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a VirtualTourist member from Alice Springs

Fort McMurray

Northern Lights

What are the chances of seeing the Northern Lights around December 21 and 22 this year. Does anyone know of any tours that do Northern Lights viewing that a family can join for a night or two from Fort MacMurry. All the tours we have been able to find out about, flew people in and out. My wife and children are keen enought to take the chance on seeing the Northern Lights that we used free leg of our trip to get to Fort MacMurrey, just incase. Still even if the Lights are not on, Having never been in snow before, it should still be interesting. Any suggestions on clothing?. We come from the Central Alustralia, it gets to dry -2C in winter. A warm winter day in your area it would seem from the weather reports. Thanks for any help.

5 Answers

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Edmonton

I'll be in Alice Springs next week! =) As you probably know, the further north you go, the better your chances. So if by any chance you can get the free leg up to Yellowknife, that's even better. But Ft McMurray (Fort Mac) should be pretty decent. It'll depend on what phase the moon is at (full moon = bad, new moon = good), and cloudiness. Oh, and of course the solar particles. Did a quick Google, and looks like the tours I found from Ft Mc are over several days - to better the chances. If you already have the dates set, then you really don't need a tour, you just need to get yourself out of town to a very dark area late at night and look up. Chances are you'll see something really really faint. I myself see northern lights about two or three times a year, down here in Edmonton, but that's only because the rare chance I'm looking at the sky outside the city late at night. As for weather, be prepared for really cold weather. As in -40C. Not likely, but could happen. But -20C is quite probable. Lots of layers, gloves, tuques (beanies), scarves, etc. Especially if you're going to be standing outside at night looking at the lights. Good luck!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from New Toronto

Of course if you fly into Vancouver, you may find it +12 degrees and sunny! But Fort McMurry will be a different issue.The biggest problem I find with visitors is not having warm boots. Especially for children. Our dollar is cheap and our prices so reasonable, if you're starting out in a major centre, you might want to buy your boots here. To stand around in -20, you need good, thick rubber outers with a felt removable liner and good thick socks that breathe and wick the sweat away from your feet. Special ski socks are best for that. Dry the liners thoroughly after each use (or change to a dry pair). Also, bring a little cream, like vaseline to put on the kids (and maybe your own) lips and cheeks before you go out if it's really cold. Sorel brand boots for children and adults are made for that kind of climate. If you think you'll never use them again, ask at the hotel to have them donated to a local school or shelter and you'll make others very happy. With the right gear, you'll be absolutely comfortable and have agreat time. And I agree with a previous post, think layers, ski t-shirt(to keep sweat away from skin) under sweatshirt, under coat. Scarf for neck, hat covering ears, one thin pair of ski gloves with dangling mitts to pull on if wind whips up. Gosh I wish I were going with you, I can hear the absolute silence at night except for the snow creaking under foot. Magic! Some people say they actually hear a crackling noise when they see northern lights, so listen for it.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Edmonton

There are no guarantees with northern lights (aurora borealis) because the activity all depends on the sun and whether it is spewing out CMEs (coronal mass ejections) or not. There was a massive display a week ago that was seen as far south as California. Aurora are regularly seen in Edmonton, although quite often the light pollution from the city makes them difficult to see (unless you know what you are looking for, or are in a "dark" spot). Last week's display covered the entire sky, was visible from 7 pm and onwards all night, and most of it seemed to be in the south-east and south. However, it is impossible to predict this far in advance what will happen on December 21st and 22nd. Another factor - even if there is a wonderful display - you are not going to see any of it if the sky is overcast at your location. So go for the experience, but don't be too disappointed if you don't see any during your two day stay. Good luck!!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Edmonton

We recently lived in Fort McMurray for a few years and have very fond memories of the place. Over the years we saw several beautiful displays but found it hard to predict when they would be out. Generally a cold clear night was the best option and it seemed better odds as it got late. We could often see the lights from our back yard but it was even better when we went a few miles out of town and got away from the city lights. As for clothing, dress in layers and have a wind shell on the outside. Proper gloves, hat, boots, face cover, etc. will make your time outside much more enjoyable. The weather can be extreme that time of year. According to, the average low for those two days is -23C but can go down to -40C.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Edmonton

continued... There are a few companies that arrange Northern Lights tours in Fort McMurray. The best bet for info is probably the Fort McMurray Tourism website: There are other winter tours too such as dog sled rides, snowmobile tours and ice fighing. Tours of the minesites are only available in the summer. The link below is a recent article about someone's visit to the city. On the right hand page is an email address for Bill Rockwell of Skywonder Photography. I suggest you email him as I know from when I lived there that he is involved in Northern Lights tours and is an avid photographer. I am sure if he can't arrange something for you himself, he will be able to refer you to someone who can. Good Luck and let me know if you want any other info.

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