Winter wonderland in the Yukon

Adam Hanmer, Travel Trade Manager, Destination Canada, reports on his mid-winter trip to the Yukon, the smallest and westernmost of Canada's three territories, and discovers a destination that is truly larger than life.

Our intrepid FAM group boards a rather cosy light aircraft for our first real adventure in the Yukon: a scenic flight from Whitehorse, the capital, to Southern Lakes Resort.

As we speed down the runway and effortlessly take to the sky there are nervous smiles all round. We take in the stunning scenery as we fly frozen mountains, lakes and rivers on our way south to Tagish Lake. There’s no runway, but no problem as we drop down and land on the frozen lake. We are greeted by our hosts, shown to our snowmobiles and are whisked away to our cabins. 

I am long overdue a visit to the Yukon and whilst my intention has always been to visit in the summer, I was not going to pass up the offer of a winter trip.

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The chance to see the northern lights and experience minus-35C temperatures is something not to be missed.

What do you pack for these sub-zero temperatures? I have done a ski trip or two, but my cold weather gear was not going to cut it. Thankfully, I was able to hire all the gear to keep me snug – Parker coat, trousers, gloves, hat and boots – and this delivered to my hotel. I wore it for the duration of my time in the Yukon and didn’t want to give back at the end!

Our time at Southern Lakes Resort offers the opportunity to try some top winter Canadian pursuits. First up is a snowshoe trip round the lake. But snowmobiling along the many trails they have from the resort, with my FAM pal Rosie sat on the back, was my favourite excursion. On the last stretch we get to really open up the machines.

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Michele Phillips is a veteran of the famous Yukon Quest dog sled race and runs kennels and excursions. We start with a chance to meet the (very) excitable dogs and then head off, either sat in the sled or riding a sled behind, which is quite the thrill.

Seeing the Northern Lights dance across the night sky is a big bucket list item for many and one we are hoping to see.

For the lights to appear you need clear skies and the right sort of solar activity and Yukon in the winter has an impressive record for northern lights watching.

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There is a definite sense of ‘the thrill of the chase’ anticipating their appearance. We stay up three out of four nights in the hope of see these green streaks painting the skies, but alas they did not come out to play. That said the dark skies alone were spectacular.

Whitehorse is the main base for northern lights viewing and there are various operators who offer cabins, fires with marshmallows to toast to keep warm and story telling whilst you are waiting for the lights to appear.

Our last day in the Yukon allows for a visit to the hot springs and a wildlife park to see some indigenous animals.

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We could have spent the whole day at the hot springs, which have been recently refurbished and offers the chance for a memorable Instagram shot with frozen funky hair.

Yukoners are wonderfully welcoming and any trip has to be combined with the rather fabulous Vancouver.

I left wanting more and with a strong appetite to return in the late summer to try to spot Grizzlies, get up to Dawson City – and maybe next time see Aurora Borealis.

What the agents said…

“My trip to the Yukon was by far one of my favourite trips I’ve ever been lucky enough to go on and still be able to call it ‘work’.

“We had so many magical, mesmerising memories I’ll never forget. The highlights kept on coming, from an unforgettable sightseeing flight landing on a frozen lake to snowmobiling across the white wilderness to indulging in the outdoor hot springs at minus 37 degrees. The Yukon should be added to everyone’s bucket list!” – Jessica Carney, Elegant Resorts/ If Only

“The Yukon has so much to offer: hospitable hosts, a glimpse into the past, breathtaking scenery, outdoor adventures, and more. A seven-night stay paired with time in Vancouver makes for the ideal package.  

“Close to “Whitehorse are some amazing activities: dog sledding, snowmobiling, snow shoeing, wildlife that’s larger than life, bathing in hot springs whilst surrounded by snow.

“The Yukon is my new favourite destination!” –Joanne Moores, Canada/America/Ranch Specialist, Frontier Travel

“A personal highlight was taking a scenic flight over the frosted mountains and icy rivers south of Whitehorse. If the views weren’t enough, the landing was unforgettable – Tagish Lake, frozen solid, transformed into the perfect winter runway.

“The Yukon has so much to offer in terms once-in-a lifetime typically Canadian experiences!” – Rosie Knapp, North America & Australia Travel Specialist, Discover the World