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The Yukon transforms in winter. Emerald forests of fir, spruce and pine sparkle like frosted Christmas trees, gunmetal mountain peaks glisten white with snow and frozen lakes become skating rinks. Far from being a time to hang up your hiking boots and hibernate indoors, the Yukon offers even more ways to reconnect with the great outdoors in winter, so follow the tracks of the muskox or Arctic fox and go play in the snow.
Whether you plan to go cycling beside the Yukon River or careening down Montana Mountain, the Yukon capital, Whitehorse, and the community of Carcross are both surrounded by world-class biking tracks. Icicles and bicycles may not sound like an ideal combination but the advent of fat bikes – named for their oversized, balloon tires that glide over snow – makes for a smoother ride in winter than on summertime trails. And, of course, rather than hike around lakes, you can simply cycle straight over them in winter.
Feel the need for speed? Riding a motorized sled through frozen forests is a great reason to visit the Yukon in winter. There’s no more exhilarating way of laying tracks across spotless snowdrifts than by jumping on a skimobile and flexing your throttle-fingers. Beginners will find it easy to learn and guided snowmobile tours can last anywhere from one hour to one week, so you can go at your own pace, as long as it’s fast!
When it comes to extreme wintersports in the Yukon, the sky’s the limit – literally. Take a helicopter flight up to the top of the mountains, then step out and prepare for the ride of your life, skiing or snowboarding down the rugged peaks and back to your base camp. With a diverse range of exciting terrains, including steep spine lines, tight chutes and gentler slopes, Yukon is heliskiing heaven.
Great things rarely come from staying within your comfort zone, and here in the Yukon, there are no end of activities to catapult you from the everyday to the extraordinary. Dog mushing is definitely one of them. Easier than you’d think, and more exhilarating than you can imagine, driving your own husky-powered sled along frozen trails should be on everyone’s winter wishlist. With boundless energy and enthusiasm, these legendary canines are perfect for some furry cuddle action, too.
The Yukon is all about embracing new experiences, such as heading out on the ice, dropping a line and waiting for a fish to bite. Ice fishing is a favorite pastime in the north from midwinter to spring, so wrap up warm and join a guide for a few hours on one of the territory’s dazzling frozen lakes. And remember, it’s not all about the catch, you’ll be hooked by the epic landscapes and camaraderie, too.
Before downhill, freestyle, ski-jumping and slalom, there was cross-country – the world’s oldest form of skiing, which dates back five millennia. Today, it’s not just a great way to swiftly cover distances over snowbound ground, it’s also an Olympic sport and a much-loved activity in the Yukon. The Mount McIntyre recreation area, just minutes from downtown Whitehorse, offers world-class cross-country ski trails. Once you’ve mastered the art, you could tackle the Kluane National Park & Reserve, home to the largest non-polar ice fields in the world.
A winter drive in a car or RV offers a comfortable window onto the Yukon wilderness, but to really feel part of the story, strap on some snowshoes and walk. Crunching through powder in true pioneering style is guaranteed to supercharge the senses, as your face tingles and your breath turns to mist in Yukon’s clean, spruce-scented air. Keep watch for wildlife including foxes, coyotes and, of course, snowshoe hares, as icy peaks pierce the clear, cobalt skies above.
The diaphanous drapes of the aurora borealis, rippling blue, red and 50 shades of green across the night sky, form the most spectacular light show on earth. Conditions must be just right to see them, requiring high geomagnetic activity, far-northerly latitudes, dark skies and low light pollution. Winter in the wilds of the Yukon, which stretches into the Arctic Circle, is the perfect time and place to witness this spectacle, where daytime skies never get brighter than twilight.
Hearty dishes are what you want when it’s cold outside, and Yukon cuisine definitely fits the bill. With dishes based on local meat, fish and foraged ingredients, diners can expect delicacies such as bison barbecued in birch syrup, sautéed morel mushrooms and spruce tips, buffalo burgers, roast moose and root vegetables, as well as caribou sausages, butter-poached elk, and smoked Alaskan salmon – all washed down with local craft beers, naturally.
After an active day skiing or snowshoeing, a dip in a natural hot spring is exactly the soothing sanctuary your body needs. Used historically by the Ta’an Kwach’an First Nations people, the mineral waters at Takhini Hot Springs, near Whitehorse, are a therapeutic, sigh-inducing 116F (46.6C). They’re also the spiritual home of Yukon’s annual Hair Freezing Contest, when outdoor air temperatures of -4F (-20C) or below see visitors styling their soaking-wet locks into ice-cool, crunchy coiffures.
Please note that Takhini Hot Springs are currently closed and will reopen in 2021 as an Onsen and Nordic spa with hot pools, saunas and steam rooms.
Who hasn’t dreamt of spending winter in a cosy cabin, surrounded by mountains and pine trees? Open your eyes – Yukon’s secluded cabins are no longer just home to locals and loggers. You can live out your lumberjack fantasies and bed down in one, too. You’ll find lodges and cabins across the territory, from high-end, rustic-chic resorts to remote huts for two, perfect for curling up after a day in the snow.
The colder months transform Yukon into the perfect place to embark on an epic winter adventure. Visit travelyukon.com to start planning your trip, and be sure to check the Covid restriction information and border status before travelling.