Runners take off at the start of the winter solstice run at Grey Mountain in Whitehorse on Dec. 16. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

Whitehorse runners brave ice and snow for winter solstice run

‘It’s probably the biggest turnout we’ve ever had’

If you could get to the starting line, the winter solstice run on Dec. 16 at Grey Mountain was a prime opportunity to get some exercise outside.

Thanks to temperatures that dipped below freezing following some unseasonably warm temperatures, the parking lot and road leading to the trailhead were best described as a skating rink — and things didn’t improve much from there.

Don White, a director on the board of Athletics Yukon, said ice was a major factor in the run.

“As far as people who actually ran to the stop, a common complaint was the amount of ice on the trail,” said White.

“There were areas it was just glare ice and other areas where there was snow on the trail that collected from drifting.”

Runners came prepared, with White and others utilizing shoes designed for the ice and some strapping on Yaktrax, a device attached to the bottom of shoes or boots to add traction in snow and ice. White said the key to a good run hinged on the right equipment and being cautious enough about where to run.

Ice aside, this year’s run was bigger than most.

“It’s probably the biggest turnout we’ve ever had,” said White. “We’ve done it when it was -35 C, we’ve done it when it was -5 C; we’ve been there under all sorts of weather conditions and regardless we’ve always had people come out, but never quite this many.”

More than 30 runners made it in time for a group photo before the start, but including latecomers, the total number of runners was somewhere between 40 and 50.

The winter solstice run didn’t have an entry fee. Instead, runners made donations to the food bank — a tradition dating back to the earliest days of the run before it was held at Grey Mountain.

The Jingle Bell Run was an annual run held in Riverdale and precursor to the winter solstice run, created to raise money and food for the food bank, with participants dressing up in costumes and the focus squarely on having a good time.

Since the summer solstice run is held at Grey Mountain, organizers made the decision to hold a winter solstice run at Grey Mountain too.

“If we do it in the summer months, we’ll do it in the winter as well,” said White, explaining the philosophy behind the change.

Despite the subpar trail conditions, White said this year’s run was good.

“The run as a whole from our end of it was overwhelming,” said White. “We didn’t expect so many people.”

Although not usually at the event in large numbers, White added that this year’s run probably had fewer children that years past.

“There weren’t too many kids involved this year. Most times there aren’t, but we’ve had people and families in the past and they’ll take the kids in toboggans and sleds,” said White. “I only saw two young ones this time.”

Even though the roads were icy, the parking lot was icy and the trails were icy, White said it didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits.

“People had a good time.”

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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