Yumi Kuromasa enjoyed her job in Osaka, Japan, but she was looking for a cubicle without walls when she moved to Yellowknife four years ago. “In Japan it was very busy,” she recalls. “I just worked all the time. Get up in the morning, go to work, come home. I liked my job but I wanted a different lifestyle.”
Yumi arrived in Canada in March 2011 and took a job in Vancouver. But she wanted more. “It was my dream to see the northern lights,” she says. She landed in Yellowknife nine months later and began working for Aurora Wonderland & Becks Kennels taking bookings. “This is my fourth winter,” she says with pride.
Led by world champion dog musher Grant Beck, the company has been offering tours in Yellowknife for 25 years. They have more than 130 sled dogs at the kennel. Visitors can try dogsledding, aurora viewing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, bison viewing, see demonstrations of traditional ice fishing, or get a city tour of Yellowknife.
Aurora viewing by dogsled is the most popular tour – and Yumi’s favourite. Participants head down the trail with a dog team to a cabin to see the northern lights. They can warm up with chocolate, tea, soup and bannock during the excursion. She also likes ice fishing. “We take a snowmobile ride to go to the traditional operational fishnet we have on Great Slave Lake. We show a demonstration and then come back to the lodge for a fish lunch.”
Work days, particularly with aurora viewing tours on the horizon, can be longer than at her job in Japan. But she’s happy to be following her dream. “It’s more fun,” she says. “I meet people from all over the world: Japan, China, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Europe and Canada.”
She’s still trying to convince her family to come visit. “They’re too scared of the cold,” she laughs. She clearly isn’t. “Winter is my favourite season because there are more activities.”