With record water levels in the Southern Lakes, if you’re not fixing your dock or helping a friend put sand in their cabin, you’re probably looking for something to do that isn’t. on the water.
With the good weather, everyone heads off to their favorite trails or to their little lakes whose snowpack melted weeks ago.
I have noticed more crowds on several of my favorite getaways, both at territorial campsites and elsewhere. This is for two reasons. First, outdoor activities are increasingly popular. Second, our population has continued to grow.
The Government of Yukon’s economic forecast indicates that our population this year is 42,230. It predicts more than 45,000 by 2025. Passing the 50,000 mark cannot be too far into the future.
Twenty-five years ago our population was only 30,766. Now that means more than 10,000 more people, most of them living in Whitehorse, are looking for activities.
Fortunately, Yukoners have been creative in tackling this problem. Websites like yukonhiking.ca have informed thousands of Yukoners about the growing number of hiking and biking trails. This is especially important for new Yukoners, who might not know where to find the best trails.
Yukoners have also created new types of activities. For example, cool kids these days are riding their bikes on the new machine-built flow trails on Dawson’s Midnight Dome.
Your story of driving the motorhome to Conrad Campground won’t impress co-workers compared to tattooed young people in their twenties at the office talking about getting on berms and keeping the flow going.
For those who haven’t done it yet, it’s downhill biking on a trail with shaped banks and steep turns. This is usually done with a small digging machine to make sure it is smooth, rootless, and properly tilted for high speed turns. The idea is for you to descend the slope steadily, overcoming obstacles with a constant flow of speed and skill.
Enthusiasts even talk about achieving a “state of flux”, a Zen state of mind of total focus where you and your bike weave around the bends.
I spoke to a biker who tried out the new Dawson runways last weekend. Like a ski slope, she described the trail as “blue,” meaning moderately experienced riders can enjoy it, but experts can jump over additional obstacles along the way as well.
The Alyeska Ski Resort, near Anchorage, has built runoff trails. In Anchorage, you can hike the Restroom Trail in Kincaid Park. Bikers in Fairbanks, Seward, and elsewhere in Alaska are also building flow tracks.
Whitehorse has many fantastic traditional mountain biking trails just like Carcross, but no machine-built flow trails so far. This is another reason for the Whitehorses to take their outside guests to Dawson City.
This is one of the reasons that an economic study of mountain biking in Squamish estimated that the city’s bike trails and events added $ 2 million to its gross domestic product.
The government also wants you to use an electric bicycle. They are now offering you a portion of the climate change budget to subsidize the purchase of certain types of e-bikes.
Which begs the question of what other cycling activities might be in our future.
One idea that has been around for years is to transform the rail right-of-way between Whitehorse and Carcross into a hiking and biking trail.
It would be like the Kettle Valley Rail Trail in southern British Columbia, where you can now hike or bike 215 kilometers on a former rail line from Midway to Penticton.
It’s a funny idea. The route is already a popular winter route for sleds. In the summer, you can hike chunks of the Whitehorse Scenic Drive through Miles Canyon to Robinson and then Carcross.
Such a railway track would create many options. You could even take a detour to Bike Night at Mount Sima, when they open the ski lifts to bikers. There could be cycling races and events. A mountain bike race from the top of Gray Mountain to the top of Montana would be epic. All of the government’s climate plan e-bike commuters could commute to work every day from Pine Ridge and Mary Lake.
It seems unlikely that the railroad will run from Carcross to Whitehorse again. Repairing the trail would be expensive. It used to take about eight hours for a train ride from Skagway to Whitehorse, and how many customers today would choose to struggle for several hours along the less scenic Carcross to Whitehorse journey by train rather than car?
From a technical point of view, converting the tracks to a trail would be easy. It’s the legal and governance barriers that make this difficult. Funding would have to be raised to buy the right of way from the cruise line that owns the railway. Once sold, you cannot reclaim a right of way, so rail companies are often reluctant to sell even if their lines are not functioning.
But money could probably solve this problem.
The biggest challenge may be on our side. Railways are regulated by federal agencies. The line crosses the traditional territories of three First Nations. Several Yukon government departments would be involved, as well as a request for YESA. Federal and territorial economic development agencies would be asked to contribute money.
An epic number of meetings can be required.
But these meetings can wait on winter days. In the meantime, if you bought that newspaper on Friday afternoon, you still have time to make it to the Midnight Dome Enduro event in Dawson City this weekend, with loot, prizes, and free shuttles up the Dome. after each trip.
And if you missed that, at least get your bike out and enjoy one of the many existing trails in the Yukon.
Keith Halliday is a Yukon economist and author of the MacBride Museum’s Aurore of the Yukon series of historical children’s adventure novels. He won the Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist and received Bronze for Best Columnist at the 2019 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards.