7 slick reasons to experience the legendary ice roads of the Northwest Territories

Welcome to the land where ice roads were born. Each winter, our legendary web of frozen freeways spans nearly 2,000 kilometres, offering the coolest automotive adventures.

Just outside Yellowknife is the ice road to the Dene village of Dettah ­– a literal spin on the four-foot-thick surface of Great Slave Lake. Way up in the polar zone you can drive to Aklavik. And across the rest of the territory? A glittering array of winter-only highways to traditional communities, wild lodges and stupendous natural scenery.

Here are 7 reasons to rev up for a polar road trip:

Ice roads are a lifeline to the North’s off-the-beaten-path communities. A dozen of our otherwise-inaccessible towns depend on these wintertime links to the outside world. For you, ice roads are a way in – to experience rich culture and remarkable sights in towns like Whati, Deline, Trout Lake and Aklavik.

The best Northern Lights are far from the streetlamps of town. Drive an ice road into the dreamy darkness, recline your seat back, and watch the sky come alive.

Winter roads aren’t dangerous. A foot of ice can support a passenger car. The ice roads of the Northwest Territories are far beefier, with many of them a metre thick or more. Crews monitor and maintain them on a constant basis, flooding the surface to add extra layers of ice.

Ice Road Truckers, the TV series, featured Yellowknife trucker Alex Debogorski – a wild Northern character if ever there was one. You can roll the same roads that made Alex a legend. You might even meet him in person.  

Ice roads are the only way to reach Yellowknife’s famous ice castle, the centrepiece of the March-long Snow King Winter Festival. Don’t miss it!

Don’t be buffaloed. Each freezin’ season, a winter road stretches south of Fort Smith through epic Wood Buffalo National Park. This is the best way to visit the park’s remote southeastern reaches ­– and a great chance to experience historic Fort Chipewyan, one of the North's oldest and most scenic communities.

Wanna drive to Nunavut Territory? For two months each winter, the Barrenlands of the Northwest Territories are traversed by the planet’s longest ice road – a 600-kilometre frozen highway rolling across lakes and tundra clear to the Nunavut border. Though designed for mining transport trucks, this private road also carries hunters, photographers and adventurers. If you tackle it, you'll need guts, gas, and Arctic-grade cold weather gear.

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Pack extra adjectives. This is a land of extremes. 

What do we do in winter? Dogsledding, snowy sliding – and oh yeah, the Aurora. 

17 essential experiences in Canada's Northwest Territories.

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