|The Adventure Zone
|A breathtaking aurora borealis performance in the Yukon.
(Photo: Torsten Eder)
Dancing in the Northern Night Sky
Chasing the Aurora Borealis in Canada's Arctic
By Christopher Mason
Six years ago Torsten Eder was new to the Canadian North. Recently
arrived in Whitehorse from Germany, Eder was driving his truck into
town one evening when Yukon's glowing night sky drew him to a sudden
halt. There, above him in all directions was the humbling, glowing
green phenomenon of the northern lights, or aurora borealis as they
"It took me a minute to realize what I was seeing," Eder says. "It was
beautiful and really just breathtaking."
It did not take long for Eder to become so taken with the unique
beauty of the northern lights that he began leading winter tours so
other visitors could experience them.
"It's so much fun to watch the guests who see them for the first
time," says Eder, owner of Nature
Tours of Yukon Inc. in Whitehorse.
"They're clapping and cheering and so happy. It's wonderful to see."
The shimmering lights are the product of interaction between charged
solar particles and atmosphereic gases and their dance in the night
skies draw thousands of visitors annually into the Canadian North. The
aurora borealis season in the Yukon begins in November though the
start date can vary depending on the conditions and the region. The
light shows stretch into March and sometimes even into early April.
Visitors come from all over, but especially elsewhere in Canada, the
southern U.S. and Mexico, Eder says.
Nature is a finicky creature, so it is difficult to predict when the
aurora borealis will be at its best. But Eder says he typically tells
customers that if they stay for a few days during clear weather they
can expect to see the lights. To round out the experience in case the
sky is cloudy or the snow is thick, Eder tells his guests to book
activities during the days to ensure the experience will be memorable
Besides the lights there are plenty of other adventures to pursue
during the days while the excitement grows for the impending darkness
and the lure of the lights grows strong. People come to the North for
the total experience, which includes outdoor adventures such as dog
sledding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. Communities across the Arctic
are filled with interesting characters and loads of culture, adding to
the overall experience.
"We're on the fringe here in the Yukon," Eder says in describing the
locals. "It's difficult to describe so it's something you really need
to experience in person."
The tourism agencies in each of the three territories provide listings
of operators. Because of the vastness of the regions, the seasons and
conditions can vary so do some research and contact operators to get
the latest information on aurora borealis viewing.
How do you get through the waning weeks of winter?