Virginia Labelle didn’t learn to dive in the Yukon, but that’s where she teaches others how to do it.
“I was entranced by scuba after a ‘See It/Try It’ experience at the old Whitehorse Lions Pool. So on our family vacation to Thailand in 1998, I learned how to dive with Big Blue on Koh Tao,” said Labelle, owner and operator of Yukon Scuba.
Labelle is originally from Montreal and lived in Toronto for three years before deciding she wanted to live somewhere with easier access to the outdoors. She had the opportunity to move North, not knowing anyone, and drove her silver Datsun 710 up the Alaska Highway in 1979. She has since trained hundreds of divers, both in the pool and in Chadburn Lake. After she learned to dive in Thailand in 1998, it became her passion.
“I love scuba diving, and found that I also loved teaching people to scuba dive,” said Labelle. “I trained as a divemaster in Belize, then followed up with instructor training in Utila, Honduras later that year. After a year or so, I realized that there was a market here for good quality dive gear at reasonable prices, especially for equipment that you need to try on first, like masks and fins, so I started bringing in some retail goods. Yukon Scuba has most gear in stock and can obtain the rest for our customers.”
Yukoners can start learning to dive as early as 10 years old.
“There are lots of divers in the Yukon, but most choose to dive in warmer water, preferably with palm trees,” said Labelle. “Training with Yukon Scuba helps people make the most of their personal and vacation time. Divers use Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) online eLearning for their knowledge/theory, and then learn to dive over three evenings in the pool. To complete their certification, they only need to do four open water dives with another instructor on their holidays. Or join me in Chadburn Lake in the summer.“
However, for people who are hesitant about making a big diving commitment right away, a one evening Discover Scuba Diving program is also offered.
“We go over the safety issues and equipment, then start off in the shallow end of the pool,” said Labelle. “Once everyone is comfortable, we head into the deep end to enjoy that great feeling of weightlessness!”Yukon Scuba also partners with Moredragons Scuba Services and Midnight Sun Dive Club, as well as the City of Whitehorse, Lotteries Yukon, and the Arctic Institute of North America and Kluane Research Station for shore and underwater cleanups in the summer. Sites include the ‘19th Tee’ at Schwatka Lake (hundreds of golf balls), the Schwatka Lake boat launch (bottles, cans, sunglasses), Chadburn Lake (more bottles and cans) and Kluane Lake.
Yukon Scuba also partners with others to sponsor a see-it/try-it event at the Canada Games Centre pool, celebrating International Women’s Dive Day in mid-July. Scuba diving is a surreal experience. “My favourite warm water destination is Bali,” said Labelle. “The combination of amazing fish and critters like octopus and seahorses, along with beautiful topography and soft corals, is hard to beat. Oh wait, did I mention the manta rays and mola mola (giant sunfish)? For cold water, Browning Pass off the north shore of Vancouver Island is definitely primo. It’s so full of marine life, you don’t know where to look first!”
Do you want to try it and discover the underwater marvels? For more information, visit YukonScuba.com.