Heat wave destroys 'igloo village' outside Inuvik, impacts Muskrat Jamboree

This year’s curiously warm winter in Inuvik, N.W.T., is having some serious repercussions for the town’s tourism industry.

Organizers asking people not to park on ice during event

Unseasonably warm weather destroyed Tundra North Tours' igloo about a month early this year. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

This year's curiously warm winter in Inuvik, N.W.T., is having some serious repercussions for the town's tourism industry.

As of late February, the average temperature sat around 10 degrees warmer than usual, at –16.5 C, and the heat has persisted through March as well.

Kylik Kisoun Taylor runs Tundra North Tours, a company that spends about a month every winter building an ice village for tourists about 60 kilometres north of Inuvik.

"We had about eight igloos out there and tents set up, and ice sculptures and a fire pit, things like that," said Kisoun-Taylor. "Our whole village fell down, like everything is destroyed."

When it's up and running, the village is a place where tourists can play cultural games, eat traditional foods, view the aurora, snowshoe, and hike. At night, they sleep in an igloo.

An aerial view of the igloo village from last year. (Submitted by Kylik Kisoun Taylor)

Kisoun Taylor says his team and his customers have adapted to the warm weather. A few of the igloos were still in good enough condition to be fixed so they could be used at night, when it got cold again. During the day, the group spent more time outside, basking in the sunshine that melted their village.

"We set up a picnic table … and we could still snowmobile around so it was still great," he said. 

Usually the village starts falling prey to the sun in late April, so this year's melt is significantly earlier than usual. Kisoun Taylor says his team is just rolling with the punches, working to rebuild the village for the next group of tourists he's set to host.

"That's the North," said Kisoun-Taylor. "If it bothers you, you're probably living in the wrong place."

Next year, he said he's planning to invest in equipment to help insulate the snow and ice structures from the sunshine.

No parking on ice during jamboree: organizers

The impact of this warm weather isn't limited to Tundra North Tours. Inuvik's premier spring festival, the Muskrat Jamboree, is also forced to adapt.

Greta Sittichinli is the chair of the committee that organizes the event, which is entering its 62nd year.

Greta Sittichinli says organizers are asking people not to park on the ice during this weekend's Muskrat Jamboree. (Submitted by Greta Sittichinli)

Usually everybody just heads down to the Mackenzie River, parks their trucks on the ice and enjoys the festivities. This year, Sittichinli is asking people to keep their vehicles on land, just in case the ice can't handle the weight.

"We know weather is one of those things we can't control," she said. "It's warmer and there are concerns about safety, so we want people to be safe."

The jamboree organizers are also racing to keep trails intact so people will be able to enjoy Ski-Doo races this year.

"We're playing it by ear," she said. "Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday it's supposed to drop down to colder temperatures so we're watching it, and we're not using the regular equipment we would usually use for making the Ski-Doo trek."

Sittichinli says people should watch the Muskrat Jamboree website and Facebook page for updates.

The jamboree runs April 5 through 8.

Written by Randi Beers, based on interviews by Mackenzie Scott


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