The Tibbitt to Contwoyto winter road begins at Tibbitt Lake at the end of Highway 4 about 60 kilometres (36 miles) east of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. From there, it winds its way north linking four diamond mines – Ekati, Diavik, Snap Lake, and finally Tahera (which is now closed) at the north end of Contwoyto Lake, Nunavut Territory.
With the majority of its length constructed over ice, the road must be rebuilt each year to allow the North’s diamond mines to truck in supplies essential for operations. Road construction usually starts shortly after Christmas each year and it usually takes five to six weeks of around the clock construction to have the road ready by the last week in January.
Open for approximately 8-10 weeks, the winter road is the life line for mine re-supply and also supplies various exploration properties and local tourism and outfitting camps. Diesel fuel is the largest item trucked north on the road. Other supplies include cement, tires, prill (ammonium nitrate) for explosives manufacture, and construction materials.
Despite having a speed limit like a ‘school zone’ (the highest allowable speed for fully loaded trucks is 25 kph), some storytellers seek to romanticize and dramatize the winter road.