travel / adventure zone

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 are known.

"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 regardless.

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.

Northwest Territories

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