for fortune seekers in the 1890s, including Jack London, the author of “White Fang.” The 2,400-person town is home to several brightly coloured buildings, including the first gambling hall in Canada, museums, and other structures, many of which are tilting menacingly as the permafrost thaws beneath them. In the Yukon, warming permafrost is a major issue that destabilises the soil and leads to landslides. To maintain the buildings level, Dawson City inhabitants must periodically jack them up.

The Thaw di Gras Spring Carnival, held in Dawson City from 15 to 17, is akin to Rendezvous and offers activities like watching adults race tricycles, throwing axes, and cheering on dog sled teams. The village also invites those who can’t resist sampling a local specialty, the Sourtoe Cocktail, at the Sourdough Saloon, which is decorated with gold rush motifs. After taking the “Oath of Sourtoe,” he initiates sipping a whisky shot.

After being introduced, you might like to clear your palate at BonTon & Company, a landmark restaurant in Yukon known for its in-house charcuterie (booking advised). Take in live music most weekends after supper at the Westminster Hotel, affectionately known as the Pit by the locals. If you are in the city from March 28 to March 31, you can watch the movies there.

Although Dawson is only 165 miles south of the Arctic Circle, the days are short and filled with outdoor activities, such as snowshoeing at the Midnight Dome, a lookout with views of the Yukon River and Klondike, to pass the time.

“You are able to hear the silence.”

The northern lights hold a unique meaning for many Indigenous cultures.

Who What Where Tours, owned and run by Ms. Dickson, provides northern lights tours as well as transportation to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, where guests can see arctic fox, bison, caribou, moose, lynx, and bus around a three-mile loop in the company of a small, self-propelled device called a kicksled. “You can hear the quietness in the Yukon,” she remarked.

A First Nations camp called Long Ago Peoples Place welcomes visitors who wish to learn about the history and culture of the Southern Tutchone people. Canada’s indigenous tourist industry has grown at a faster rate than the nation’s general tourism growth rate.

In the territory, the Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association collaborates with fifteen to twenty Indigenous tour providers. Fundamentally, the celebration continues to be a tried-and-true remedy for cabin fever. For a considerable amount of time, Yukoners have understood that having foolish fun can be just as therapeutic as spending a peaceful evening gazing at the stars.

Ask Mr. Umbrich of Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs, the place where the yearly hair-freezing competition is held. At his facilities, the main priorities are wellness and health. Thus, he promised guests, even in extremely cold weather, “No one’s ever broken their hair.”

Every year in Whitehorse, Yukon, the Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs organises a hair-freezing competition. The 2020 competition broke the record for the largest frozen-hair competition with 288 entries. Manu Keggenhoff of The New York Times is credited. In most locations, frozen hair is an annoyance, but at Whitehorse, Yukon’s Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs, it’s a higher calling.

Each winter, hundreds of individuals attempt to freeze their hair into a coif like that of a troll doll in an attempt to win 2,000 Canadian dollars in cash rewards.

 In case that isn’t enough to make you shiver, the hot springs’ 36-year-old general manager and owner, Andrew Umbrich, has created a special place for people to roll in the snow so that they may cool off without running into the surrounding rocks.

Vanshika Arya

Vanshika Arya is a nursing student currently pursuing her bachelor's who believes that "rich imagination is our greatest quality". She is willing and determined to improve herself. She enjoys various pursuits, but mainly reading and writing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *