The Yukon is one of the top spots in the world to see the Northern Lights. Fresh Tracks Canada spoke to Torsten Eder, founder of Northern Tales (1) in Whitehorse, about the wonder of seeing the Northern Lights for the first time — and why you should make the Yukon a travel destination.
What are the advantages of using a tour to see the Northern Lights?
Torsten Eder: There are a couple good reasons. One would definitely be safety, because you are with a guide in a vehicle that is equipped for the area’s winter road conditions. Our guides are also used to driving in these winter conditions. We sometimes see people that haven't booked a tour being on the road in the middle of the night, parked and outside of the vehicles — so it can be quite dangerous if you don't know what you're doing.
Then of course, there’s the comfort. You can sit in a vehicle where it’s minus 20 outside and wait for the Northern Lights. But at our viewing facilities you have the campfire outside and the warmth inside, plus hot drinks and snacks. It's just a more comfortable experience.
Plus, you also get the interpretation of our guides, with explanations about the Northern Lights and stories about the area.
Those are that the main reasons to book a guided tour.
Discover our Northern Lights of the Yukon trip.
What are guests most surprised about when they actually see the Northern Lights?
Torsten Eder: It's a good question. When one sees them in real life, it's nothing like you’d expect from pictures or video. The canvas is so huge — you have the whole sky in front of you and they do move really fast and cover these huge distances. They can go from East to West across the whole sky in five seconds. People are also amazed by the colours and the colour changes that happen fairly fast, the pinks and the purples on the bottom when the curtains of light move.
It is neat to see as a guide to see how people show their emotions when the lights show up. Everyone is quite happy and excited because, as you know, they they're not out there all the time.
When one sees them in real life, it's nothing like you’d expect from pictures or video.
Speaking of that, can you tell us about the Northern Lights forecast?
Torsten Eder: The Northern Lights forecast is basically based on satellites and other instruments measuring the solar wind. The Northern Lights depend on solar flares or explosions on the sun. Depending on the direction and the velocity of the solar winds, those flares throw electronically charged particles away from the sun toward Earth. The raw data from the satellites is transferred into the forecast. It's not as good as the weather forecast by far. It gives you an indication of what might happen. We’ve had awesome Northern Lights when they said zero chance. We tell our clients not to rely on it to book their trip. If the forecast looks promising, there is a good chance. But they shouldn't get discouraged or not come because the forecast is low.
Even if you don’t see the Northern Lights, there are lots of great things to do. What are your favorite activities to recommend?
Torsten Eder: Dog sledding is definitely one of the most popular ones and funs activities. The tours are geared towards beginners and are quite accessible. Snowmobiling is also a great activity to add on. These tours are also meant for beginners and it's extremely easy to operate a snowmobile. It gets you into the remote areas faster than dog sledding. Both are completely different ways to travel the winter landscape, but both are equally attractive and fun for people who have never done them before.
What would you recommend for people who want a more relaxing vacation?
Torsten Eder: I would suggest the Southern Lakes Resort, where they have their own cabin or villa. It’s easier to just relax, read your book, maybe go for a snowshoe hike and come back and have a nap — depending on what you would like to do.
If someone would prefer to be in the city, the new Nordic Eclipse Hot Springs are now open. Their approach is more like a spa or Japanese onsen, so very relaxing.
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