February is Festival Month in Whitehorse

31 01 2011

February is always a special event- and festival-packed month here in the capital; if you’re planning on visiting the Yukon in winter (which, by the way, is something that far too few visitors do), now is the time to do it.

Here’s the 2011 schedule:

  • The 1000-mile Yukon Quest sled dog race kicks off in front of the White Pass rail depot in downtown Whitehorse at 11am on February 5th.
  • The Available Light Film Festival screens Canadian and international documentaries and feature films at the Yukon Arts Center from February 7th to 13th.
  • The Frostbite Music Festival takes place across several venues at Yukon College from February 18th to 20th.
  • Finally, the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous closes out the month. It runs from February 24th to 27th, and features chainsaw chucking and axe throwing, fiddle shows, pancake breakfasts, dog sled races and general debauchery.

All of these are annual events, but the Yukon Quest only starts in Whitehorse every second year; every other year, it starts in Fairbanks and the big finish happens here, a couple weeks deeper into the month.

Update: This CBC news story includes a couple of events I neglected to mention — first, Hockey Day in Canada is taking place in Whitehorse this year, on February 12th. I buried it deep in my memory as soon as I learned (sniff) that tickets were sold out. Second, the Yukon Arctic Ultra is a go on February 6th. If you aren’t familiar with it (I wasn’t), it’s a winter marathon. Winter. Marathon. In the Yukon. Dang.





Photo Friday: At the Arctic Circle

28 01 2011

A sign marks the spot where the Dempster Highway meets the Arctic Circle





Northern Reads: ‘Mad Dogs and an Englishwoman’ by Polly Evans

28 01 2011

It’s a funny thing, reading a travel book about your own home — and as a Canadian, it’s not something I’ve experienced very often.

(Be honest. Can you name a travel narrative set in Ottawa, or Saskatoon, or even Toronto?)

So I have to offer up a disclaimer right at the start: I’m not sure to what extent my discomfort with reading an outsider’s take on my home affected my judgment of Polly Evans’ book.

That being said, let’s get down to it. Mad Dogs and an Englishwoman (subtitle: “Travels with Sled Dogs in Canada’s Frozen North”) spans the 11 weeks that Evans, a Londoner, spent volunteering at a dogsledding outfit just outside Whitehorse and traveling around the territory following the annual Yukon Quest.

And I say “spans” rather than “tells the story of” because, well, the book is distressingly chronological.

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Introducing Northern Noodle Quest 2011

25 01 2011

It’s a mystery of Whitehorse life: There are at least a half-dozen Chinese restaurants in town, but none is well known to be the best. There is no clear-cut winner, no rivalry between leading contenders, seemingly no passion on the topic from residents at all.

When I first moved here, I asked around: Which Chinese restaurant is the best? I like to have a go-to for those nights when nothing but delivery will do. But my question was met with shrugs. Some friends had never visited any of the half-dozen; some had been to one or two, but had no strong opinions about their meals.

And so I’ve taken it upon myself to find the answer. Readers, I give you … (drumroll) … NORTHERN NOODLE QUEST 2011!

Over the next few months, I aim to visit each Chinese restaurant in Whitehorse and to report back on their offerings. I’ll wrap up with a final report card, and hopefully crown a winner. The prize? The pride of knowing that you are, in one freelance writer’s opinion, The Best Chinese Restaurant in Whitehorse. Cha-ching!

[Photo by fab4chiky via Flickr (Creative Commons)]





Why Winter Roadtrips are Worth the Risk

25 01 2011

Don’t let all my talk about emergency supplies and roadside strandings scare you off the northern road trip in winter. It’s worth the extra preparation and the risk of a few cold hours spent roadside.

Here’s proof:

On the Dempster Highway, nearing the Arctic Circle

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Winter Roadtrips: What’s in my Emergency Kit?

24 01 2011

Alright, let’s talk winter driving.

On any highway where snow and ice are in play – regardless of whether you’re up north or down south – winter driving is going to be a trickier proposition than summer road-tripping. But on the isolated, mostly-empty roads of Alaska and northern Canada, where cell service rarely extends past town and city limits and you can go hours without spotting another vehicle, the risks are augmented even further.

My car, in the ditch on the Dempster Highway

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Me and the North: Stats and Facts

24 01 2011

Before I really get going with the blog, I thought I’d share a bit more about me and a few of my favorite things (so far, at least) about the north.

Here’s the breakdown:

Time spent living in Whitehorse, Yukon: 1 year, 1 month, 24 days and counting
Time spent driving from Ottawa to Whitehorse: 12 days
Time spent visiting Whitehorse prior to the big move: 5 weeks, summer 2009

Quality of retention from childhood memorization of Robert Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee”: Poor.

(“There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold… Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee where the cotton something something… There on the marge of Lake Laberge we cremated Sam McGee…” is about the extent of it.)

Favorite northern road: The Klondike Highway from Whitehorse to Skagway
Favorite Pierre Berton book: The Secret World of Og
Favorite northern food (wild game): Roast muskox at a friend’s house
Favorite northern food (seafood): Copper River salmon sashimi at the McCarthy Lodge
Favorite Yukon hotel: Bombay Peggy’s in Dawson City
Favorite northern travel essay: “The Last Pork Chop” by Edward Abbey

Got any northern favorites? I’d love to hear them in the comments.