The main ice crossing between the Hay River Reserve and Hay River opened for the season on the morning of Nov. 17.
That was considerably earlier than the opening date in 2016.
“It's like 10 days early," said Peter Groenen, the chief executive officer for K'atlodeeche First Nation on the Hay River Reserve. He estimated the crossing didn't open until around Nov. 28 last year.
Les Norn, the municipal foreman with the First Nation, said the difference is the amount of snow.
"The snow acts as insulation," said Norn. With less snow on the ice, it froze more quickly.
The First Nation opens and maintains the ice crossing throughout the winter.
Groenen said three workers from the First Nation began preparing the ice crossing on Nov. 7 and worked through a weekend to get the job done.
"It took them 11 days to do it," he said.
"They were just flooding every day and then scraping the snow off."
The crossing was flooded to build up the ice. It was 18 inches thick when it opened.
Groenen said the crossing has a weight limit of 5,000 kilograms, meaning cars and pickup trucks can use it.
For larger trucks, he said it will likely be late December or January before the ice is thick enough for those vehicles.
Until then, fuel delivery trucks and other heavy vehicles will have to cross the Hay River using the Pine Point Bridge upstream from the ice crossing.
The opening of the ice crossing is one sign of the arrival of winter in the area, and means quicker travel between the reserve and the town.
"It's a lot faster going back and forth to town and easier for people over there to come here, as well," said Groenen, noting that it means more shoppers for gas and tobacco at the Ehdeh Cho Store on the reserve.
It will likely be another couple of weeks before the ice crossing is opened between Hay River's Old Town and the reserve's Old Village.
Depending on the weather, the ice crossings are normally usable until early April.