Secretly, I am a little bit excited that the snow has arrived.
True, this will be my first full winter in Whitehorse, so it may only be a matter of time before I am less enthusiastic. But for now, I think it is great.
I think, in part, I am excited because the snow is a welcome relief from those dreary days in October when everything is grey and brown and muddy. But I am also thrilled because snow makes the Preserve even more beautiful than virtually any other time of year.
This, I have discovered, is one of the best-kept secrets in Whitehorse and one that I have vowed to expose. Having arrived in February, and having now lived through every other season, I can confidently say that winter is a great time to be at the Preserve.
At first, the beautiful panoramas are only in the distance. As if foreshadowing what was to come, snow-capped mountain peaks suddenly framed my views of the valley. Walking along the cliff, I was able to admire not just caribou and mountain goats, but majestic landscapes in every direction.
And then the snow really started to come. Progressively, the meadows have become covered, the cliff face dusted with white, and soon the trees will begin to droop under the weight of the white stuff.
But besides the beauty of the landscape, the animals look their best in winter. Even I can admit there are times throughout the summer when some of the animals look shaggy and unkempt while shedding their winter coats. But this time of year, their coats are thick and luxurious.
They look majestic.
In winter, mule deer coats darken and thicken, and the white patch on backs of the muskoxen becomes more prominent. It seems to have taken all summer for the mountain goats to shed, but already their coats are rich and fluffy – and beautifully white now that the snow has cleaned the dirt.
In the frigid morning air, snowflakes stay on the muzzle of the elk, and the warmth of the bisons’ breath gives them the appearance of having frosty white beards.
For a while, now, the animals have been more active and more inclined to “play”. There is energy around the preserve that is rarely found in the heat of summer and occurs more sporadically during the deep-freeze of winter.
Our team meeting was actually stalled today to watch two caribou chase each other for no obvious reason. Later, from my desk, I got drawn in by the young muskoxen running together.
First they ran in one direction, then the other, and sometimes just around and around. It is amazing to see just how much they have grown since June and how agile they are when running.
Far from hiding indoors through the winter, I cannot think of any place I would rather ski and snowshoe. Now if we could just get a bit more snow!
Krista Prochazka loved the Yukon Wildlife Preserve so much that she made her family move to the Yukon to become executive director of the preserve. Contact her at [email protected]