Damon Smith experiences the gold rush of Harrison Ford's new film, The Call Of The Wild, in the quirky, snow-laden territory of Yukon

Gliding sweetly through wind-kissed undulations of crystalline snow, I foolishly take my eyes off the four Alaskan huskies charging excitedly round a sharp bend obscured by a silent guard of white spruce.

In exquisite slow motion, the mountain vista of Fish Lake tilts off its axis and my sled crashes ingloriously into a bank. After a few seconds of self-inflicted humiliation, being dragged on my side by four-legged charges, there is momentary calm before a symphony of urgent barks and agitated backwards glances of glinting brown eyes compels me to dust myself off and concentrate.

Five layers of thermals and snug-fitting winter clothing ensure only my pride is bruised on an exhilarating first morning in Yukon. The westernmost of Canada's three vast territories was immortalised in Jack London's 1903 short story The Call Of The Wild, which re-frames the author's experiences of the 1896 Klondike Gold Rush through the eyes of a St Bernard-Scotch Collie mix named Buck. A new film adaptation starring Harrison Ford is released in UK cinemas on February 19.

Bordered by Alaska to the west, Yukon is almost twice the combined land mass of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but has fewer than 40,000 inhabitants, almost a quarter of whom are indigenous peoples. The rights of the 14 Yukon First Nations to govern lands and nurture cultural practices and heritage was enshrined in 1993 by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (father of current premier Justin Trudeau).

We venture off-road in the afternoon, with experienced guide Tobias from Epic North Tour Experiences (epic.north.com) in a six-seater Viking all-terrain vehicle along sections of the Dawson Overland Trail – a 330-mile winter road built in 1902 linking Whitehorse and Dawson City.

Barren-ground and woodland caribou, featured on the reverse face of the Canadian quarter, outnumber humans by roughly ten one in the Yukon and are cherished in First Nation tribes' oral histories.

There are no direct flights from the UK to Whitehorse, but the cosmopolitan and ethnically diverse seaport of Vancouver is a convenient gateway to the Yukon capital. The temperature drops almost 20 degrees Celsius during the two-hour flight northwest to the city, home to nearly 70 percent of Yukon's population on the traditional territories of the Ta'an Kwach'an Council and Kwanlin Dun First Nation.

A 30-minute drive from Whitehorse, the six clans of the Carcross Tagish First Nation people proudly adopt beaver, frog, killer whale, raven, wolf and woodworm crests in vibrant murals and carved wooden totems that stand guard over a community courtyard festooned with traditional crafts stalls.

The rose pink wooden fascia of the Matthew Watson General Store, the oldest operating shop in Yukon, is an austere neighbour to the haunted Caribou Hotel. The spectre of publican Bessie Gideon supposedly makes regular appearances, but tonight, brightly-gartered showgirls Sugar and Cinnamon join current owner Anne Morgan in the furnace-heated Surly Bird Saloon (named after a potty-mouthed parrot named Polly, who roosted on the premises) to serve refreshing tonics immortalised in Canadian poet Robert Service's 1940 verse, The Ballad Of The Ice-Worm Cocktail.

Bald eagles glide over our convoy of four-wheel-drive vehicles, absorbing the rising heat as the traffic thins. Braeburn Lodge, the penultimate checkpoint of the 1000-mile Yukon Quest international dog sled race from Fairbanks, Alaska to Whitehorse, provides a welcome rest break.

A white-water stretch of the Yukon River known as Five Finger Rapids, where four basalt columns divide the fast-flowing water into channels, provides another picture-perfect pit-stop.

Snow starts to fall as we pass Moose Creek campground, which proudly lists its wintertime population as "four great guys and gals, two friendly dogs", and romanticised flurries become an alarming blizzard as we reach the outskirts of Dawson City.

Before Klondike Fever took hold in 1896, the area was a fish camp to generations of the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation people. Within the space of two years, around 40,000 gold seekers arrived, establishing the largest city west of Winnipeg. Jack London, then 21 years old, arrived in October 1897 and spent one gruelling winter working a claim on the north fork of Henderson Creek, roughly 120km south of Dawson City.

Today, the city is home to almost 1,400 people and gold mining continues to drive the local economy alongside tourism.

At night, risque can-can dancing girls distract prospectors seated at poker, roulette and blackjack tables in Canada's oldest licensed gambling hall, Diamond Tooth Gerties.

In the Sourdough Saloon of the Downtown Hotel, I'm cajoled into breaking 45 years of sobriety and order the notorious Sourtoe Cocktail comprising a generous glug of honey-flavoured Yukon Jack whisky garnished with a mummified human toe.

Sickly sweet nectar courses like molten lava down my throat as I successfully (and willingly) evade a 2,500 Canadian dollar fine for swallowing the severed digit. When the Yukon issues its call to the wild, I answer.

How to plan your trip

Discover The World (discover-the-world.com; 01737 886 131) offers a six-night Yukon holiday from £2,009 per person. Price includes scheduled flights with Air Canada from London Heathrow to Whitehorse via Vancouver, and domestic flights between Whitehorse and Dawson City, hotel accommodation, half-day dog sledding with transfers, guided aurora viewing and winter clothes hire.

For more information, visit travelyukon.com and explore-canada.co.uk.

The Call Of The Wild launches in UK cinemas from February 19.