Welcome to a place of crystal palaces. Of Northern Lights, cavorting on the blue dome of heaven. Of dog teams dashing through frosted forests. And of wide-eyed wonder, as you discover the freshest place on Earth.
“The lights are out!” It might as well be the motto of the Northwest Territories. We're pretty sure you’ll be shouting it to the heavens. In the winter, our crystalline, cloudless and very long nights, along with our optimal geography, make us the best place on Earth to see the Northern Lights. The Aurora dances 200-plus evenings per year, bathing spellbound visitors in shimmering emerald and crimson. Join them, and see the heavens come alive.
Up here, winter can be nine months long – and the rest of the year is tough sledding. OK, that’s a joke, but only sort of. We do love our sledding. Snowmobiles are as common as cars in the Northwest Territories, and a heckuva lot more fun. They’ll take you to places you could never reach by road – up steep peaks, down lonesome trails, even onto the frozen Arctic Ocean. If you sign up for a snowmobile tour or rental, you’ll experience the territory the way Northerners do – by the seat of your pants.
The North is a wild ride – especially behind a pack of huskies. Manes frosty, blue eyes afire, racing along gleaming trails of snow, sled-dogs remain a cherished part of Arctic culture. Up here, driving a dog team is called “mushing.” You’ll have a howling good time at mushing races, or, if you want to become a “musher” yourself, sign up for a tour. They’re offered all winter long.
Imagine a muffled landscape. Each tree is coated in rime-ice. The air a frozen fog.... Imagine the familiar becoming strange: Plastic bags shattering, tires frozen flat, your eyelashes white with frost. Imagine the sun ringed with iridescent sun-dogs, and the moon so vivid it seems you could touch it. Imagine noises amplified and smells muted. Imagine ice four feet thick, yet clear enough to still see the fish beneath. During a Northern deep-freeze, life is (quite literally) cool.
Remember the show Ice Road Truckers? We’re the place where the truckers first revved their engines. Each winter, nearly a dozen snow-and-ice highways are carved across our bold frontier. The most famous, the Tibbett-to-Contwoyto Winter Road, stretches hundreds of kilometres through the diamond-strewn Barrenlands, reaching clear to Nunavut Territory. Mellower snow-roads can be found close to town, including the Dettah Ice Road, a six-kilometre-long thoroughfare atop Great Slave Lake, linking metropolitan Yellowknife with a nearby Dene village.
Imagine strapping on skis and hurtling across the frozen surface of Great Slave Lake, leaping and spinning while you’re towed by a house-sized kite. Well, you won’t be performing any acrobatics during your first attempt at kite-skiing – but after a couple outings, maybe you’ll be a master. The sport is all the rage in Yellowknife and other wind-kissed Northern towns. Local guides can rent you the gear and help you try it out.
Northerners use a variety of crazy vehicles to travel over snow and ice. A Bombardier is an antique snow tractor that looks like a beetle scuttling over the snowdrifts. A Hagglunds, meanwhile, is like an amphibious tank – it can float if it breaks through the ice. Finally, a SnoBear is basically an ice fishing hut on treads – it even has a trapdoor for dropping your hook through the ice. Tours featuring all of these vehicles take place around Great Slave Lake.
In the Northwest Territories, the fishing season heats up when the temperature drops. A few feet below the ice, big and bountiful fish ply our waters all winter long, hungry for your hook. On the Arctic coast, jig for char through a hole in the floes. Elsewhere, fish for Trout, Pike and Pickerel on inland lakes. Ice-fishing trips are offered on snowmobiles, dog teams, SnoBear tracked vehicles – or just out the door of your cozy lodge.
A trail, haunted by silence. Each tree gilded with frost. The effortless glide of your skis through a stock-still landscape.... There’s nothing more perfect than travel on skis. Numerous Northern communities feature groomed cross-country ski courses, and most others offer great terrain for making your own tracks. It’s a wonderful way to explore the winter landscape, or even to embark on an overland expedition.