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Puvirnituq Snow Festival
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An entry from the 2011 Puvirnituq Snow Festival
photo: Denis Venne
Puvirnituq Snow Festival:
A celebration of Inuit Culture, Tradition and the return of Spring
by Sue Hamilton
with Snow Festival details courtesy of Isabelle Dubois
While our 1992 trip to Inuvik was not our first visit to Canada’s Arctic, it certainly was memorable for being our first extremely immersive exposure into Inuit culture and traditions. Back in July of that year both the Great Northern Arts Festival and the Inuit Circumpolar Council’s quadrennial meeting were taking place simultaneously. The welcoming and friendly People; stunning crafts; folks of all ages and backgrounds on the stage in traditional costumes, red serge dress uniforms of the RCMP and others in more western street clothes all dancing together to the infectious beat of drumming and “ayaya” songs; the traditional games; the country food; the non-stop raucous laughter and applause. Activities seem to continue literally around the clock for over a week. The exposure to all of what took place was almost overwhelming, as was the 24 hours of sunlight causing temperatures to sometimes soar into the upper 70sF/21+C…and the relentless and voracious mosquitoes enjoying their own version of a community feast. Despite the heat and bugs, it was a memorable experience we would not have traded for anything!
The biennial Puvirnituq Snow Festival is not unlike what we enjoyed twenty-two years ago, but with the added benefits of no beastly hot weather and no mosquitoes!
After the Inuit team of Paulusie Novalinga, Jackusie Ittukallak and his brother Peter “Boy” won Quebec City’s International Ice Sculpture competition two years in a row back in 1988 and 1989, Novalinga thought his Puvirnituq home would be a perfect venue for a similar event. Snow and ice were readily available and a carnival celebrating the return of Spring would be most welcome for Canadian Arctic residents. The first Snow Festival took place in 1991 and has been a huge success ever since.
Inuit from all over Nunavik as well as Nunavut come to participate in traditional games and skills. There is also snowmobiling, dogsledding, ice fishing, foot racing, target shooting, iglu building, basket making, sewing, soapstone carving contests and more. As the subject matter of the main feature snow and ice sculpture competition, Inuit stories and legends come to life.
Harry Okpik, reigning champion at the Snow Festival
dog sled competitions (2011). photo: Denis Venne
The community of Puvirnituq and its Snow Festival invite you experience a taste of Inuit culture and country food (locally harvested caribou and fish, mussels, sea urchins; plus tea and bannock) by joining them for the 2015 revelries to be held March 23 to March 28. To learn more visit the Snow Festival website where you will also find a photo gallery of past festivals.
And be sure to visit Denis Venne’s “Jode Photo” website for a huge image collection of all Snow Festival activities from years past.
Go to YouTube to enjoy a couple of video clips of past Snow Festivals including mushing scenes.
Detail map of Nunavik showing Puvirnituq (inset on North America) map courtesy Nunavik Tourism
You can also contact the village of Puvirnituq at 1-819-988-2825 or Nunavik Tourism at 819-964-2876 or 1-855-NUNAVIK (686-2845) (toll free in Canada and the USA) or by email.
For assistance planning your visit, contact Voyages FCNQ, a travel agency for Nunavik : 1-514-457-2236 or 1-800-463-7610 (toll free in Canada and USA) or by email.
Working with Voyages FCNQ, Inuit Adventures offers package deals for Puvirnituq and could create a custom package for anyone wanting to attend the Snow Festival. Contact Sean McDonagh at 1-514-457-3319 or 1-855-657-3319 (toll free in Canada and the USA) or by email for more details.
* To learn more about Puvirnituq’s weather and hours of daylight visit WeatherSpark.
Ed.: Sincere thanks to Isabelle Dubois for her assistance in preparing the text and to Denis Venne for his photographs!