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Driving from Calgary to Yellowknife (late Nov - early Dec)

Calgary, Canada
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Driving from Calgary to Yellowknife (late Nov - early Dec)

Hi,

My friends and I (5 of us) will be driving from Calgary to Yellowknife in late November, stay for a couple of days and leave in early December. Our current driving itinerary is as follow:

Day 1 :

Depart Calgary at 2-3pm

Drive all the way to High Level, which I suppose will reach around 2-3am.

We'll rest for the night, and continue with the rest of the journey up(approx 8 hours).

Day 2 :

We'll leave our accom at around 8-9am and start driving up Yellowknife. Deh Cho Bridge's grand opening is on 30th November so hopefully we will be just on time!

I'm actually from a non-snowing country and have been in Calgary for 3 months already. During the past 3 months I've rented vehicles frequently with all seasons tires and managed to drive to Banff(3-4 times), Jasper(once), and even Fort Mcmurray just last week. This time though, we will be fitting winter tyres onto our full size vehicle ( Either Chevrolet Impala or Dodge Avenger)!

We have primary concerns and I hope that you guys can help us out!

1) Road condition up from Edmonton to High Level, and High Level all the way up to Yellowknife. Are the roads well-maintained enough for comfortable driving? We will not be travelling in the dark(except for the journey to high level)

Should we buy an extra container and put petrol inside, in case our vehicle runs out of petrol!

2) Lack of handphone signal and GPRS(does it lose signal?) In the unfortunate event of an accident or car breakdown, how do we contact help? Also, how long will they take to reach us considering that we're so far up north!

We're thinking of renting a satellite phone for this trip though. Advisable?

3) Important items to be brought along in the car. Sure, we will be bringing along water, snacks, blankets and warm clothing. But are there any other items that we are missing out on? We read the article on winter driving and they advised to bring traction mats, road flares etc. However, we will be leaving Canada in a month's time, so I personally don't find it necessary, correct me if i'm wrong.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

Cheers,

Mel

SE Ontario
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20,119 posts
15 reviews
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1. Re: Driving from Calgary to Yellowknife (late Nov - early Dec)

I don't know if you've read any of the previous posts on driving this route and distance in winter, but I think you'll see that even the most experienced drivers would think twice about it. Someone who has no experience driving in winter (3 months driving in Calgary and Banff in fall does not count as experienced winter driver) should probably not attempt it. To say you don't think it's neccessary to essentially have what we would call an emergency kit in the car is downright foolish. You can go to a place like Canadian Tire and buy one for $60 or so ... I highly recommend you do it. Each of you chip in $15 - $20 to pay for it ... it is worth your life not having it. if you're lucky you won't have to use it and you can donate it to a Value Village or something similar when you return. Better safe than sorry.

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
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60,353 posts
64 reviews
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2. Re: Driving from Calgary to Yellowknife (late Nov - early Dec)

Most Canadians would not do this voluntarily at that time of the year at all let alone for just a couple of days. Correct you if you're wrong? Happy to. Please reconsider.

Toronto, Canada
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10,384 posts
37 reviews
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3. Re: Driving from Calgary to Yellowknife (late Nov - early Dec)

Having a lot of Canadian driving experience in winter, I would not make the trip you propose, especially when you say you have only 3 mos of winter driving experience.

Concerns-leaving Calgary 3pm and driving till 2 or 3 am? Recipe for trouble there. Driving in winter, at night is very tiring. People die on highways due to fatigue.

Just one storm in winter can throw all your plans off...it can turn an uncomplicated drive into a nightmare.

For safety reasons I would never consider making a trip like that and I have 40 plus years of winter driving experience.

4. Re: Driving from Calgary to Yellowknife (late Nov - early Dec)

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Removed on: 4:35 pm, November 23, 2012
Calgary, Canada
4 posts
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5. Re: Driving from Calgary to Yellowknife (late Nov - early Dec)

Hi all,

The reason why I'm asking these questions is because we are only here on exchange for half a year and we're unsure of the road conditions ahead due to inexperience. I mean, it's better that we ask the questions now than regret later on.

So you guys wouldn't recommend driving at all? Even if we get the necessary items required for the drive and decide to depart in the morning instead (meaning we will be driving in daylight and stopping to rest when night falls)?

Thank you for the warm replies.

Cheers,

Mel

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
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6. Re: Driving from Calgary to Yellowknife (late Nov - early Dec)

Hi Melissa ~

In my view it is not a good idea. If you were moving up north and could take it easy, with lots of flex time to wait a day or two for bad weather to clear, that might be something you would HAVE to do. But for pleasure or vacation, at that time of year, it's just not a good idea.

BTW sunrise at that time of year is 9:30 am at the beginning of Dec and sunset is at 3:15 pm. So less than 6 hours of daylight.

If you want to spend time in Yellowknife to see some of the North, consider flying.

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
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60,353 posts
64 reviews
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7. Re: Driving from Calgary to Yellowknife (late Nov - early Dec)

In the following video, notice the whiteout conditions, notice the snow on the windows of the house which means on the windshield of your car as well. Notice the 1 minute the guy stayed outside before packing it in.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aCaQpslsu0

On this video, listen to the commentary and notice how alone you would be.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS6q5wxhk9k

Same guys, same beautiful day, other commentary mentioning potential for heavy winds, treacherous conditions and unpredictable weather.

https://www.youtube.com/watch…

Calgary, Canada
4 posts
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8. Re: Driving from Calgary to Yellowknife (late Nov - early Dec)

Thank you guys for the replies (:

They were really helpful in helping us make the decision!

Edmonton, Canada
Destination Expert
for Edmonton, Yellowknife
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1,361 posts
36 reviews
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9. Re: Driving from Calgary to Yellowknife (late Nov - early Dec)

I have been away from the forum for a while, but were you able to make it up to YK? How are you liking it? I would have been one of the posters to advise you against it, but am hoping that you went up by plane and hoping that you are enjoying my hometown ;)

Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
42 posts
17 reviews
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10. Re: Driving from Calgary to Yellowknife (late Nov - early Dec)

I'm not sure if anyone's still reading this, but I'm interested in travelling to YK for the first time in August '13 (running the Yellowknife Marathon is on my must-do list). Having said that, I'm having a hard time figuring out if there is train/bus service between Edmonton & Yellowknife (if there is, it's not Greyhound or Coach Canada or Via). Also, for the locals of YK, are there any budget airlines that fly between YK and, say, Winnipeg (as this would be great) and if you've been to Toronto or Vancouver and seen those Hostelling International accommodations (if you're single and travelling alone, you save so much money and get to spend a few extra days). Does Yellowknife, to your knowledge, have places like this? Does Aurora College rent out their dorms during summer months to budget travellers, etc?

Thanks everyone!

Happy Holidays!!