Community Q&A: Old Crow Ski program

Welcome to a new feature on United Way Yukon’s website called Community Q&A. Here we check in with various groups and individuals who are working to help Yukoners.

Today we check in with Pavlina Sudrich who alongside
Knute Johnsgaard has been leading the Old Crow Ski program.

The program is all about “celebrating being on the land, celebrating your body and having fun,” she says.

We asked Pavlina about her program which is made possible in part through Yukoners’ contributions to the United Way.

Here is that conversation:

Ready to go in Old Crow! “This is about celebrating being on the land, celebrating your body, having fun,” says Pavlina Sudrich.

Link: See Pavlina’s videos from Old Crow! They’re wonderful.
Video one
Video two

The program builds upon a long history of the sport in Old Crow

How long have you been skiing?

My dad and mum were both ski coaches with the Territorial Experimental ski-Training program (TEST program) run by the late Father Jean Mouchet.  I probably started before kindergarten. I grew up knowing the trails in Whitehorse.

When did you start visiting Old Crow?

Knute Johnsgaard and I first started travelling to Old Crow to ski with the community in 2014/2015.

At Father Mouchet’s funeral in 2013 a number of community members from Old Crow expressed a desire to see the ski program reinvigorated. 

It was out of that request — and with help from Air North — that we started the Father Mouchet Memorial Loppet.

With COVID-19 we’ve adapted our program, moving away from the focus on one big event to instead spending time in the community supporting the ski program over a longer period of time. 

There is a long history of skiing in Old Crow. I want to emphasize we didn’t start it! 

My partner in this, Knute Johnsgaard, and I are just another link in this long chain. 

The ski program in Old Crow dates back to the 1950s. It was started by Father Mouchet and carried on by people like Glenna Frost, Phillipe Mouchet and many others. 

Enjoying that April sunshine in Old Crow

Can you tell me about this year’s program? How long did you spend in the community?

Last year we spent 2 weeks in the community living in a wall tent on Crow mountain and skiing each day with the youth as part of their on-the-land culture camp. This year we were there for 8 days.  As part of the program we work with Chief Zzeh Gittlit School and the Vuntut Gwitchin Government’s Recreation Department to inspire the community to start skiing in the weeks leading up to our arrival.

We do an intensive program but it’s sustained in the community before and after we are there.

Who do you take skiing?

It’s an open house. We ski with all the kids in the community, during school time and after-school as well. We pretty much ski with the kids from morning until sunset and in April in Old Crow that’s a long day! 

How young do the skiers begin?

This year we skied with kindergarteners to high schoolers! As soon as their feet are big enough for the ski boots they can start — and some of the boots are pretty small.

What do the tails look like in Old Crow?

The community has beautiful trails. They’re a legacy from the 1950s ski program. There’s the Martha Benjamin 8k, there’s the Glenna Frost 2k, the trails and place names are named after prominent skiers in the community. The trails wind through trees, go up Crow Mountain and cross some small lakes.

How do you provide equipment? 

We are again lucky that the history is there. Father Mouchet and Glenna Frost worked to revive the TEST program in the 2000s, and equipped the ski chalet with equipment that is in great working condition even today. We continue to work with the Vuntut Gwitchin Government and pursue different grants and donations to keep that inventory up to date. There are enough skis for everyone in the community.

“It’s about celebrating being on the land, celebrating your body and having fun.”

One goal of the TEST program was to develop talent for competition. Is that part of your program?

Knute Johnsgaard knows competition. He competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics as a cross country skier. However the goal of this program is fun and positivity. It’s about celebrating being on the land, celebrating your body and having fun. 

If that means competition for some athletes we encourage them to pursue that. But it’s not our priority.  

What is it about skiing that is such a positive thing for youth?

There is a rich history of cross country skiing in the community of Old Crow. Most adult members of the community grew up skiing. It feels really special to be able to connect kids with that history, with the storiesof their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Itleads to shared experience andstories between generations. It’s a really accessible sport as well for the community. They have beautiful trails, they have a ski lodge, they have equipment.

Skiing is a low-barrier sport once you have that initial capital. It’s a beautiful way to cross your traditional territory and build a connection to the land.

“It’s a beautiful way to cross your traditional territory and build a connection to the land.”

Community Q&A: Yukon Energy Food Security Network

Welcome to a new feature on United Way Yukon’s website called Community Q&A. Here we check in with various groups and individuals who are working to help Yukoners to illustrate the important work being done.

Today we check in Chris Pinkerton and the Yukon Energy Food Security Network. This initiative started in April 2021 and has focused on food and community-building across the Yukon.

Chris also coordinates the Food Network Yukon group which is based in Whitehorse which has been operating since 2012.  


It’s an initiative to build food security on a local level in Yukon communities. We have groups in Carmacks, Mayo and Haines Junction. This year we are going into Watson Lake which I am really happy about.

