THE SOURDOUGH RENDEZVOUS FESTIVAL/WHITEHORSE (Feb. 25 to 28)
After hiding for months from sub-zero temperatures, Yukoners shake the collective cabin fever by dancing in mukluks, tossing chainsaws, and competing in flour-packing, axe-throwing and tug-a-truck contests in a carnival-like atmosphere in downtown Whitehorse. Fiddlers and comedy acts are part of this four-day festival, during which smooshing (teams of five people strap their feet on two-by-fours and race down the street) is the favoured mode of travel. Costumes are a mandatory part of the festivities—any man caught by the “Keystone Kops” without a beard, or a woman not donning a garter belt in plain sight, is open to ridicule and paraded through the streets in a jail cell on wheels.
SUNRISE FESTIVAL/INUVIK (Jan. 9)
During the summer, Canada’s northernmost town enjoys roughly 56 days of around-the-clock daylight. But come December, Inuvik (which lies two degrees above the Arctic Circle) is blanketed in darkness. So it’s of little surprise that locals of the naturally beautiful town, which straddles the treeless tundra and northern boreal forest, celebrate the return of the sun in early January. Though a rather simple festival—the townspeople gather for fireworks and a community bonfire as the sun first shimmers over the horizon—it’s one of the purest ways of celebrating a connection with the land.
Whether you’re at the helm, commanding a team of dogs in the wintry landscape, or sitting back and enjoying the scenery and leaving the driving for the pros, a hot beverage around the crackling wood stove once it’s all done is a perfect way to cap off the day.
KUGLUK/BLOODY FALLS TERRITORIAL PARK
For anyone wanting to view a landscape relatively untouched for thousands of years, the Kugluk/Bloody Falls Territorial Park is the site to see. Kugluk is the historical site of winter houses used by the Thule culture (ancestors of the Inuit), and a place to check remnants of caribou-hunting camps dating back 1,500 years. For safety reasons, however, it’s highly recommended that winter visitors travel with an outfitter who has a good grasp of the area. And don’t forget a toque.