Alumnus blazing own Yukon Trail

Posted on Monday, January 4, 2016

Jesse Cooke stands in front of a mountainous skyline in Tombstone Park, Yukon.

Jesse Cooke of Husky Bus in Tombstone Park last September. 

By Brandon Gillet

When he went to the Yukon as part of a uOttawa glaciology course, alumnus Jesse Cooke’s career took a detour.

Cooke (BA [Environmental Studies] ’06, BEd, '07) fell in love with the Great White North but not with its sparse transport links. People often hitchhiked in sub-zero temperatures to get from A to B.

“My first time up to Dawson City in 2006 it took over 12 hours of hitchhiking for a six-hour ride,” said Cooke.  “That trip gave me lots of time to think about a bus!”

So Cooke started a chartered transportation company, Husky Bus, running vans between Whitehorse and Dawson City. That was four years ago. Last month, Cooke and Husky Bus won the Parks Canada Youth Tourism Entrepreneur Award at the 2015 Canadian Tourism Awards.

“It’s exciting because the Yukon is a small place and now we have national recognition,” said Cooke.

A Husky bus with hills in the background.

Originally, Cooke funded his transportation service with his personal savings and a bank loan. The company has since branched out to become more of a tourism company, offering guided expeditions to renowned areas along the Klondike Trail, hiking and bike rentals. Husky Bus also provides accommodation scheduling, making it a hub for tourism in Whitehorse.

“At first we were just a scheduled van service running two times a week,” said Cooke. “Now we have four buses and eight employees. We’ve become the go-to transportation service, in the Yukon anyway.”

While Cooke has taken on more of an administrative role with the company, he prefers to be out in the field.

“I’m best at being on the road with the customers,” said Cooke. “I really have to tip my hat to my employees, though. They do a great job and are very knowledgeable.”

Cooke plans to keep up the momentum by re-branding the company as the Klondike Experience this spring, further expanding its scope as the premier adventure company on the Klondike Trail.

Jesse Cooke receiving the Youth Tourism Entrepreneur Award (with Yukon MP Larry Bagnall and Parks Canada CEO Daniel Watson)

Cooke received the Youth Tourism Entrepreneur Award at the Canadian Tourism Awards gala December 2.


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