What I do, as coordinator, is that I go into a given community and I make contacts with anyone and everyone who is involved in food. That means farmers and producers, people distributing food from food banks to grocery stores to restaurants, and people who are funding food distribution so various organizations. And then I’m trying to connect your average community members as well as people in need into that whole mix. When it comes to developing food security it’s about getting people to work together: Helping to support our farmers, our local producers, helping them get their products into the hands of local distributors, and finding support or funding that could help create better access to food.


The territory itself is incredibly food insecure. 

As many people know, the Yukon is on the back-end of the supply chains.  This means that it costs more and takes longer to ship to the territory.   We’ve especially seen during the pandemic how vulnerable we are to disruptions of these lines.

In terms of the YE Food Security Network, in 2020, our partner organizations came together at the start of the pandemic to assess the state of food security in Yukon.  Our researcher was able to contact all the communities and look at food barriers there; research what programs were in place, and to seek recommendations on what the people felt would help reduce food insecurity in their community. We used that document as the basis for our work. 

Since the new year we’ve been collecting data in about emergency meal distribution. In Whitehorse. We can estimate that food insecurity would account for about 6500 missed meals every day. That’s approximately 2.3 million meals missed annually in Whitehorse alone.

I find this shocking. It’s eye-opening. When we look at Stats Canada, they say the Yukon has the 3rd-highest rate of food insecurity in Canada behind NWT and Nunavut. They measure the approximate rate of food insecurity in Yukon as 17% of the population.  On its own, that’s a significant number, however when we break it down into the number of missed meals daily, it really hits home how big that number is.   


We see that people who are in minority groups, women, children, they tend to be the most at-risk when it comes to being food insecure. Many of our initiatives target specifically these groups. We see that people often have good ideas, but they don’t necessarily have the resources to see them put into action. 


If the number across the Yukon is 17% food insecurity (as measured by Stats Canada) the rate is higher in communities. Whitehorse is the central point of distribution for food and we see a higher rate of food insecurity in communities. For some communities we are looking at 20 to 30% food insecurity.


We currently have 4 active food security networks in Yukon communities: Whitehorse, Carmacks, Haines Junction, and Mayo.  In the new year Watson Lake will be our 5th community network.

Food Network Yukon is holding monthly food security meetings in Whitehorse and bi-weekly food distribution meetings with agencies and groups in town that regularly give out food. They discuss common challenges and assess demand.

In Carmacks, new garden and greenhouse projects will be starting this spring.  They’ve also undertaken a project to reduce community food waste by sharing information and ideas with the Haines Junction group.

Speaking of Haines Junction, the Food Association recently achieved its charitable status, and has been sharing ideas around developing a community pantry program with the Carmacks group.

In Mayo, one of the things the group is doing is reviving the old community garden. Another cool thing in Mayo is that the grocery store has a hydroponic unit to provide fresh greens and herbs to community members. That is maintained stocked free-of-charge by Cold Acre Farms based in Whitehorse as a social enterprise to educate people about indoor growing.

Starting in April we’re going to be going to Watson Lake and establishing a regular network group to talk about strategy for Watson Lake and build on strengths there. Watson Lake is in the process of establishing a community food hub which is something we’re looking to establish in more communities. If you think of a food bank: You go there, get your food, you leave, and the engagement stops there. The idea of a food hub is that it promotes community engagement. You could pick up your emergency food but you could also participate in a cooking class, help cook a meal to help share with community members or help in a garden. There might be a central area where local farmers can see their goods distributed by the community. Other NGOs could come in to provide services — the goal is to show that it’s all connected. 


It is absolutely getting more difficult. The dark humour is that since we started it (inflation and food insecurity) has been getting worse…. Sometimes it can feel like we haven’t made an impact though really, I know we have. We are on the far end of the supply chain here in the Yukon. It costs more to get supplies to us. Things also arrive in worse conditions. If other southern locations need something, sometimes they’ll take things off the trucks and they don’t make it north. It feels like it’s going to keep getting worse before it gets better. But that’s why it’s important to find people who care. To get involved, to make sure that kids don’t make go to bed hungry. 


We are absolutely interested in volunteers to get involved. We encourage people to reach out. My email is

The actual work they’d be doing would depend on the time of year and where they’re volunteering. We often refer people to the food bank or other agencies where they’re needed. People can help by packing food hampers, delivering food to people, possibly working in a garden, there is always ways to get involved and plenty to do.


The YE Food Network is focusing on food security across Yukon. The goal is the establishment of a collaborative food security network within each Yukon community.

This a partnership between United Way Yukon, the Whitehorse Food Bank and the Yukon Anti Poverty Coalition, energized with support and sponsorship from Yukon Energy.

In 2020 this agency published a comprehensive report on food security in Yukon. The next step is to build on what has been learned and mobilize volunteers in all communities to make healthy, affordable food more avaialble.

Read more here about this initiative