A Newcomer’s Guide to Whitehorse
Clean air, beautiful nature and unlimited opportunity call out to newcomers in Whitehorse, Yukon.
Rugged, arctic and filled with gold rush era charm – Whitehorse is one of the most far-flung cities in Canada. But what it lacks in cosmopolitan flair it certainly makes up for in beauty, hospitality and opportunity for all.
Welcome to Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory and the most northerly city in Canada. More and more newcomers to Canada are choosing to move to Whitehorse – could this be your ideal new home?
A brief history of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
Whitehorse has an interesting history. The archaeological record shows that people of First Nations origin, including the people of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and Ta'an Kwäch'än Council, have lived in the area since the end of the last Ice Age.
In 1896, Skookum Jim, Tagish Charlie and George Washington Carmack discovered gold in the Klondike region. This changed the area forever, and soon after the town of Whitehorse was founded. The city was called Whitehorse, after White Horse Rapids near Miles Canyon.
By 1900, the Canadian railway reached the area, and the Old Log Church was built. In 1942 the Alaskan Highway was opened, and Whitehorse’s population began to boom. The town became the capital of the Yukon Territory in 1953.
Who lives in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory? Social demographics
According to the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) and the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS), one quarter of the population of Yukon is Aboriginal/First Nations. Over half (53%) live in Whitehorse, making up 16% of the city.
As of the 2016 Canadian Census, Whitehorse’s population was 25,085. Of this population, visible minorities make up 7.9%. The largest of these are of Southeast Asian descent, at 3.4%. North Asian Canadians account for 1.8% of the population, while South Asians comprise 1.6%.
In terms of religion, Whitehorse is 45.3% Christian, while 51.4% of residents consider themselves non-religious.
Whitehorse, Yukon Territory Weather
As an arctic city in the far north of Canada, you will certainly be thinking about the weather quite often if you move to Whitehorse.
Whitehorse is considered to have a subarctic climate. It lies in the Coast Mountains’ rain shadow, so it receives little precipitation. This means the rain levels are quite low. The city’s location in the Whitehorse Valley means the weather is warmer than many other northern communities, such as Yellowknife (the capital of Northwest Territories).
The average temperature is −0.1 °C (31.8 °F), making the capital city the warmest place in Yukon. The city’s latitude means that winter daylight hours are short, and summers have a staggering 19 hours of daylight. In January, the average daily low is -19.2°C (−2.6 °F) and ranging up to 20.6 °C (69.1 °F) in July.
If you can brave the cold climate, you will be rewarded with clean air. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Whitehorse was named as the least polluted city in the world just a few years ago!
Whitehorse, Yukon Territory Public Transit
The Whitehorse Transit system operates a bus service every weekday, from early morning until early evening. It also runs select routes during normal business hours on Saturdays. A waterfront tram (called ‘the trolley’) runs on a tourist-oriented route along the Yukon River from May to November.
Bus fares for adults cost $2.50, with discounts for youths, students, children and seniors. Monthly passes and ticket strips, available at many convenience stores, are also available and offer discounted rates.
The Top 5 Things to do in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
1. Visit the MacBride Museum of Yukon History – The MacBride Museum of Yukon History is the major museum in the Territory, and has been preserving and showcasing Yukon history since 1952. It recently underwent an expansion and is a wonderful place to learn about your new home’s culture, people and past. Admission is $10 for adults, and $5 for children.
2. Hike around and enjoy Miles Canyon – Miles Canyon is a historic gold mining site and now features a hydroelectric dam which has calmed the waters. The 1922 suspension bridge offers sweeping views of the canyon and is free to cross. Miles Canyon is just a few minutes from Whitehorse, and is a great place for hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.
3. Soak your muscles at the Takhini Hot Springs – The Takhini Hot Springs are phenomenal natural mineral hot pools, located just 29 kilometres from the centre of Whitehorse. After being used for centuries by local First Nations people, they opened as a commercial enterprise in 1907. You can enjoy the warm 41 C waters all year round, 7 days a week. Admission is $12.50 for adults, $11 for seniors, $10 for youth, $9 for children and free for little ones under 3. Family passes and annual passes are also available.
4. Delve into First Nations history at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre - First Nations people have lived near present-day Whitehorse for millennia since the last Ice Age. Their rich and fascinating traditions are on display at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre. Explore artwork, stories and histories dating back countless generations. Admission is free.
5. Experience wildlife at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve - The Yukon Wildlife Preserve helps support and showcase the incredibly diverse wildlife of the Yukon Territory. Just 25 minutes from downtown Whitehorse, you are close to seeing caribou, lynx, elk, bison and more in the wild, not in a pen or cage. You can tour the five-kilometre loop on foot, by ski, snowshoe or in a warm bus with a guide. Admission is $16 for adults, $9 for youth ages 4-17 and free for children under 3. Guided tours are an additional fee.
Immigrant Services in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
As a newcomer to Canada living in Whitehorse, the Multicultural Centre of the Yukon is a key resource that can help you integrate into society and access services.
• The Multicultural Centre of the Yukon – The MCY offers free services and assistance to immigrants arriving in Yukon. Known for their welcoming approach, the MCY offers programs, settlement services, language classes (LINC Language Program), employment services and help with documents. They can also help you look for housing and navigate the medical system.
Address: 4141D 4th Avenue, Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 1J1
The Whitehorse, Yukon Territory Public Library
As a newcomer to Canada, the country’s public libraries are excellent resources that you can access for free. At any of the libraries in the Yukon Territory, you can use the internet on a computer, borrow books, DVDs, and magazines, and sign up for free social clubs and classes. They also offer many special services and resources for children, all free of charge.
The librarians are always happy to help you learn how to use the computers, or how to search the collection for the resources you need. There are 18 museums across Yukon, including specialized collections for law, energy and mining and women’s directives.
Main Branch: 1171 Front St, Whitehorse, YT Y1A 2C6, Canada
Getting to and from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
There is currently only 2 ways to easily arrive in Whitehorse – by car, or by air. The city is not currently connected to the rest of Canada by passenger rail, but you can travel to and from Skagway, Alaska on the scenic White Pass and Yukon Route. While there has been speculation about a transcontinental rail link from British Columbia to Alaska that routes through the Yukon capital, this has not been confirmed.
Coach services operated by Greyhound ceased operations in 2018. Now, the only coach services run from Dawson City, BC via the Husky Bus (with stops in Carmacks, Stewart, Dawson City, Pelly Crossing and Minto). While it is technically possible to arrive to Whitehorse on the Yukon River via the Bering Sea, there are no regularly scheduled ferries or vessels that do so. Chartering a passenger boat would be the only possibility.
Air Canada, Air North and WestJet, some of Canada’s major airlines, operate regularly scheduled flights to and from Whitehorse International Airport (YXY) from Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Juneau and Toronto. Condor Airlines operates a seasonal route direct from YXY to Frankfurt.
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