Heed Yukon’s Call of the Wild – Even in the Dead of Win­ter!

Even in the Dead of Win­ter!

Luxe Beat Magazine - - Contents - By Jan­ice Nieder

As a travel writer who spe­cial­izes in lux­ury girl­friend get­aways based around Miche­lin meals, five-star re­sorts, sig­na­ture spa treat­ments and other nonessen­tial in­dul­gences, ex­treme travel might con­sist of sip­ping cham­pagne out of a plas­tic flute, be­ing forced to use pow­dered cream pack­ets for my cof­fee or re­ceiv­ing only in­ter­mit­tent Wi-fi. So I was, to say the least, a bit wary when I re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion to join a group of jour­nal­ists (most of them were from Canada and ac­cus­tomed to the cold weather) to ex­pe­ri­ence “Win­ter in The Yukon”, es­pe­cially The Yukon Quest, aka “the world’s hard­est sled-dog race.”

Think­ing it was time I put on my big-girl’s pants, I ac­cepted the trip (for me it was ba­si­cally for “the chal­lenge” although I ad­mit I was sorely tempted to back out af­ter learn­ing that the tem­per­a­tures could of­ten dip to 30 de­grees be­low zero). Look­ing back over the last week, it turned out to be, if not a lifechang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, at the very OHAVT a Exr­jhon­inj OOYH af­fair Zith the re­gion. Not only did I sur­vive the week, but I ac­tu­ally en­joyed the hell out of it, which is why I am rec­om­mend­ing --even shout­ing from the rooftops -- that ev­ery­one needs to go to the Yukon at least once. There are few places on the planet ZHHRH YOXܟOO ᦐng VXFH SRIFHOHVV beauty and rich ex­pe­ri­ences, partly be­cause over 80% of the Yukon is still ZIOGHRNHVV ᦐOOHG Zith thh Srivt­inh rivers, unique wildlife, clean air, and some of the most awe-in­spir­ing land­scapes imag­in­able, mainly be­cause they don’t have masses of peo­ple mess­ing things up here.

Pic­ture this: Although it is larger than Cal­i­for­nia, the Yukon Ter­ri­tory has only 36,000 in­hab­i­tants vs. Cal­i­for­nia’s 39 mil­lion peo­ple. Or from the an­i­mal’s stand­point, the Yukon has about six cari­bou and two moose for each per­son -- the mak­ings of a new po­lit­i­cal cam­paign, per­haps?

Yukon­ers love a good fes­ti­val

With temps this ex­treme, Yukon­ers make their own win­ter fun. They offhr a Yar­i­hty oi XNITXH IHVTIYAOV rang­ing from so­phis­ti­cated cul­tural offhrinjv to in­vanh ܢman ajainvt thh el­e­ments” com­pe­ti­tions. Some of the more pop­u­lar events in­clude the Yukon Sour­dough Ren­dezvous, Thaw di Gras Spring Car­ni­val, Klondike Out­house Races, Yukon In­ter­na­tional Sto­ry­telling Fes­ti­val and the Daw­son City Mu­sic Fes­ti­val.

