This athlete trains to snowshoe at the Arctic Winter Games halfway across the world — with no snow

In a few weeks, Julienne Chipesia will travel halfway across the world to get to the competition from England where she is currently in her first year of law school at the University of Bristol. Last month, she travelled over 6,000 kilometres just to qualify for the games.

18-year-old Julienne Chipesia goes to school in England, but is originally from Inuvik, N.W.T.

Julienne Chipesia is in her first year of law school at the University of Bristol in England, but will travel to Whitehorse next month to compete at the Arctic Winter Games. (Submitted by Julienne Chipesia)

Athletes from across the North are preparing to compete in next month's Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse — but for Julienne Chipesia, the journey she is taking to get there is much longer than for most people. 

In a few weeks, Chipesia will travel halfway across the world to get to the competition from England, where she is currently in her first year of law school at the University of Bristol.

This won't be the first time she has had to make a big trip for the games. 

Last month, Chipesia travelled more than 6,000 kilometres just to qualify for the games in her hometown of Inuvik, N.W.T.

'No snow in England'

As if going to law school in a new country wasn't difficult enough, she is also training for the snow-based sport in rainy weather. But Chipesia is committed to snowshoeing and maintains a vigorous training schedule.

She was very confident, very dedicated, very passionate.- David Shears, Yellowknife coach

"There's unfortunately no snow in England but I am maintaining my endurance with the running group, which we run three times a week."

Julienne Chipesia winning bronze in the 2018 Arctic Winter Games in Hay River, N.W.T. This year she is hoping to take home the gold. (Submitted by Julienne Chipesia)

When she isn't running outside, Chipesia is going to the gym and running on the treadmill to maintain her cardio. She also keeps in touch with one of her coaches in Inuvik about her training goals on a regular basis.

David Shears, her other coach based in Yellowknife, said Chipesia was very impressive during her trials, where she placed first in her age group.

Chipesia admits it is a challenge balancing all of her homework and readings with training, but the challenge is worth it — because the games hold such a special place in her heart. (Submitted by Julienne Chipesia)

"I was very impressed with her at the territorial trials — she was very confident, very dedicated, very passionate," said Shears.

Chipesia said being an athlete in the games has actually helped her with law school, because she learned about time management and being determined.

Another huge support in her journey has been her mother, Wanda McDonald, who lives in Inuvik and has supported Chipesia's athletic training in multiple sports throughout her life.

McDonald said she is proud of how her daughter has kept the same level of dedication to her training while studying abroad.

"I think she has an advantage training in England because she can actually train outside," said McDonald.

Being a role model

The upcoming games are particularly important to Chipesia, as they will be the last ones she competes in after participating in the past three games.

"I also want to be a role model for people back home to show that I'm still able to go to the Arctic Winter Games even though I'm halfway across the world."

Chipesia's mother, Wanda McDonald, supporting her daughter at the trials in Inuvik last month. McDonald will make the trip to Whitehorse to support Chipesia in the 2020 Arctic Winter Games. (Submitted by Julienne Chipesia)

This year her goal is to take a gold medal with her back to Bristol, where she hopes to teach her fellow classmates more about the importance of the games.

This year's Arctic Winter Games are in Whitehorse from March 15 to 21.


Danielle d'Entremont

Reporter/Editor CBC North

Danielle d'Entremont is a reporter and editor for the CBC in Whitehorse.  Most recently she worked reporting in Yellowknife, after working as a national news reader for CBC Toronto. She has also worked for CBC Nova Scotia in her hometown of Halifax. When she isn't chasing stories she is on the search for the best hiking trails around town.  Send her your story ideas to


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