Summertime is a good time to sit back and chill for a few months. Or, on the flipside, find a job. This year like last, I wound up working for a mining company, flying to and from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories to bring home the bacon.
I have been going to school in Vancouver for the past few years, and grown accustomed to the trails, skate parks, and street that the city offers. Yellowknife, though on a much smaller scale, offers the same luxuries – only you don’t have to drive anywhere to hit them up.
Ever hear the myth of 24 hour sunlight in the Arctic? Head this way and you will see just that. With the sun setting at 3 a.m. and rising at 5 a.m., it makes for long days of riding.
Morning? Noon? Night? It’s all the same up north
The main industry in the capital is mining, with a few small gold mines around town and diamond mines further north. Yellowknife is home to approximately 18,000 people, which leaves you with a downtown core that’s only a few blocks in size.
But the streets are still owned by a small crew of skaters and BMXers. With a group of people skating and riding, and generally causing trouble, as we are known to do, the city decided to build a skate park to get everyone away from downtown, and it worked!
I can name a city that could use another skate park or two. Even though there are less than ten buildings with over eight floors, there are still tons of walls to ride, rails to clear, and sleeping locals to jump.
The terrain surrounding Yellowknife is ancient slickrock hosting few small trees, thousands of lakes,
A wall ride is a wall ride, no matter where it is
and millions of bugs. Mosquitoes, black flies, you name it. They’re all here. But that doesn’t stop us from getting out on the bikes.
The best thing about riding up north is all that slickrock means the trails are always in good shape and erosion isn’t much of a problem. Neither is snagging trees on the way down. Prelude Lake, one of the larger lakes near town, is home to several hiking and biking trails. One particular trail, referred to simply as Prelude, is mostly slickrock and has many options for riders of all skill levels; a person with a trials bike would never want to leave.
With street and dirt increasing in popularity up here and my 5Hun wanting to be jumped, we decided to build Yellowknife’s first dirt jumps. Good dirt is hard to find in this part of the world, so local photographer Luke Marshall and I had to go in search of some quality building materials.
We found it fifteen minutes from town, past an old gold mine. The dirt could be a little sketchy and loaded with heavy metals and arsenic from the nearby tailings pond, but who cares? It’s dirt.
Cruising the slickrock in Yellowknife
Endless sun and exercise lead to perspiration and eventually dehydration, both of which can be potentially serious conditions if not treated immediately. Thankfully, there are several establishments that cater to such problems.
One in particular, a pub called The Black Knight, offers some traditional Northern cuisine, including caribou and musk ox burgers or the ever popular steak manwich. And of course, any beverage to compliment your burger. Line-ups are rare and cover is non-existent. Though the cost of refreshments is a little more than in B.C., it’s well worth it. And finding your way home afterwards isn’t a problem, because it’s still daylight.
A summer to sit back and relax and take in the West Coast charm – and I find myself in Yellowknife again? I may just change my name to Johnny Dogrib, never leave, and call it a life.
Peace from the North – Darryl