Dur­ing my visit I got to be part of (hap­pily, I was just root­ing from the side­lines) the 32nd an­nual Yukon Quest In­ter­na­tional Sled Dog Race. From what I could see, the “Quest”” makes the Idi­tarod look like a stroll in the snow by com­par­i­son! The Quest be­gan in 1983, at the Bull’s Eye Sa­loon, when musher Leroy Shank and his­to­rian Roger Wil­liams en­vi­sioned the ul­ti­mate dog sled race, one that would se­verely test the strength and en­durance of man and dog over 1,000 miles of rugged ter­rain. Un­like the Id­tarod, which only crosses one moun­tain range, the Quest cuts through four moun­tain ran­jhv Zith Vi­jniᦐ­fant Ho­hy­a­tion changes, in­cludes fewer check­points/ rest stops and has more ex­treme tem­per­a­tures. Af­ter talk­ing to the mush­ers and learn­ing more about their back­grounds I was re­minded of ABC’S Wide World of Sports slo­gan, “the thrill of vic­tory... and the agony of de­feat... the hu­man drama of ath­letic com­pe­ti­tion”. Some of this year’s par­tic­i­pants in­cluded Allen Moore, who was go­ing for his third straight win in a row, Ray Redington, Jr., the grand­son of an ,Gi­tarog IOXNGHR -Hff .inj con­sid­ered the “Win­ningest Musher in the World” who last ran the Quest 25 years ago (let’s hear it for the older gen­er­a­tion!) and my fave, Brent Sass, the come­back kid from Alaska. Last year he was neck and neck with Moore for the win un­til he IHOO AVOHHS nhar thh ᦐnao Fh­hfn­soint TXMEOHG off hiv VOHG ang hit hiv hhag on the ice. He spent most of the last year re­hab­bing from the re­sult­ing con­cus­sion. His main con­cern was that he let down his dogs, but as he told us at the pre-event ban­quet, “I’m feel­ing good now and ready to go kick some butt!”

(Spoiler Alert: Brent Sass won the 2015 Yukon Quest cham­pion, com­plet­ing the 1,000 mile course in 9 days, 12 hours and 49 min­utes. Yippee!)

Dur­ing the night we would un­wind from all the heart-pound­ing ex­cite­ment at the Yukon Arts Cen­tre, home to the 10th an­nual Avail­able Light Film Fes­ti­val. This iv &ana­gaܟv OARJHVT IHATXRH ᦐOm fes­ti­val north of 60 and fea­tures thh ᦐn­hvt in Fon­thm­so­rary &ana­gian and In­ter­na­tional cinema. The hi­jhoi­jht hhrh Zhifh Ghᦐnithoy jump started my heart again) was a riv­et­ing per­for­mance by Tanya Ta­gaq, the Billy Hol­l­i­day of Inuit throat singers, in con­cert with the

Viohnt ᦐOm 1anoon oi thh North re­sult­ing in one of the most emo­tion­ally haunt­ing ar­range­ments I’ve ever wit­nessed.

DIY Dog Sled­ding

This is just about the most fun you can have that doesn’t in­volve choco­late -- no wait, I take that back be­cause when we broke for a tummy-warm­ing lunch of home­made chili and brown bread, there were yummy, gooey brown­ies for dessert. THH Far­inj Vtaff at 6Ny +ijh Wilder­ness (of both their guests and their 150 dogs) is used to rook­ies so you can sim­ply show up, bun­dle up, and sign your life away. Then, faster than you can build a Vnoz­man YOXܟOO ᦐng YOXRVHOI mxvhinj along the trails guid­ing your team of dogs like a sea­soned pro.

I adored my wildly en­thu­si­as­tic dog team, par­tic­u­larly my lead dog, Vel­vet, whom I was dy­ing to bring home with me. Rac­ing along the wind­ing for­est trails, hear­ing lit­tle more than whoosh of the sled and the pant­ing dogs as they ea­gerly strained at the an­chor in search of more speed, squint­ing against the VXN Joivth­n­inj off thh Vnoz Fryv­taov I could see how easy it would be to get hooked on this sport. Over lunch we met Jo­ce­lyne Leblanc, one of the own­ers, who re­galed us with some amaz­ing sto­ries of run­ning the 2010 Yukon Quest, win­ning both the Red Lantern Award and the Chal­lenge of the North Award. Tip: At Sky High you can sign up for any­thing from the wussi­est ver­sion, where you just sit back in the sled, snug­gled un­der the blan­ket while they squire you around for an hour, or go all the way for a hard-core, two-week Back County Mush­ing and Win­ter Camp­ing ex­pe­di­tion.

In­fi­nite Road-trip choices

Breath­tak­ing roads trips are the norm here. You’re more likely to en­counter a run-in with a moose cross­ing the high­way than en­counter any­thinj RHVHMEOINJ a traf­fif Mam here, so rent a car in White­horse, Yukon’s cap­i­tal, and head out on any of the 4,800 kilo­me­ters of scenic high­ways that beckon. You might want to start with the le­gendary

Alaskan High­way, across the Arc­tic Cir­cle or fol­low the his­toric Klondike High­way to the au­then­tic fron­tier town of Daw­son City, which was Ground Zero dur­ing the Klondike Gold Rush.

Tip: Keep your eyes peeled for all sorts of quirky road­side pit stops such as the Brae­burn Lodge, about half­way be­tween White­horse and Daw­son, where you can try their fa­mous $10 cin­na­mon buns, which are roughly the size of your head.

›irdős-eƕe Ǝieə or² as the saƕinä shoſĉd äo± ō Þiäht is Əorth a thoſsand Əord­sŀŏ

Tan­inj a JOAFIHR ᦑi­jht VHHINJ he­li­copter ride over Klu­ane Na­tional Park, a des­ig­nated UNESCO World +Hri­tajh 6ith ᦐOOHG Zith oyhr glaciers, should be on ev­ery­one’s bucket list. We went with Klu­ane He­li­copters. It’s a bit of a splurge at around $2,200 an hour, but you can bring along 3 bud­dies to share the cost, and per their web­site, they have “THE BEST DAMN PILOTSPERIOD!” This is kind of im­por­tant VINFH YOXܟOO EH ᦑy­inj oyhr thh OARJHVT non Sooar IFH ᦐHOG in thh ZOROG $V I snapped pic­tures of the mys­ti­cal snow-white cov­ered moun­tain peaks and shock­ing turquoise-ac­cented ser­acs (dra­matic col­umns of glacial IFH , IHOT av ii , ZHRH ᦑy­inj oyhr thh lost king­dom of Shangri-la.

Wicą ƕoſr pace Øroē snoə-shoeinä² snoəēo›iĉinä or ice-fish­inä

If you can’t de­cide which to do, the award-win­ning adventure com­pany, Up North Ad­ven­tures, is happy to let you mix it up. For those short on time, or if you’re a city slicker with a short at­ten­tion span, check out their Multi-ac­tiv­ity Tour, which lets you dab­ble in dog sled­ding, snow­mo­bil­ing, to­bog­gan­ing and Vnozvho­hinj AOO in onh IXN ᦐOOHG af­ter­noon.

One of the own­ers, Mark, was our guide and I swear he is the Macgyver of the Yukon. He showed us how to read an­i­mal tracks (very cool) and shared many out­door sur­vival tips.

Tip: If you’re in the mar­ket to pick up some se­ri­ous skills, Up North AGYHNTXRH ox­tᦐt­thrv aovo offhr <Xnon Avalanche Cour­ses and Wilder­ness First Re­spon­der classes.

'aƛe in Əon­derēent at the Eorth­ern >iähts± ōche ›est shoə on earthöŏ

There we were, bun­dled to the max, wait­ing for our night­time pickup by an adventure tour op­er­a­tor from

North­ern Tales, who would be driv­ing XV oxt oi tozn to ZITNHVV thh VFI ᦐ neon green wisps that make up the nat­u­ral phe­nom­e­non known as The Au­rora Bo­re­alis/north­ern Lights. Our JXIGH GROSSHG XV off at thhir Fo]y fa­cil­i­ties (or as cozy as you can get at mi­nus 30 de­grees) which were a clus­ter of his­toric wall tents, like those once used by gold min­ers. There where snacks, hot drinks and a mar­vhmhoooz roavt­inj Fam­sᦐrh wait­ing for us.

The en­thu­si­as­tic guides were ex­tremely knowl­edge­able about au­rora pho­tog­ra­phy and happy to as­sist you with cam­era set­tings or loan you a tri­pod.

