Downtown Yellowknife does not have a lot to recommend it. The old city is quaint but almost all residential with a couple art galleries scattered throughout. The lakefront scene might be fun in the summer but in the winter the few houseboats out there are ice-bound and there really isn’t much going on to speak of. It is that ice, however, that provides for some excellent recreational options as well.
The two main winter sports represented in town are snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. We didn’t do much research into the former but the latter was quite accessible and incredibly fun. Not far from the center of town and most of the hotels is Overlander Sports. For CAD$25/day ($40 for a weekend) they rent out skis, poles and boots for cross-country skiing. And the region is literally covered with lakes, most of which are small enough that they freeze over pretty early in the season, leaving nearly limitless options for where to go out skiing.
In our case, in part because it was my first time on cross-country skis and in part because we didn’t have other transportation options, we chose to simply walk across the street, pass behind the RCMP local headquarters and wander out onto Frame Lake, smack in the middle of town.
As we set out on to the lake the sun started to peek through the clouds, offering us a beautiful day and a beautiful setting on which to enjoy the great outdoors. There were several others out on the lake. Some just walking, some skiing and some on snowmobiles. There was more than enough room for everyone to enjoy the afternoon without bumping in to each other.
Plus, the sun resting low on the horizon made for spectacular lighting when I paused at the random islands out in the lake to take photos.
Indeed, downtown Yellowknife doesn’t have much going on, but even if you do not have a car to get out of town to see some of the awesome local parks and sites there are things to do in town that don’t completely suck. I actually really enjoyed my first cross-country skiing experience and I can see having a lot of fun doing more of it in the future, especially if I’m not carrying a 30 pound backpack around with me.
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