Kwanlin Dün First Nation buys tourism business near Whitehorse for $3.5M

Overlooking the Sky High Wilderness Ranch, and Fish Lake, near Whitehorse. The Kwanlin Dün First Nation said on Monday that it has purchased the tourism business and property for $3.5 million. (Sky High Wilderness Ranch)

First Nation plans to operate Sky High Wilderness Ranch as usual initially, then add more cultural experiences

The Kwanlin Dün First Nation is the new owner of an established tourism business just outside Whitehorse.

The First Nation said Monday it has bought the Sky High Wilderness Ranch, near Fish Lake, for $3.5 million. The First Nation is now the sole owner of the property and business.

The sale, finalized last week, includes the decades-old tourism business, 60 acres of land, a trapline and a grazing lease. It also includes the animals used by the business for horseback riding and dog sled tours.

Kwanlin Dün Chief Sean Smith called the purchase a “momentous milestone” for the First Nation. He said the ranch is in the heart of Kwanlin Dün’s traditional territory.

“There are culturally rich heritage sites that record our archaeological sites, dating back 7,500-plus years ago,” Smith said, at a news conference on Monday.

Kwanlin Dün Chief Sean Smith called the purchase a ‘momentous milestone’ for the First Nation. (Caitrin Pilkington/CBC)

“This historic purchase will also strengthen our connection to our culture, traditions and ancestors.”

Smith said the purchase negotiations have been underway for a number of months. He said First Nation members had long expressed interest in buying the business if it ever became possible.

The Sky High Wilderness Ranch was established more than 30 years ago by Ian and Sylvia McDougall. It currently specializes in backcountry dog sled tours in the winter and horseback riding in the summer. There are also off-grid cabins for rent on the property.

The dog sled tours range from half-day jaunts to multi-day excursions. A 10-day “trapper trail” trip is now advertised at $3,750 per person.

The business currently offers dog sled tours in winter, ranging from half-day jaunts to 10-day backcountry excursions. Kwanlin Dün says it will operate the business as usual this winter, and eventually start introducing more cultural experiences. (Sky High Wilderness Ranch)

The First Nation’s plan is to eventually introduce more Indigenous cultural experiences.

“Cultural tourism has been a really, really strong point within the last 15 to 20 years, in terms of people looking for authentic experiences,” Smith said.

Greg Thompson, the First Nation’s economic development director, said things won’t change much immediately. He said the First Nation has hired one of the business’s previous owners to stay on as general manager.

“It’s a well-respected and well sought-after business in the territory,” Thompson said.

“What we want to do is, we want to add in more culturally relevant programming and opportunities for people to go and visit there to learn about Kwanlin Dün First Nation culture and history, and speak with our community.”

Thompson said the First Nation will also consult with its citizens about future plans for the business and property, including whether to change the name.

CBC News

For more news from Canada visit CBC News.

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.
Netiquette »

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *