Mild weather brings shaky start to Yukon's winter tourism season

It's too early to be anxious, but some tour operators hope colder weather arrives soon. Whitehorse's ski hill opened last weekend, but it may close again.

Cancelled sled dog tours, and a possible false start to ski season as Yukoners wait for the cold

'We did lose quite a bit of business already this winter,' said Manuela Larsen at Whitehorse's Muktuk Adventures. (Steve Hossack/CBC)

Manuela Larsen, owner-operator of a sled dog outfitter in Whitehorse, is not yet anxious about her winter season — it's only November, after all — but she is noting that things seem a little delayed this year.

"We had to cancel a few bookings," she said. "I don't know what's going to happen, because we haven't had any real cold yet."

Larsen says in past years, her business, Muktuk Adventures, has been operating sled dog tours by mid-November. By the end of November, lakes and rivers were typically frozen solid enough to travel on. That seems to be changing, she says.
Muktuk Adventures' sled dogs need frozen rivers and lakes for trails. (Steve Hossack/CBC)

"It's getting later and later," she said. "They are nowhere near frozen like they used to be in the past."

She says last winter was stressful for her business, with just a "bare minimum of snow and cold."

Larsen says she was pleased to see some fresh snow fall this week around Whitehorse, but she'd prefer a serious cold snap. Her business relies on frozen rivers and lakes for trails. 

"We don't need a whole lot of snow for sledding … but if there's no ice, there's nothing we can do."

Ski hill may shut down again

The milder weather this month has not been as big a problem at the Mount Sima ski hill, but the managers there are also hoping to see the mercury drop — at least a little bit.

Whitehorse's Mount Sima was open to the public last weekend and also hosted some competitive skiers for early-season training. This week's warmer weather may force the hill to temporarily close again. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

The ski hill has been making snow since October, and opened to the public last weekend. It may have been a false start to the season.

"I believe this week looks like we might have to shut down again, because of the warm temperatures," said Cindy Chandler, the ski hill's general manager.

"Minus five, and anything below that, is perfect for us."

According to Environment Canada, daytime temperatures in Whitehorse will be hovering around the freezing point through the week. Colder weather is expected by the weekend.

Environment Canada's seasonal forecast for Yukon, however, predicts a slightly warmer-than-normal winter. 

A map from Environment Canada, produced in October, shows the whole country is expecting a warmer winter this year. Yukon is predicted to see temperatures only slightly above normal. (Environment Canada)

With files from Steve Hossack


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