They say it's not about the arrival. It's about the journey.
That's certainly true up in the Northwest Territories, where winter travel is the coolest kind of fun. When our lakes freeze over and snow blankets the land, adventure shifts into high gear.
Love slipping silently through a hushed and frosted forest? Strap on some skis and get kickin'. Seeking vrooom to roam? Rev up for a snowmobile tour. Wanna make tracks? A variety of treaded transport vehicles are ready to take you on a wild ride across the stunning Northern landscape.
Or you can catch a ride aboard the thing pictured above. To find out what it is, check out the list below:
Dogsledding is the classic mode of Northern transport. For eons, Dene and Inuvialuit traversed the hinterlands of the Northwest Territories, towed by trusty huskies. Today, you can take dogsledding tours beneath the Aurora or go "mushing" to visit Canada's only reindeer herd. But possibly the best part of dogsledding is getting to know the dogs themselves – the fuzziest, friendliest pooches you'll ever meet.
Dogsledding is romantic and all, but these days, when Northerners want to cover ground, they fire up a snowmobile. Several Northwest Territories outfitters offer snowmobile adventures. They're a great, high-adrenalin way to sight-see, and provide fast and easy transport to off-the-grid Aurora-viewing lodges, remote parks and secret ice-fishing spots.
Runways? We don't need no stinkin' runways! Just strap a set of skis on a Twin Otter and you've got the ultimate go-anywhere flying machine. Ski planes are ubiquitous in the Northwest Territories. You can charter one to take a sightseeing tour, skimming low over our winter wonderland. Ski planes are also a great way to get out to Aurora-viewing lodges and remote wild parks. So buckle up and prepare to catch some air.
If someone up here tells you to go fly a kite, you should take them up on the offer. Kite skiing is the hottest winter activity in the Northwest Territories. Outfitters in Yellowknife can set you up with all the gear and show you the ropes – literally. Before you know it, you'll be harnessed to the Arctic wind, speeding effortlessly through the snow.
Pioneered by First Nations people millennia ago, snowshoeing is an ingenious way to master the Arctic snows. With their broad footprint, snowshoes allow you to float over the drifts, turning a potential slog into a powdery, pristine stroll. It's a great activity at Aurora-viewing lodges, where showshoes are often available for rent or loan.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Neither one: It's the newest addition to the wild mix of machines plying Yellowknife Bay – a hovercraft. Even when the lake is too solid for boats but too wet to drive on, you can tour the North's most beloved water body by hovercraft, maybe with the Aurora dancing overhead.
With few roads and lots of ice and snow, people in the Northwest Territories have crazy ways of getting around. One way: the Swedish-made Hägglunds Bv206, a tracked, amphibious, all-terrain vehicle often seen rumbling across the frozen surface of Great Slave Lake, carrying tourists between Yellowknife and a local Aurora-viewing and ice-fishing lodge.
Some say that cross-country skiing is the slickest way to get outside and enjoy winter. Others find it to be a chilly way to feel extremely awkward. If you belong to the former camp, pack your skis to the Northwest Territories. Many of our major communities boast groomed scenic trails. Everywhere else, you'll find endless miles of backcountry terrain, perfect for exploring on skis.
OK, we're joking. Team-skiing won't get you very far. It's a hilarious contest featured in Inuvik's Muskrat Jamboree – one of many charming, cheerful winter events held in communities across the Northwest Territories.
Everyone knows about the famous ice roads of the Northwest Territories. We're the home of ice-road truckin', where a web of winter-only highways allow access to remote villages, scenic landmarks and the habitat of exotic animals. Many of our ice roads are easily accessible – you'll find them right out the back door of towns like Yellowknife, Inuvik and Fort Smith.
This is an intriguing gizmo. It's basically a mobile ice-fishing hut. First, it chugs out onto a frozen lake, keeping you warm inside the heated cabin. Then it hunkers down low on the ice, panels opens in the floor, and you drop your line through a hole drilled down to open water. Hooking the catch of the day doesn't get easier than this.
Every so often, when the lakes freeze over but the snow holds off, the Northwest Territories turns into big ol' glorious skating rink. That's when everyone cinches up their skates and goes gliding across the ice. If skating's your thing, you'll also find groomed outdoor rinks in various communities and at plenty of winter events – and of course, there's an indoor ice rink in nearly every Northern town.