You’re sitting in a hot jacuzzi wearing a bathing suit and a wool hat. Steam rises around you. You’re surrounded by sparkling white snow ringed by pine forests. A softly lit lodge, built from massive Douglas firs, is off to the side. The towering dark shapes in the distance are mountains. You should be freezing; it’s less than 10 degrees outside. But your focus isn’t the temperature or this idyllic location in the Canadian wilderness. It’s the sky.
Above you, the aurora borealis are dancing across the darkness. Swirling ribbons of neon pink and green seem to ripple, shoot, and stream in every direction. They’re the result of electrically charged particles from the sun entering Earth’s atmosphere. Though the sun set hours ago, the Northern Lights brighten the sky, as if lots of fireworks were being shot off. And you have a front-row seat to the show.
You’re at the Northern Lights Resort & Spa, far enough outside of Whitehorse that the city lights won’t disrupt the amazing natural display. Whitehorse is an old gold-rush city that was instrumental in building the Alaska-Canadian Highway. It’s also the capital of Yukon, the smallest and the westernmost of Canada’s three territories. It takes a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Vancouver to reach Whitehorse, though as you look around, it feels even farther. Particularly this time of year, when the sun rises for less than six hours each day.
During those short daylight hours, go for a dogsled ride. Whitehorse is the final destination of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. This time of year, teams are training for the 1,000-mile annual race before heading to Fairbanks, Alaska in February. Ride a snowmobile across frozen Fish Lake. You’ll be handed a hot drink and a fishing pole when you reach the log cabin in the center of the ice. Use an auger to drill a hole, and then fish for lake trout and Arctic grayling. And visit the Yukon Wildlife Preserve to see moose, woodland caribou, mountain goats, and Dall sheep in their natural environment.
When the sun starts to set around 3:45 p.m., return to the resort to sit in the Finnish sauna or get a dry brush massage at the spa. Make yourself at home in your chalet. With a fluffy bathrobe and slippers, plus a deep leather armchair and a roaring fireplace, you’ll have no trouble staying warm. Enjoy a gourmet, three-course dinner–asparagus crêpes, a lemon-rosemary salmon filet, and Black Forest cream–in the candlelit dining room. And then claim your spot in the hot tub. The show is about to begin.