The 340 athletes heading to the Northwest Territories for the Arctic Winter Games will be sporting Yukon fur pompoms in an effort to recognize its importance in the territory.
The pompoms were sewn onto Team Yukon toques and unveiled Wednesday at Sport Yukon.
“I was contacted by Kelly Proudfoot and Kelly Milner who were part of this initiative of promoting fur and Yukon fur and asked if we would be interested in having real fur pom-poms on our toques,” Sport Yukon executive director Tracey Bilsky said. “So that was a pretty easy answer. I was just keeping my fingers crossed that it would happen.”
Milner said the initiative, UnFURled, is a way to create a direct connection between trappers and product manufacturers to reconnect the community with the history of fur in the territory.
The UnFURled organizer said she recently discovered a picture of the 1984 AWG Team Yukon with fur on the team’s parkas and thought it would be a great opportunity to have this year’s Yukon team involved.
“It’s wonderful to have that support,” she said.
Bilsky also remembered the 1984 team jackets as she was a member of the Yukon squad and noticed that fur on the uniforms started fading away after that and so she is excited to be a part of the project.
“They’re going to have such a unique piece and something we’ve never had on the uniforms,” she said of the pompom toques.
The pompom project was a community effort led by Lisa Prato out of Haines Junction. They are made of wild wolf fur from the Dakwäkäda and Haines Junction area through a wolf-trapping initiative overseen by the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. The Alsek Renewable Resource Council helped the moose population recover in the Alsek area and support the trappers out on the land.
Prato then had a community of volunteers, including classes of kids, make the pompoms and sew them onto the toques for the athletes.
Each toque for the athletes will come with a card to acknowledge the partners and volunteers involved in making the gifts.
The toques are a special piece of a full uniform set that will be arriving for the athletes today, Bilsky said. These will include an outer jacket, inner jacket, ski pants, a hood, both a long and short-sleeved T-shirt and a buff.
The major unveiling of the uniforms won’t be until the Games starting March 18, but Bilsky said the athletes will be wearing a piece at the AWG pep rally Thursday evening.
This will be the first chance for most of the participants to realize how big the team is, Bilsky said, and who will be their Yukon teammates in a variety of different sports.
The pep rally at the Yukon Arts Centre will be the official send-off for the team including an inspirational speaker, which Bilsky said is planned to be Whitehorse Olympian Knute Johnsgaard who recently competed in Pyeongchang and has also represented the territory at the AWG.
“They’ll really like hearing from him,” Bilsky said.
The athletes will also receive their minister pins, Bilsky said, from the Yukon government that they will be able to trade with the athletes from the other delegations.
With the countdown to the Games down to single digits, Bilsky said the main task now is continued communication with the athletes, parents and coaches to make sure everyone has up-to-date information and schedule info.
“There’s tons of information being pumped out,” she said. “To ensure everyone knows what to expect when they get there and know what their sport schedule is going to be.”
One of the original members of the Arctic Winter Games, Bilsky said the 340-athlete contingent will be one of the largest teams of the nine participating regions. The competition kicks off in Fort Smith and Hay River, N.W.T. on March 18 and run until March 24.