Yukonomist: Wall Tent Christmas

Yukonomist Keith Halliday

2020 has been so awful this may be the perfect year to get away from the big city and enjoy a wall-tent Christmas.

Could there be a better way to enjoy some family time with the people in your bubble and get away from cell phones, Netflix and pesky visitors who aren’t supposed to come inside? Most wall tents have terrible wifi and the fact that the spare bedroom is a quinzhee snow shelter tends to keep unwanted callers to a minimum.

Plus, if it’s cold enough, the kids may actually enjoy the sweaters and long underwear they find under the tree.

There are a few logistical challenges to delivering an awesome Christmas in a remote wall tent. This is true whether you are leading the family in a quintessentially Yukon convoy of 30-year-old Bravo snow machines or have a string of family members on fat skis pulling pulkkas.

Think of how delighted the teenagers will be when you tell them you went to the used sporting goods store and got them some classic 60mm-wide Karhu touring skis with metal edges for the slog in to the wall tent.

The most important thing is the Christmas feast. Instead of a full turkey with a half dozen pots of Brussels sprouts and other seasonal edibles, try something a bit more suitable to a wall tent with a portable wood stove. It’s a variation of Shepherd’s Pie. You might call it Trapper’s Christmas Pie.

Get a metal cooking pan, like you might use for bread or cake. Start with some grouse from the freezer, or turkey. Then layer on potatoes, stuffing, Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes on top. Don’t forget a pot of gravy, Yukon cranberry sauce and dessert.

Salads are optional in wall tents.

You can cook your Trapper’s Christmas Pie at home and freeze it into an easily transportable brick. Then you can warm it once you get the wood stove going in your tent.

For extra bragging points, you could even wrap it in tin foil and heat it up in the engine compartment of your sled as you drive in. If you do this, however, care is advised. Things can go horribly wrong if Christmas dinner meets your drive belt.

If you are skiing in with a super small portable stove, make sure it has a flat top for the Trapper’s Pie to sit on.

No one wants Christmas dinner in frozen popsicle form.

The final touch can be a challenge. How do you get the marshmallows on top of the sweet potatoes browned just right? The answer is a portable blow torch. I don’t advise trying to hold your Whisperlite stove upside down with your Leatherman tool.

Another problem is helping Santa keep the mandarin oranges for the stockings from freezing into Yuletide cannonballs. One frozen-Christmas veteran suggested carrying the oranges inside your jacket. Another idea is to make a small insulated box out of blue styrofoam insulation, warming up some cans of beer before you leave home, and then duct taping them into the insulated box with the oranges. When you get to your bush hideaway, you rescue the oranges and put the beer out to chill.

You won’t have trouble finding a Christmas tree. Actually you won’t even need to cut one down. Thanks to advances in LEDs, you can take a small battery pack and string some Christmas lights on a nearby spruce.

This will also help Santa find you. It’s hard to pick an unlighted Christmas tree out of a billion other spruce trees from a flying sleigh. If Santa is thinking of the pulkkas everyone is pulling, he may bring photos of some gifts instead of the real thing. Especially gifts like barbells and new truck batteries.

Christmas Eve in the wall tent is a time for card games, charades and stories. At bedtime, if you hang the stockings from a rope up high, the oranges are less likely to freeze once the fire dies down. And once everyone is in their puffy sleeping bags, reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by candle or headlamp is the perfect way to end the day.

Don’t forget a good camera so you can capture some classic photos of your tent glowing from the lights inside as the northern lights dance overhead.

You may even catch a few photos of the family smiling, although a wall tent Christmas is so memorable no one will need a memento.

A call out to the Yukon Statistics Bureau

Not only did they provide the analysis behind last week’s column (and many others), but one of their statisticians stopped with a few friends to cheerfully pull Yukonomist’s truck out of a snowdrift last weekend. The Ontario Statistics Bureau may have a bigger budget, but it probably doesn’t have a 4×4 and a tow strap.

Keith Halliday is a Yukon economist and author of the MacBride Museum’s Aurore of the Yukon series of historical children’s adventure novels. He is a Ma Murray award-winner for best columnist and received the bronze for Outstanding Columnist in the 2019 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards.

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