The Takhini Hot Pools Hair Freezing Contest


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Canada is far weirder than anyone thinks. Or maybe that’s just the Yukon territory. We’ve already explored a cocktail served with a severed human toe, but how about a hair-freezing contest? The Takhini Hot Pools, located twenty-five minutes drive north of Whitehorse, consists of two connected pools with 35°C waters flowing from deep within the ground. Rich in minerals, reddish in hue, and lacking the sulphur-stink typically found at natural hot springs, the hot waters have been known to locals for generations, with the first wooden pool built in the 1950’s by US Army engineers constructing the Alaska Highway. Emptied, refilled and filtered daily (it takes about 14 hours), the pools are a treat to locals and drivers of the iconic road.

I recently visited the pools during a quick visit to Whitehorse to speak at a conference for the lovely folks at Coast Hotels. After ticking off a true Whitehorse bucket list (dogsledding with Muktuk Kennels, seeing the Northern Lights and slurping back the Sour Toe which was brought up from Dawson for the occasion) we made a late-night visit to the Takhini Hot Pools. A fierce cold snap had finally broken, so the temperature was a mild -10 degrees celsius, warm enough for many of use to brave the Canadian tradition of lying down in the snow for a skin tingling quick-freeze. Jumping back into the warm embrace of a thermal spring never felt so good. An even bigger highlight was the clear night sky above us. Our bus got stuck in some ice in the parking lot, which gave us time to appreciate the whispy dance of the aurora borealis above us, covering a third of the night and seemingly playing with the sky full of stars. The kind of sky Coldplay keep singing about.

A Winning Photo by Fanny Vincent
A Winning Photo by Fanny Vincent

If I was here in February, I would have definitely entered the annual Takhini Hot Pools Hair Freezing Contest. Not that I have much hair left, but I’ll take any excuse to have fun in a hot pool. Entrants sculpt their frozen hair, take a photo, post it to Facebook, and let the digital herd decide if they qualify for a largely symbolic cash prize. According to previous winners, the trick is to lay your hair on the edge of the pool, wait for it to freeze, and than mold it into something that would give Edward Scissorhands a heart attack. Admittedly not too many people enter this month-long contest, but it does generate good press, hilarious photos, and a unique experience that will make a fantastic story at dinner parties. If that doesn’t work, you can always talk about the time you went dogsledding in Whitehorse, saw the northern lights, or got the Sour-toe cocktail stuck between your teeth. Only in Canada.

Great Canadian Bucket List