Life / Travel

N.W.T. promotes last chance to drive ice road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk

In southern Canada, driving on ice is something to avoid. In parts of the North, it's the only wintertime option — and for some adventurers, part of the attraction.

But that option will soon cease to exist on one well-known route: the 187 kilometres between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories.

N.W.T. tourism officials are spreading the word that this winter offers the last chance to drive the seasonal ice road to Tuk, as the Arctic Ocean hamlet is called. Beginning in winter 2017-18, the frozen path — one of several northern ice roads — will be replaced by an all-season overland highway, a project that has been planned for decades.

What's it like to steer a vehicle on Arctic ice? A description on Inuvik's tourism website puts it this way: "A trip up in the winter, meandering through the frozen Mackenzie Delta and the treeless Arctic tundra as your four wheels leave pavement in favour of ice, is dreamlike."

According to a 15-year average, the ice road to Tuk opens in mid-December and closes around the end of April, the N.W.T. Transportation Department says. It provides details on road conditions and trip planning at bit.ly/2fM0Egn.

"Speed limits on the ice roads are enforced for your safety," says N.W.T. Tourism, noting that cars can be rented for the adventure. "Dangerous holes can open in the road if speeding traffic creates waves under the ice."

Territory officials are promoting a variety of winter packages.

The Sunrise Festival package, from Jan. 4 to 9, includes dog sledding, ice road tours and an overnight at a cabin outside Inuvik.

The Canadian Arctic Reindeer package, available on various dates, includes observing a reindeer herd and visiting Tuk.

Welcome the Sunrise, from Jan. 6 to 8, lets visitors catch the first view of the sun after 30 days of Arctic winter darkness.

There are daily flights to Inuvik from Edmonton, Yellowknife and Whitehorse, and weekly flights from Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa, according to Inuvik's website (trulyarctic.ca/get-here).

Airlines flying to Inuvik year-round include Air North, Aklak Air, Canadian North, First Air and North-Wright Airways.

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