ATVs…in the Arctic!

If you know me, you knew this blog post was coming, didn’t you? Could you tell from the photo in my header?
I am an avid ATVer and have been for several years now. I have been enjoying cross-provincial ATV adventures with friends for many years. We have crossed Prince Edward Island, where I lived for 13 years, and crossed most of the logging roads in New Brunswick. We crossed all of Newfoundland from tip to tip on the T-Railways Trail and we also covered the Cape Breton Highlands in Nova Scotia. Having ATVs is pretty much a privilege, south of the Arctic, because ATVs are not cheap, you need to know how to maintain them and keep them running, you need time to ride, and to do what my friends and I have done, you need rigs and trailers to haul them around. They are used for leisure.

Me with my Prince Edward Island friends, crossing Newfoundland on ATVs in 2016.

In the Arctic, ATVs are affectionately referred to as Hondas, no matter the make, and are super popular. They are less of a privilege and more of a commodity here. In the smaller Arctic communities I’ve lived in, ATVs were much more popular then cars or trucks. They are used all the year; yes, even in -50*C. ATVs in Nunavut can be used everywhere. They are licenced, registered and insured like any other motor vehicle, and used as a general means of transportation. They are driven to work, to the grocery store and teens drive them to school. Teens in Nunavut can get a Class 7 Canadian driver’s licence which allows them to drive an ATV at the age of 15! How cool is that!

“If you are this type of applicant, then your driver’s licence will have a special statement on it called “B” or a “G” endorsement. This means you will be allowed to drive in Nunavut only, or, drive only 100 kilometres from your home community.”

Excerpt from the Class 7 Nunavut Driver’s Manual

ATVs are also used out ‘on the land’ and used for travelling to go camping, fishing and hunting. ATVs have become part of the Inuit culture and are even depicted in Inuit artwork and often makes an appearance in Inuit films.

Kananginak Pootoogook, He thinks he has run out of gas, but the engine is shot, 2009. Ink and coloured pencil on paper, 55.88 cm x 76.2 cm. Collection of Marnie Schreiber, Burlington, Ontario.

When I moved to Iqaluit I was not planning to have an ATV but when the opportunity arose to buy one for a great price, I jumped at it. Although I had crossed the maritime provinces on an ATV, I must confess, I was always sitting on the back as a passenger. I had driven an ATV a couple of times on a trail, but I hadn’t really learned to ride one until a year ago. Learning to drive on the roads was new for me and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t know if there were trails in Iqaluit and I didn’t have anyone to drive with anyway. And, could I really learn to drive on the trails here? ATVs are not easy to navigate over tough terrain, and if you have ever walked anywhere ‘on the land’ here, it’s tough terrain.
Then, one day, my friend Carol invited me out with her and her friend Shawna.  And, that’s when my passion really grew. Shawna and Carol taught me how to drive off-road here. I quickly learned that you could drive almost anywhere in the Arctic, anywhere you wanted to go these ATVs could take you there. There are lots of trails outside of Iqaluit in every direction. They go for many kilometres through every terrain; mud, gravel, rock, up and down small mountains. We’ve explored them all. Driving on the tundra is a unique experience. It’s strenuous and demands constant concentration to maneuver the ATV, carefully choosing where each wheel is strategically placed, deciding a route through deep mud or deep water, finding your way around deep snow blocking a trail or wondering if you should just try to get through it. We have learned to tow each other out with ease now. Practice makes perfect. Shawna carries a shovel, a tow strap, a first aid kit, a tool kit and pump. I keep joking that I am waiting for a flat tire out there, so we can learn to repair it together. ha!

We know our rigs well, and we know what we are capable of, but on each ride, we challenge ourselves and push the limits. And, our reward? The view, the spectacular land, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, ocean, mountaintops, historic landmarks, even sand dunes and adventure. It’s breathtaking.
This summer I started an Iqaluit ATV Facebook Group and we have met some new ATV buds to ride with.
At the end of last summer, I was sad to see the snow falling and covering the ground thinking our ATV rides were over. Then, Shawna sends a message saying, “Wahoo, it’s snowing! Our next challenge is driving on snow and ice! Whose up for a ride?” The other reward of ATVs…in the Arctic; friendship.
I grab my helmet, we meet at the Apex Quickstop, gas up and head out for another great adventure!

New friends weaving through Upper Base Trail east of Iqaluit, Nunavut. It was a tough day, but in the most amazing way. ❤

I made a video last year about one of our adventures while ATVing…in the Arctic. Shawna saved a Raven that was caught in a Fox Trap. Carol video taped it, and I made this video.
Click here to watch: Shawna saves a Raven in a Fox Trap.


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