tundra soil

Whitehorse, Yukon

Whitehorse (2006 population 20,461; CA population 22,898) (formerly White Horse until 1957-03-21) is the capital of the Yukon, Canada. Whitehorse accounts for more than 75% of the territory's population and is the largest city in the Canadian territories.


Whitehorse is located at Historic Mile 918 (current kilometrepost calibration is kilometre 1,425.3) of the Alaska Highway and is the former terminus of the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway from Skagway, Alaska (although the rails are still there, the train only goes as far as Carcross now). At the head of navigation on the Yukon River, the city was an important supply and stage centre during the Klondike Gold Rush. It has been the territorial capital since 1953, when the seat was moved from Dawson City after the construction of the Klondike Highway. Whitehorse is in the mountain climate region, the tundra soil region, the Arctic vegetation region, and the boreal cordillera ecozone. The city gets its name from the White Horse Rapids, which were said to look like the mane of a white horse. The rapids have disappeared under Schwatka Lake behind a hydroelectric dam, which was completed in 1958.

Whitehorse is a government town, and it is the home of the main campus of Yukon College. A CA$45 million multiplex centre has been built for the Canada Winter Games in 2007. Whitehorse also previously hosted the 1972, 1980, 1986, 1992 and 2000 Arctic Winter Games.


Whitehorse is a city under Yukon municipal legislation, and is governed by the Whitehorse City Council, a city council of six councillors and one mayor, elected every three years by eligible Canadian citizens of age 18 or older who reside within city limits. The current mayor, Bev Buckway, was elected on October 19 2006.


In addition to the central Whitehorse City Centre area, the city also includes the smaller neighbourhoods of Porter Creek, Riverdale, Copper Ridge, Valleyview, Hillcrest and Takhini.

Geography and climate

Like most of the Yukon, Whitehorse has a dry subarctic climate, although with warmer winters than some Canadian prairies cities. Whitehorse experiences annual temperature average daily highs of 21 °C (70 °F) in July and average daily lows of −22 °C (−7.6 °F) in January. Record high temperature was 34 °C (93 °F) in June 1969 and the lowest was −52 °C (−62 °F) in January 1947. Whitehorse has little precipitation with an average annual snowfall of 145 centimetres (4.75 ft) and 163 millimetres (6.4 in) of rainfall.

According to Meteorological Service of Canada, Whitehorse has the distinction of being Canada's driest city, mainly because it lies in the rain shadow of the Coast Mountains. Surprisingly, despite its relative cold, Whitehorse was ranked among Canadian cities with the most comfortable climate.

Whitehorse has been described as "pearls on a string", with its residential, industrial, and service subdivisions located along the main thoroughfares that carry traffic within city limits, with large gaps of undeveloped (often hilly) land between them. The Alaska Highway is the primary roadway, with branch roads reaching additional subdivisions. One such branch road, signed as "Highway 1A" and following Two Mile Hill Road, 4th Avenue, 2nd Avenue, and Robert Service Way, is the main access to downtown, Riverdale, and the Marwell Industrial Area. Other branch roads (Range Road, Hamilton Boulevard, Mayo Road) access smaller residential areas and recreational facilities.


Whitehorse is served by the Whitehorse International Airport and has scheduled service to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Fairbanks, Toronto, and Frankfurt, Germany (summer months). The airport was developed as part of the Northwest Staging Route in 1941-42 and has two long paved runways. A wartime-era hangar served as terminal building from about 1960, and was replaced in December 1985 with a modern terminal; expansion of the terminal is to be completed in 2010.

Surface access to Whitehorse is provided by a network of highways, including the international Alaska Highway connecting the Yukon with the Alaska, British Columbia, and Alberta highway networks.

Whitehorse presently has no active railway service. The city is reached by the tracks of the White Pass and Yukon Route, which are currently unmaintained. The last scheduled service to Whitehorse stopped in October 1982. The White Pass Railway started scheduled service from Skagway, Alaska, to Carcross, 72 kilometers (45 miles) south of Whitehorse, in the spring of 2007, but this was disrupted by high lake water levels in August 2007. Speculation of a trans-continental rail link to Alaska includes one possible route option through Whitehorse; a report has recommended a hub at Carmacks, with a spur line to Whitehorse and on to the Inside Passage of Alaska.

The Yukon River is essentially navigable, but no passenger or freight services use the river at Whitehorse.''' Whitehorse has a number of taxi companies, as well as the city-owned Whitehorse Transit, which provides bus service on weekdays and Saturdays from morning until early evening. There is a waterfront tram, known as the "trolley", which provides transport along a short rail section along the Yukon River; it is chiefly tourist-oriented and is not yet integrated into the municipal transit system. It runs from the Rotary Peace Park, located on the south end of the city centre, up to the north end of the city centre at Spook Creek Station.

The city road network is adequate, although it is congested during rush hours and discussions occasionally occur as to how it might better be managed, such as designating one-way streets. There are some bottlenecks, such as the single two-lane bridge to the Riverdale subdivision; street surfaces are in fairly good condition.


Whitehorse has several schools as part of a Yukon-government operated public school system, and it is the home of the main campus of Yukon College.

The city has three high schools (Grade 8 -12):

Nine elementary schools (Kindergarten - Grade 7):

One Primary School (Kindergarten - Grade 3):

One French First Language school (Kindergarten - Grade 12):

Specialized programs:

The Catholic Schools of Whitehorse are attended by Catholic and non-Catholic students.

Outside of the one French First Language school, the territory does not have school boards; they do, however, have school councils for each school, composed of elected citizens (including parents of students in the school) and the administrators of the school. All teachers work directly, as Yukon Territorial employees, for the Department of Education.

Whitehorse also has Yukon College, a post-secondary institution with ties to the University of Northern British Columbia.

Whitehorse schools do not close for anything other than holidays. For example, unlike most school districts in more temperate climates, snow days are never called for snow (or other weather phenomena).


Some of the tourist attractions in Whitehorse include Miles Canyon, the S.S. Klondike sternwheeler, the Yukon Transportation Museum, the MacBride Museum, the Old Log Church Museum, the Beringia Centre, Yukon Gardens, "Log Skyscrapers", the Whitehorse fish ladder, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, the Takhini Hot Springs, and the Yukon visitor center.

Whitehorse supports a thriving, vibrant art and music scene, hosting several music festivals every year. In the dead of winter the Frostbite Music festival warms things up with everything from funk to klezmer punk and much more.

Sports and recreation

Whitehorse's proximity to the wilderness and the Northern range of the Rockies allows its residents to enjoy a very active lifestyle. The city has hosted several large sporting events including the Canada Winter Games in 2007, the Canadian Junior Freestyle Championships in 2006, the Arctic Winter Games (2000, 1992, 1986, 1980, 1972).

The city has an extensive trail network within its limits, estimated at 850 km in 2007 , including sections of the Trans Canada Trail. These trails are used for a variety of non-motorized and motorized activities.

Recreational facilities

Whitehorse enjoys many recreational facilities.

The newest is the Canada Games Center which houses:

  • Whitehorse Lion's Aquatic Centre (25 m pool, diving board, hot tub, sauna, waterslide, lazy river, and family pool
  • Three skating rinks (NorthwesTel Arena, Olympic Arena, Leisure Ice)
  • Fieldhouse (artificial turf)
  • Flexi-Hall (sprung hardwood floor)
  • Wellness Centre (weights and cardio)
  • Indoor Walking/Running Track
  • Child Play Area
  • Party and Meeting Rooms
  • Physio Plus
  • Two food services (coffee and sandwiches)

Other facilities include:

  • Takhini Arena skating rink
  • One seasonal outdoor rinks in each neighborhood
  • Two golf courses (Meadow Lakes Golf and Country Club, Mountain View Golf Course, and Wolf Creek under construction)
  • Better Bodies Cross Training Center, home of Squash Yukon
  • Mount Sima, 350 m, operates 12 downhill runs from mid-December to April (two lifts, one lodge)
  • "Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre", home of the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club

Sports teams

Although there are no territorial junior league teams, the local business community sponsors a number of local teams of baseball, basketball, broomball, hockey, soccer and Ultimate. High school teams are very active and partake in competitions with schools in neighboring Alaska, and a few local athletes have flourished on the Canadian sports scene. There is also a synchronized swimming team called the Northern Novas.


Located just outside of downtown Whitehorse, Whitehorse Cadet Summer Training Centre (WCSTC) offers a variety of cadet based courses and activities throughout the summer. Most of these courses last 6 weeks and are mainly leadership and adventure oriented.

Historically, Whitehorse also was the location of units of the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force; the Canadian Army was the last to pull out in 1968, at the same time the armed forces were unified.


Internet service, including broadband service, is available from a number of local providers, including the cable television and telephone companies. The local telephone service provider is Northwestel.Television

Whitehorse has two local television stations, one being an ad channel and the other a community posting board, both in slideshow style format with radio in the background; also, the regional Yukon bureau of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation contributes daily to the regional pan-northern newscast that originates in Yellowknife. CBC television established a TV transmitter in Whitehorse in 1968, using the Frontier Coverage Package until Anik satellite broadcasts became available early in 1973. In addition, some local TV programs are produced for APTN.

Whitehorse is served by a cable television company: WHTV (Northern Television Systems Ltd.), founded in 1958, but purchased by Northwestel as of 1 September 2007, carries 71 analog channels plus a digital service; Northwestel will invest and upgrade the system for HDTV late in 2007. WHTV was then renamed to "Northwestel Cable Inc." ( As with all of Canada, direct satellite TV is available from Canada's two competing providers, Star Choice and Bell TV.Radio

Whitehorse has two newspapers. The Whitehorse Star, founded in 1900, progressed from a weekly to twice-weekly, three-times weekly during the 1960s, ran five times per week briefly around 1980–1983, and has been published five times per week since about 1986. The Yukon News, founded in 1960 by Ken Shortt, was a weekly until 1967 when it was published five times per week for several years, and currently prints three times a week. Whitehorse also has periodicals for local special interests, such as L'Aurore boréale for the francophone community, and What's Up Yukon for everybody.


Notable Yukoners

Although he grew up mostly in Dawson City, Canadian author Pierre Berton was born in Whitehorse. Robert W. Service started writing poetry when he moved to Whitehorse. Other famous people from Whitehorse include Senator Ione Christensen and actor Tahmoh Penikett (whose father served as premier of the Yukon).

Audrey McLaughlin was leader of the federal New Democratic Party (1989–1994) during the time she lived in Whitehorse and served as federal Member of Parliament for Yukon (1987–1997). Another Member of Parliament, Erik Nielsen (brother of actor Leslie Nielsen), was the Yukon's first cabinet minister in Ottawa, and served as interim Leader of the Opposition in 1983.

Former NHL players Bryon Baltimore and Peter Sturgeon were born in Whitehorse. Actress Amy Sloan is also from Whitehorse.

Former foot model and award winning artist and jeweler Matt Cook was born in Whitehorse. Paul Lucier was the first Senator for the Yukon, appointed in 1975.

Jeane Lassen, is a Canadian 2008 Olympian who competed in weight lifting.

See also

  • "Bob Smart's Dream", a 1906 poem by Robert Service that speculates about the Whitehorse of the future.


External links

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