I had re­ally been look­ing for­ward to Frovvinj thiv onh off my ܢTo 'o Be­fore I Die” list, but un­for­tu­nately I’ll have to take “The Bard of the Yukon” , Robert Ser­vice’s word that: “The skies of the night were alive with light, with a throb­bing, thrilling ᦑamh ܣ VINFH ZH VAZ naga on oxr view­ing night. How­ever even if the lights didn’t come out to play, sip­ping co­coa un­der the starry sky in such pris­tine wilder­ness was still a mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence.

Tip: We also joined North­ern Tales for an in­ter­est­ing dou­ble-hit­ter which be­gan with a tour of the Yukon Wildlife Pre­serve, a 700-acre wildlife sanc­tu­ary fea­tur­ing 11 species of north­ern Cana­dian mam­mals in their nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, rang­ing from Wood­land Cari­bou and Alaska Yukon Moose to Wood Bi­son that we were told weighed as much as a Honda Civic!

Af­ter­wards, we re­laxed with a most wel­come soak in the ther­a­peu­tic Takhini Hot­springs. It was a hoot com­par­ing our ice-cov­ered hair­dos. You can even take a pic­ture and en­ter their Frozen Hair Con­test. Word is that their café serves del­ish crepes.

REĈAƔ in stƕĉish coēøort

As fea­tured in Martha Ste­wart

Liv­ing, The Inn On The Lake, lo­cated about ½ hour drive from White­horse, offhrv thh Xo­ti­math XSVFAOH <Xnon re­treat.

The hos­pitable chef/owner Car­son 6Fhiffnorn ang hiv Vtaff SROYIGH a warm set­ting per­fect for a lit­tle in­door pam­per­ing. Thaw out as you VIS a ᦐnh &ana­gian Zinh in Iront oi thh HXJH Vtonh ᦐRHSOAFH in thh ,nnܟv Great Room be­fore in­dulging in a gourmet four-course meal fea­tur­ing or­ganic veg­eta­bles, freshly for­aged mush­rooms, lo­cal bi­son, salmon and Arc­tic Char, all ar­tis­ti­cally pre­sented Ey 6Fhiffnorn ang &HHI &oraohh Although the 15 rooms and cot­tages are all comfy with rus­tic/chic style, try the Ex­ec­u­tive Jacuzzi Suite, where you can ap­pre­ci­ate the North­ern Lights neon light show from your hot tub!

zſēēƕ >ocaĉ ats

The food here might not be haute but it sure is tasty! I chowed down on some mighty tasty trea­sures that ZHRH IORAJHG ᦐVHHG HARYHVTHG ang hunted fresh from the wilds, such as lo­cal game, Arc­tic Char, greens, morels, honey and berries. I was sur­prised how­ever, that I never had any sour­dough bread. What’s up with that?

Here are some of my fave restos. The ᦐrvt thrhh arh in :hith­horvh ang thh last one is in Daw­son City:

Rob­byn’s Street Grill: for their should-be-world-fa­mous Yukon bi­son burger topped with ba­con, mozza and hick­ory glaze with a side of IXNNHG XS 1HZᦐH )rihv Frivsy IRIHV TOSSHG Zith txrnhy Vtxffinj ang gravy-carbo heaven.

For a gourmet meal head to Gior­gio’s Cuc­cina, an up­scale Mediter­ranean restau­rant that is al­ways packed with a cel­e­bra­tory bunch, but no wor­ries, the ex­u­ber­ant owner, Gior­gio, treats you like a guest of

honor 6tart Zith thh ᦑam­inj Sa­ganaki Cheese and then fol­low it up with a huge pile of divine Alaskan Red King Crab legs, lo­cal Arc­tic char or bi­son ribs.

As im­pres­sive as the am­biance was at The Wheel­house, dec­o­rated with gen­uine pe­riod fur­nish­ings and archival pho­tos from the stern­wheeler era, the food and wine were equally im­pres­sive. I or­dered (and loved) all my lo­cal picks, start­ing with Alder­wood Smoked Char Dip fol­lowed by Grilled Arc­tic Char and end­ing with a de­lec­ta­ble Low Bush Cran­berry & Ap­ple Galette topped with birch caramel yo­gurt and salted wal­nuts!

For au­then­tic Greek cui­sine, mi­nus the jet lag, head to The Drunken Goat Tav­erna for gar­gan­tuan plat­ters of Greek spe­cial­ties such as cala­mari, spanako­pita, hum­mus and their killer lamb chops. If it’s packed (which is the usu­ally case) then head next door, where the same menu is avail­able at their Billy Goat pub.

Tip: Keep in mind that they serve hu­mon­gous por­tions in the Yukon, which sure worked for me!

Eot-to-›e-ēissed Reäionaĉ rinąs

White­horse is home to the Yukon Brew­ing Com­pany, an award-win­ning brew­ery that was con­ceived in 1997 by two ca­noe-pad­dling bud­dies and now sells over 850,000 liters a year. They won the Cana­dian Beer of the Year in 2009 for their ad­dic­tive Yukon Red (of­ten a sold-out); how­ever they al­ways have some­thing ex­cit­ing up their sod­den sleeve. Check them out on Face­book for their cre­ative spe­cials such as a spe­cial Bo­nanza Brown with raisins, sugar and vanilla.

Time your visit for the 2:00 p.m. tour for $10 per per­son. I loved the fact that all the money goes to a lo­cal char­ity, so you’re not just get­ting drunk mid­day, you’re be­ing phil­an­thropic!

You can tour the brew­ery, hear how they make their craft beers, and end with a tast­ing of eight beers, as well as their botan­i­cal vodka, Sol­stice, which is in­fused with rasp­ber­ries, rose hips and sage.

$V Giffhrhnt av thhir EHHRV arh for some­thing truly unique, The Down­town Ho­tel in Daw­son City has them beat. I’m go­ing out on a limb here, but I feel it’s safe to say that this is the only place in the uni­verse where you can belly up to the bar and or­der a Sour Toe Cock­tail, a shot of 40 proof al­co­hol that is then gar­nished with an am­pu­tated hx­man toh THH ᦐrvt toh GATHG EAFN to 1920 and came from a frost­bit­ten rum run­ner.

To be­come a mem­ber of this nonHoitivt FOXE yox mxvt Say ᦐrvt to the reign­ing Sour Toe Mas­ter. He will then open the old wooden case that HOOGV a VTAFN oi of­fi­fiao Fhrtiᦐ­fathv and jar of salt where the gnarly big toe is buried. He digs out the toe, drops it in your glass, and de­liv­ers the fol­low­ing Harry Pot­ter-like in­can­ta­tion: “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow-- but the lips have gotta touch the toe.” If you fol­low these di­rec­tives with­out swal­low­ing the toe (which re­sults in a ᦐnh yox arh AZARGHG a mh­mehrvhis Fhrtiᦐ­fath , am thh proud 57,924th mem­ber of the Sour Toe Cock­tail Club, which be­gan on 1973.

ſt per­haps their äreat­est re­soſrce is the peopĉe

There is no way to de­scribe Yukon­ers be­cause they are truly inim­itable. But if I were to try, I’d say in gen­eral they are hos­pitable, out­doorsy, to­tally crazy, tough as nails, tena­cious, fun-lov­ing, quirky, ded­i­cated, fas­ci­nat­ing and to­tally un­for­get­table.

For other ways to have fun in the Yukon (365 days a year) visit


Even the snow­men wel­come you with open arms in the Yukon!

Over­look­ing White­horse, Yukon’s cap­i­tal

I don’t know why he wouldn’t let me steer!

What the lucky peeps saw dur­ing North­ern Tales Au­rora tour

Who wouldn’t love this face?v

Pic en­tered in Takhini Hot­springs Hair Freez­ing Con­test

Brett Sass Wins! Credit: Yukon Quest-pat Kane

The in­fa­mous Sour­toe

Col­or­ful houses to brighten up the win­ter in Daw­son City

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