Winters can be cold in the Northwest Territories, but the flip side of that is lots of sun, sparkling clean snow and solid ice... and the ability to go anywhere on land or lake. Starting in January, it’s a cheerful time of year. The daylight hours increase noticeably week by week. When the sun is up in a cloudless sky the snow glistens and glitters like diamonds. Even at night there’s plenty of light. The moon and stars cast shadows on the snow, while the aurora dances overhead.
Carve a fresh trail across a stunning lake on your cross-country skis, go ice-fishing with some pals, skate or play hockey on a lake covered with a metre of ice. Take off on a snowmobile or by dog team to see the land in your area, and watch for wildlife – foxes, wolves, coyotes, caribou, lynx and moose prowl our winter world. Clever and playful ravens will follow your adventures and cheer you on.
The Northern Lights phenomenon, in which bands of celestial light appear in the skies, is one of the great natural wonders. And the NWT is one of the best places to catch it. It occurs with regularity in the skies above the capital city (which offers 240 potential Aurora viewing nights a year, compared to Edmonton’s 90) and in other locations. Northern Lights watching is a tradition in the North, and it doesn’t take much to indulge in it: a short walk out of town to minimize the already minimal light pollution, and there you go. But there are plenty of variations on this, from a friendly bonfire party on the ice to luxurious lodges that offer hot-tub viewings a la carte! Check out our Aurora forecast to make sure you'll get a good view.
There’s a storied history behind cross-country skiing up here, where rolling landscapes, plenty of snowfall and crisp, clear conditions combine to create a near-perfect cross-country skiing environment. Maybe that’s why, of the eight members of the Canadian cross-country skiing team that attended the 1972 Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan, six were from Inuvik, NWT. That group of six also included NWT Sports Hall of Fame members Sharon and Shirley Firth, who from 1972 to 1984 represented Canada in four consecutive Winter Olympics.
Today most major communities have groomed trail systems and active ski clubs, and the NWT continues to be a breeding ground for future champions, as well as a great place for skilled amateurs and enthusiasts!
Ski Clubs :
From major transportation method to beloved spectator sport and hobby, dog sledding has a rich history in the NWT. Today you can watch dog mushers across the territories as they compete on the spring racing circuit. Catch races at events such as Yellowknife’s Long John Jamboree and Hay River’s Kamba Carnival, or take in the famous Canadian Championship Dog Derby. Choose a trip by dog sled with a local tour operator. You can, if you’re ambitious, start your own dog sled team. Some of the more popular dog sledding destinations in the Northwest Territories include the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary northeast of Fort Providence, Great Slave Lake, and the Mackenzie Delta in the Inuvik region.
With its endless, pristine waterways, its thick lattice of lakes of all shapes and sizes, its deltas and arctic coastline, the NWT is a fishing paradise – year round. The pleasures of ice-fishing are more contemplative than a summer fishing expedition, but the pike, pickerel and lake trout – and up on the coast, char – stay the same. Check with local information sources about ice strength and safety, be sure to keep warm, and… enjoy a quintessential Canadian sport, available a short distance away from just about every NWT community.
For more information visit SpectacularNWT.
Great Slave Lake sees a lot of activity all year long, from sailboat cruising in the summer to an early spring sport that grows in popularity every year: kite-skiing. Combining the thrills of sailing, kite flying and skiing into an exhilarating mix, kite-skiing is just one more addition to the mix of activities to be seen on the lake throughout the year. It can be done on your own, with a little bit of ingenuity, or through a growing number of kite-skiing operators.
For more information visit SpectacularNWT.
A sport enjoyed by weekend fun-seekers across the NWT, snowmobiling is also integral to the northern way of life. Used by First Nations hunters, trappers and ice-fishers, snowmobiles are ubiquitous across the territories. Snowmobiling opportunities and well maintained trail systems, not to mention ice roads and frozen rivers lace our communities together. During the late winter carnival season, many communities host snowmobile races.