More N.W.T. athletes trying out for AWG after vaccine policy lifted

Trials for all but one Arctic Winter Games sport are starting next week in the N.W.T. Sport North says more athletes signed up after the vaccine policy was lifted, and no one has asked for a refund.

Snowboarding is the only sport that chose its athletes before the change

An athlete from Alberta throws up his hands in triumph and exhaustion at the 2018 Arctic Winter Games in the N.W.T. The games are taking place in Wood Buffalo, Alta., in early 2023. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

A recent decision to lift the vaccination policy for the Arctic Winter Games means six more people in the N.W.T. get to participate in next week's trials, says Sport North.

A total of 761 athletes, coaches and chaperones are now participating in trials in 18 sports, Bill Othmer, Sport North's executive director, told CBC News in an email. 

The trials determine which athletes will go to the games next year in Wood Buffalo, Alta. 

Othmer said it was "fortunate" the Arctic Winter Games International Committee change came on Nov. 18, before trials in the N.W.T. had started. It meant Sport North could rescind its own vaccination policy and welcome previously barred athletes to register for trials. 

Snowboarding was the only sport where it was too late — those athletes were already chosen in Fort Smith last winter, said Othmer. 

Sport North also offered refunds to anyone who didn't want to compete anymore, but Othmer said no one wanted their money back. 

A file photo of Matthew Brown trying out for Dene games in Yukon ahead of the 2018 Arctic Winter Games. (Max Leighton/CBC)

Trials are happening in a couple of different communities starting Thursday and ending Saturday. Yellowknife is hosting trials for basketball, crosscountry skiing, gymnastics, futsal, volleyball, curling, archery, speed skating, wrestling and badminton. 

Hay River will host trials for biathlon ski and biathlon snowshoe, Arctic sports trials will take place in Inuvik, Dene games trials are in Dettah, table tennis trials are in Fort Providence and snowshoeing trials are in Fort McPherson. 

Change in some travel plans

Sport North is asking 20 athletes and coaches from Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic to change their travel plans for the upcoming trials because an ice crossing over the Mackenzie River has opened. 

Instead of having participants fly into Inuvik and spend a night, Othmer said Sport North was working with the communities to organize a convoy of vehicles that would drive to Inuvik on Wednesday morning to meet a chartered flight. 

Sport North is reimbursing people for travel costs, he said. 


Liny Lamberink


Liny Lamberink is a reporter for CBC North. She moved to Yellowknife in March 2021, after working as a reporter and newscaster in Ontario for five years. She can be reached at