A Northern City That Works

Sunday, January 10, I was sitting in front of our propane fireplace, watching Meet The Press, while my fiancée was surfing the Net on her laptop for kitchen renovation ideas. Outside, I could see the most miserable weather: it was a constant snowfall that was being whipped into every exposed face at a furious rate. But not in ours … not in our snug, warm home. I was thinking, “Yeah, this is what it means to be a Yukoner.”

We had the same entertainment and information available to us as anywhere else in North America, even though winter’s worst was just eight inches away on the other side of our exterior retrofitted walls.

I was wrong. The moment that I truly felt what it was like to be a Yukoner was the next morning when I drove into town.

By that time, 12 centimetres of snow had fallen and everything that I had taken for granted that morning … happened.

I could hear a far-off neighbour spinning their tires in their driveway. By the time I walked to the end of mine, three closer neighbours had already dug in their feet and had started pushing. I wasn’t surprised.

Our street hadn’t been plowed yet, nor would it be for another four months. But, really, I wouldn’t want to pay taxes in a city that could afford a fleet and staff that could clear every street before 8 a.m. So I backed onto the street in our truck with the good snow tires.

Turning onto Alsek, I was not surprised that it, indeed, had been cleared of snow already.

Two hours earlier, while I was dreaming of chasing squirrels, professionals were doing that “diesel dance” of theirs, just as they always do.

Even though half as much snow would close down most major cities, every school I passed was open.

In one particular Canadian city, with this much snow, the army would have been called in.

Yet, school buses lumbered past while tiny puffs of Thinsulate, in wrappings of nylon, just bent a little farther forward into the headwind as they found their way to school on muscle memory and will.

I was on my way to mail a parcel, and I did it on this blustery morning because I said I would. Could I have been excused because it snows in the Yukon sometimes? I don’t think so! My determination and singleness of purpose was matched only by, well, everybody else in this city.

Canada Post had opened five minutes early that morning for the sole reason that a customer showed up five minutes early. If her colleagues would be out there delivering mail to kiosks and doors, then by gum she would do her part, too.

Stopping at Mac’s Fireweed Books, I picked up on a slightly nuanced air of superiority that permeates this entire city in the winter. It’s as if the store’s staff congratulated themselves for standing up to a Yukon winter by treating it as just another day.

Heck, I had that air of superiority all over me; after all, isn’t that what defines a Yukoner? We know we live in the most beautiful corner of the world. Yet it is a place that many, many people could not survive in. Well, they could, but they won’t even try.

And, next month, we will party with the cold and the snow during Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous.

On a day when temperature is measured in how long it takes for exposed skin to freeze, we watch men and women carry flour on their backs.

And, you know, I think I will mention the name of that “one particular Canadian city” that calls out the army when it snows. It was Toronto. OK, so it was 80 centimetres of snow and not 12, but c’mon! Where’s your pride?

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