Skip to main content

Find out more about the current wildfire and wildfire-related concerns in the NWT.

Home Story Where to Enjoy Cross-Country Skiing in the NWT

Where to Enjoy Cross-Country Skiing in the NWT

Imagine yourself in the Northwest Territories, where you can go cross-country skiing whenever you want from November, after the first snowfall, through to May, when the sun shines bright and warm on the melting snow, making for a perfect glide-and-slide.

Now, imagine skiing in darkness under a cover of stars and the green swirls of majestic Northern Lights, or under the spotlight of a bright full moon. Then, as the days grow longer and warmer in spring, snow sparkles on the trails as small snowflakes blow around, creating your own outdoor snow globe. 

It’s no surprise that cross-country skiing is one of the most popular winter activities in the NWT. Outside the community hubs, the myriad of flat, frozen lakes and rivers spread out into a smooth network of trails for adventurous cross-country skiing enthusiasts.

Ski Clubs Around the NWT

You can link up with active cross-country clubs in many communities around the NWT — these include the Yellowknife Ski Club, Hay River Ski Club, Fort Smith Ski Club, Fort McPherson Arctic Nordic Ski Club and the Inuvik Ski Club. In these locations, you find well-groomed cross-country skiing trails and cozy ski chalets where you can exchange tips with local skiers about the best trails around.

Yellowknife Ski Club

By night or day, explore trails with the Yellowknife Ski Club. The club’s two-kilometre (1.2 miles) Snowflake Trail is lit every evening during the ski season. The Snowflake Trail is just one of the club’s 14 km (8.6 mi) of groomed ski and snowshoe trails. The trails are designed for beginner to advanced skiers and for one-way skiing, with enough width to allow for classic and skate techniques. The chalet comes with a kitchen, washrooms, waxing room and a viewing room. It’s open to members 24/7, but non-members can also access everything for a $10 per day fee.

Fasten on your skis at the Hay River Ski Club and head off to its 15 kms (9.3 miles) of breathtaking trails that weave around snowcapped black spruce and poplar trees along the banks of the Hay River.

Explore one popular trail that features bird feeders along the route, letting you experience the sights and sounds of nature as your skis glide over packed snow. Or, for a challenge, try out the Brendan Green Loop, named after the local biathlete who competed at three Olympic games.

Enjoy Skiing Up In Inuvik

In Inuvik, you may be far above the Arctic Circle, but this location allows the Inuvik Ski Club a long spring ski season. The club offers lessons as well as special events like the Tiki Torch Ski Evening, when flames light everyone’s way down the trails, a sweet Valentine’s Day ski and, at the end of March, the Beaufort Delta Regional Ski Festival with games and competitions.

The club also hosts ski-orienteering sessions where skiers use a map to find flags along the course. You can also test out your Arctic skiing skills at the club’s annual Top of the World Loppet. This cross-country event covers 0.5 km to 15 km (a little over half a mile to about nine miles.) A mug of hot chocolate will be your welcome reward.

What To Expect On the NWT's Scenic Trails

In the Northwest Territories, you won’t have to travel far to ski, as the frozen rivers and lakes are the preferred cross-country ski trails to explore. You may even see residents commuting to work on cross-country skis. You can ski to your heart’s delight in the capital city, where many take to Yellowknife Bay on Great Slave Lake for recreational ski outings, or simply head off down the Ingraham Trail for some bush skiing. Best of all, after a day of cross-country skiing through the NWT, you’ll really feel like you’ve earned a nice evening out on the town.

In Wood Buffalo National Park near Fort Simpson, bird songs light up the boreal forest as you cruise through the fresh powder on Pine Lake while snow softly falls around you. Many winter wilderness lodges also offer incredible trails, just a short cross-country ski trip away.

Celebrate on Territorial Skiing Day

The NWT celebrates its own territorial ski day in February — and, in Yellowknife, that sometimes means you will see costumed skiers take to the trails, competing for the best ski costume. You can access free trail use that day, but be warned, you might see a skiing hotdog or an elegant princess passing by. Along the way, you could even run into skiers with dogs. Ski-joring is a combination of skiing and dog teaming in which skiers harness themselves up to their pooches for a ride across the snow. 

Not surprisingly, due to its abundance of snow, the NWT has a proud cross-country skiing history. Roger T. Allen of Aklavik, from the Gwich’in First Nation, was a cross-country skier who competed in the 1972 Winter Olympics before becoming a territorial-level politician.

In 2011, cross-country skier Jesse Cockney of Inuvialuit heritage won three gold medals in the Canada Winter Games. Cockney’s career then advanced to the international stage. In 2014, he competed in his first Olympic Games in Sochi and then returned to compete at Pyeong Chang in 2018.

Start Your Slide With Ski Equipment Outfitters

You’ll find local outfitters and tour guides all over the NWT who offer ski lessons, excursions and can set you up with all the necessary equipment. Need a pack? Not a problem. Left your skis back home? Let them worry about that.

You may opt for a classic ski, which utilizes the stride-and-glide technique and is great on packed trails or in open spaces. But for off-trail skiing in more rugged terrain or exploring after a fresh snowfall, you may want a Nordic touring ski. Or, how about skate skis? These go faster than classic skis, gaining speed from edging and pushing.

If you have never tried out kite skiing, a cousin of cross-country skiing, there’s no better place to test out your prowess than in Yellowknife Bay. All you need is a pair of skis, a kite-flying harness, some wind off the lake and away you’ll go. 

The ice road leading six km (3.7 miles) from Yellowknife to the nearby Dene community of Dettah also provides a natural path for cross-country skiers— and it’s an ideal place to see colourful kite-skiers zipping along.

There are nearly endless ways to enjoy the winter wonderland of the Northwest Territories, and cross-country skiing remains one of the most popular. No matter where you go, you’ll find opportunities to strap on your skis and take off through the incredible winter landscapes of the North.

Excited to see a true winter wonderland? Read more about what Northerners look forward to every winter and the ways you can keep busy (and warm!) on your authentic Northern experience.

Find the best way to fill your day while you wait for the Northern Lights to return at nightfall with more winter activities to do during your visit to the NWT.