A lengthy preparation process, one that usually begins many months in advance, always precedes the annual influx of summer tourists to Hay River.
Nowadays, tour operators are making one final push to get ready for visitors as temperatures slowly begin to creep above the freezing mark.
Spencer Pike of 2 Seasons Adventures just finished building six yurts at the family-owned company’s campground. Yurts are Mongolian-like circular huts with the insides of a modern hotel room.
A plastic dome at the top allows occupants to see the northern lights from the confines of a warm room.
“We want to be ready for next year’s aurora viewing market,” Pike said of the yurts. “There are six of them now, but if they become really popular, we’ll definitely build more.”
The company began building them last October and the first visitors were in over the Easter weekend.
January Go and her boyfriend, both from Yellowknife, brought sleeping bags and expected to be sleeping on the floor.
“It was more than I expected and we were looking for a different experience,” she said. “We were able to enjoy the lights and it was a lot of fun.”
Pike said the company is now planning for its busy jet boat and fishing tours season, which begins just after the ice breaks.
“We have to wait for the ice chunks, the logs and the sticks to clear out before we can get started,” he said. “We’re also planning on building a main lodge for guests this summer. We’ll have 12 permanent camp stalls for visitors with motor homes and 10 temporary ones to rent out.”
Another tour operator, Shawn Buckley of Great Slave Lake Tours, does a lot of fishing trips and is busy improving his 43-foot boat.
“There’s always a lot to prepare for each year. It’s like herding cattle,” he said with a laugh. “I need to repaint it, get a new motor, and think about my advertising.”
Tracy Therrien of Bucket List Tours, whose main attraction is a nine-day trip across the NWT, said it’s important to start planning a year ahead.
“A lot of people plan their trips a year in advance, so travel agencies need to have their pricing as well,” she said. “We secure our rates a year in advance so they can appear in publications. It’s a risk we all take because of fluctuating fuel prices, flight prices, all that stuff that could change any time.”
Therrien will also be busy taking part in Hay River events, such as Homecoming 2013 and a wedding.
Hay River Beautification Committee president Marilyn Barnes said her group has also met to plan for the upcoming season.
The committee is starting a new honour bench program, will begin planting flowers around June and will host an event called Gardening Morning on May 25 at the Don Stewart Recreation Centre.
“There will be a pancake breakfast, some garden displays and workshops,” Barnes said. “We’re also going to be planting trees for Homecoming 2013 along the road between the Mackenzie Place highrise and Diamond Jenness Secondary School.”
by Myles Dolphin