In Yukon, silver can mean gold


Carcross Commons is an open-air mall close to Bennett Beach. Local artisans display their creations for travellers headed to or from Whitehorse. (Adrian Brijbassi/

Story by Adrian Brijbassi Managing Editor

WHITEHORSE, YUKON TERRITORY — It’s called the Kate Effect. Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, has made it a habit of sending her staff members, including personal stylists, to scout the destinations she visits. When she and Prince William arrive to foreign countries, she is outfitted in part with the goods of local artisans. The result for the craftspeople can be instant fame, as Shelley MacDonald delightedly found out.

MacDonald makes jewelry that she sells in Carcross, a tiny outpost south of Whitehorse with beautiful views of the mountains and a quirky natural wonder, the world’s smallest desert. At Carcross Commons, a tiny, modern and attractive open-air shopping mall, MacDonald is one of the artisan retailers who sell clothing and jewelry to travellers looking for a piece of Canada’s North to take home with them.


Shelley MacDonald received the royal treatment from Kate Middleton in 2016 and her jewelry has been a hot item ever since. (Adrian Brijbassi/

When Will and Kate visited in 2016, Middleton wore a pair of MacDonald’s earrings, made of sterling silver. The impact was sensational for the artist.

“Someone from Getty Images tagged me on social media and that’s how I found out. I was like, ‘Oh, my god, those are my earrings,’” MacDonald says, reminiscing about her reaction.

What fans of Kate and the British royal family did, apparently, was utter something like: Oh, my god, I want those earrings, too!

MacDonald reports she quickly received 3,000 orders for the earrings after media in Great Britain and elsewhere reported where Middleton had sourced them.

“I’ve been able to buy a new car and pay off my student loan,” MacDonald says, still with a sense of awe at the occurrence.

MacDonald’s story is distinct but also typical of the success entrepreneurs find when they move to Yukon. Originally from Antigonish, a small city in Nova Scotia, MacDonald headed north and west to pursue her craft because of a love of the mountains and the fact handmade sterling silver jewelry was difficult to find.


Moose spotting is one of the activities that draws visitors to Yukon. In Haines Junction, sightings can be plentiful. (Adrian Brijbassi/

The nature and environment lures people to visit, the exoticness of the wilderness and landscape seduces them, and the opportunities for financial success make them dream.

That formula is repeated time and again, and it gives Yukon a sense of entrepreneurial spirit no matter where you travel in the territory. People go through many days by the seat of their pants — and you would have to be capable of doing so if you were to live in a destination prone to extreme weather.

One of the finer places to stay is Dalton Trail Lodge, operated by expatriates from Switzerland and their children. The wilderness called them to Yukon and they came, establishing themselves as a base for fishermen and adventurers who want to explore the waterways and mountains in this remote part of the world. Dalton Trail Lodge, about two hours by car from Carcross Commons, is in Haines Junction, the gateway to Kluane National Park, home to the tallest peaks in Canada. It provides guided fishing experiences and hiking excursions into Kluane.


The one-square-mile Carcross Desert is both an oddity and a picturesque attraction in southern Yukon. (Adrian Brijbassi/

Its rooms are cabin-chic and provide a rustic stay in the wilderness, a setting that is full of temptation as well as beauty.

In Yukon, you’ll never be short of opportunities to discover nature’s grandeur and the human desire to be immersed in it.


Website: Travel Yukon’s website has details on lodgings, attractions and dining.

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Adrian is the editor of and He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016. Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world.

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