Economic Development News & Insight


The Higher ED Blog: Making the most of your airfare to Whitehorse for the 2015 EDAC Conference

Michelle Madden / August 4, 2015 /

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The Higher ED Blog: Making the most of your airfare to Whitehorse for the 2015 EDAC Conference

We’re now half way through the high summer season, which is as good a time as any to strategically plan your trip to this September’s 2015 Economic Developers Association of Canada Conference. This year, the conference is going back to the territories: Whitehorse, YK. One of the perceived drawbacks of hosting the event in a smaller or more remote city such as Whitehorse is the higher transportation cost to get there. While the cost is slightly higher (though not by much), there are ways you can make the most of that expense, both professionally and personally.

I’ll start with the professional angle so that I can get my shameless plug out of the way. If you’re travelling all the way to Whitehorse, why not come early and take the University of Waterloo’s pre-conference seminar, Building Sustainable Communities: Growing the Green Economy? The seminar is designed to show economic developers how to get in on the booming green economy, and grow their communities with citizens and the environment in mind. At 2.5 days, it provides a whopping 8 points toward your Ec.D. certification. The early bird deadline is this Wednesday (August 6th).

If you’ve got a few extra vacation or lieu days, then you have the opportunity to add some leisure time to this business trip. The Yukon has a wealth of offerings, from urban cultural experiences to rugged wilderness.

(Note: EDAC has incorporated full-day community tours right in the conference schedule. You have the option to do one of four Whitehorse tours, or pay a little extra and get out of town to Dawson City, Faro, or Carcross. Dawson City comes with especially high praise, but since these tours are well-described in the agenda, I won’t repeat them here. )

Cultural experiences

Museums and history in Whitehorse

The top recommended museums in Whitehorse are the MacBride Museum and the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre. The former covers everything Yukon: natural history, First Nations, the gold rush, and Whitehorse’s industrialization.  The latter offers a glimpse into the landscape, flora and fauna of Beringia (now the Yukon, Alaska, and Siberia) since the last ice age. There’s a special focus on woolly mammoths and other large mammals, making it “reminiscent of a furry Jurassic Park” according to a friend of mine from the area (I’d visit based on that endorsement alone).

Scimitar Cat

To experience history in situ, take advantage of Heritage Yukon’s self-guided walking tours. Each has a map and audio file that you can download directly to your smart phone.

Arts and entertainment

The creative arts are strong in this northern city. Performing arts can be sampled at the Yukon Arts Centre and Nakai Theatre. Visual arts are the focus of North End Gallery, Yukon Artists at Work Co-op, and Arts Underground. The Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre celebrates the culture, arts, practices, and values of the original people who lived on the lands surrounding Whitehorse.  If you’re venturing out of Whitehorse, you’ll find plenty of arts and culture in the territory’s other major communities as well.

When the day is done, discover Whitehorse’s surprisingly robust nightlife. The city has a wide variety of restaurants and bars to choose from (feel free to ask a local for recommendations). Wherever you go, check the drink menu for a local beer or spirit. Yukon Brewing and Winterlong Brewing make top-notch craft beers (when you find your favourite, head to the brewery and fill up a growler to take some home). Yukon Shine Distillery makes locally sourced vodka and gin that are so good, the owner successfully made a deal with Arlene Dickinson on Dragon’s Den.  Local music can be found along the waterfront at the Dirty Northern Public House/Miner’s Daughter, the Goldpanner Saloon, and other local establishments.

Silver Trail

Gold wasn’t the only thing mined in this territory. A rich silver vein was discovered in 1903, leading to a mining boom in the first half of the 20th century. The Silver Trail is a 2-4 day trip that takes visitors to key historic sites along scenic roads. Outdoor enthusiasts will also find trails, fishing, camping, and wildlife viewing. Keno City is considered by many to be the highlight of the tour. It used to be a major economic driver, but the population has dwindled to just 17 residents. Today, you’ll find a great locally-run mining museum and the hamlet’s famous sign post that shows distances to cities around the world.  Excellent accommodations and adventures await you at their scenic destination.


Keno signpost, Yukon 2013

Outdoor experiences

Whitehorse has branded itself The Wilderness City for its easy access to the outdoors and backcountry recreation.

In town, go for a walk/run/bike ride on the Millennium Trail. It runs parallel to the Yukon River through downtown then loops through a residential area with some nice scenery. Miles Canyon is just five minutes from downtown but offers a trail system that can accommodate long and short nature hikes. Even the drive out there is gorgeous.  Three local companies that put together packages to see these areas are Stand Up Paddle Yukon (SUP Yukon), Up North, and Boreale Biking.

Outside of town, Emerald Lake (enroute to Carcross) and the Tombstone Mountains (via the Dempster Highway) are considered must-sees. Emerald Lake is beautiful and one of the most photographed lakes in Yukon. Tombstone is one of Yukon’s large territorial parks with “stunning arctic tundra landscapes and wildlife”. Kluane National Park, near Haines Junction, is also stunning. You can camp, hike, and do other outdoorsy things there.

_BRK0997a Emerald Lake Yukon

Further afield, there are tons of adventures you can undertake. Travel Yukon has a slick website with information on popular activities and sample itineraries. They also have a range of packages that include everything from day trips to equipment rentals to two-week guided expeditions.

Odds and ends for every type of visitor

Whether you’re taking part in business or leisure activities (or both), you’ll want to make sure you pack the right clothes and accessories.  The average daily temperature in September is 7 degrees but the weather in the Yukon can be unpredictable, so plan to dress in layers. Travel Yukon recommends “plenty of light, long-sleeve shirts, sweaters and windbreakers for jaunts around town or in the wilds. Pack a warm hat and gloves, walking shoes, plus waterproof boots”.


I must confess, the idea for this blog came from a rookie mistake I made at last year’s EDAC conference: I booked my flights immediately before and after the conference activities. It was my first time traveling a long distance for a work event and I considered the whole trip to be purely business. Boy, was I envious when I started hearing about the travel plans of the other attendees!  I hope this collection has inspired you to bring some leisure to this business trip.


About the author

Michelle Madden is the editor of Higher ED. She is also the Outreach Manager for the Economic Development Program and a graduate of the LED master’s program.  She has authored a number of the articles in this series on behalf of the students, and has published several of her own blogs on as well.

About the series

Higher ED: Insights for the Next Economy is a platform for students, guest speakers, staff and faculty of the University of Waterloo’s professional and graduate economic development programs to share knowledge with the field at large. The series takes works destined for an academic audience and reworks them into a fresh, easy-to-digest blog article.

Established in 1988, the Local Economic Development program is the only master’s program in Canada devoted solely to local economic development. It offers a balance between theory and practice by combining coursework, a major research paper, an internship, and weekly seminars featuring guest speakers. Students are prepared for careers in local, community, or regional economic development.

The Economic Development Program is a nationally-accredited provider of professional training. It delivers certification programs and seminars that offer a deep understanding of the Canadian context in a convenient block format. Peer learning is combined with informative lectures and practical case studies to provide dynamic instruction that is beneficial for junior and senior-level practitioners.

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