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Igloo Village: A cultural experience

Igloo Village.

Northwest Territories tour company Tundra North Tours is inviting those who want to see the northern most fringes of mainland Canada during winter a cool form of accommodation that unfortunately won’t stand the test of time.

The company, which sends people to the northwestern mainland reaches of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon’s Herschel Island — offers tourists who work their way north during winter a chance to spend one or more nights in its “Igloo Village,” a cluster of igloos that it builds outside of Inuvik when winter rolls around and which remain in place until warming spring weather melts the ice structures.

Each of the igloos can sleep several people and two are used for cooking. Heaters and blankets help people remain warm, with inside temperatures likely to be a little above freezing. A Tundra North Tours staffer will be on hand in the village in case anyone finds things a little too chilly.

“This is exactly what our ancestors slept in,” says Noel Cockney, who’s with the Inuit-owned company.

The Igloo Village is built each winter about 12 kilometres from Inuvik, reachable by the wintertime ice road that links Inuvik and Aklavik.

Here, people play Napatchuk (a dart like game).

Inuvik has a choice of hotels with modern amenities, but Cockney says those eager to overnight in an igloo are looking for a cultural experience. “We give them the opportunity to have that connection.”

Most who opt for an igloo stay are from the South and only spend one night in one.

Inuvik and the surrounding area see more southern tourists during summer than they do in other seasons, but Cockney says there are people wanting to visit during winter, the most “iconic” Arctic season.

“When people think about the Arctic, they think about the winter, the cold, the ice.”

Tundra North Tours’ four-day Canadian Arctic Reindeer Signature Package gives winter clients a multi-pronged Northern experience after they arrive in Inuvik.

“We bring them over to the Mackenzie Delta community of Aklavik on the Ice Road, and on the way back we stop at the Igloo Village that is not a far snowmobile ride off of the Ice Road,” Cockney says.

The seasonal Ice Road is put in place after the Mackenzie River freezes over in winter and is administered like a regular territorial highway.

Cockney adds that there’s a good likelihood of viewing the Northern Lights from the Igloo Village, where what’s described as a “cultural meal” is also served. “The next day we build an igloo, and then make our way up to Tuktoyaktuk on the new year-round highway, and have another cultural meal,” he continues. “There, either that night or the next morning we can snowmobile on the Arctic Ocean and go to the pingos (often large mounds of earth-covered ice that can rise well above the rest of the landscape in Arctic and subarctic regions).”

Igloo Village stays can be a stand-alone experience or part of Canadian Arctic Reindeer Signature package. Tundra North Tours encourages people to do the entire package, to get the most out of their Northern travel. The trip back to Inuvik stops to enable participants to view reindeer.

And Cockney quite sensibly points out those who dream of an igloo stay have no choice but to visit the Mackenzie Delta outside of summer, with warming spring weather certain to turn each of the solid igloos Tundra North Tours builds “into a puddle.”

VIAIan Stalker
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