And he’s off: Track Santa’s path with Norad

Last modified: December 24, 2019 at 5:58am

What started as an error in a local newspaper has resulted in 64 years of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) tracking the whereabouts of old St Nick, to the delight of children around the world.

In 1955, an ad ran stating children could call Santa directly. Yet when they dialled the number, instead of the man in red, they reached US Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup – crew commander on duty at Norad’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command.

“Col Shoup was quick to realize a mistake had been made, and assured the child he was Santa,” this year’s news release from Norad stated. “Shoup then assigned a duty officer to continue answering calls.”


The tradition continues this year with volunteers at the Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado tracking Santa’s movements across the globe on December 24.

Starting at 4am MT, kids and kids-at-heart were able to get updates about his movements online, or by calling toll free to 1-877-Hi-Norad (446-6723.) According to, the phone line received 140,000 calls on Christmas Eve last year.

Anyone with an Amazon Alexa at home can also ask for the location through the device.

The NWT has some good news for Santa: parts of the territory look set for their warmest Christmas Eve in years.

Yellowknife’s forecast for the day projects a high of -10C according to Environment and Climate Change Canada, dropping to -20C overnight. That would make this December 24 the warmest since 2004 if that comes to pass.


That follows the city’s second-longest cold snap this century, which came to an end last week.

Yellowknife endured temperatures at or below -35C for 13 consecutive days between December 7 and 19, beaten only by a 14-day spell in January and February 2008.

Volunteers take calls from fans of Santa, detailing his whereabouts on December 24. Photo: Norad

Operated jointly by the US and Canada, Norad monitors air and sea activity around the countries’ borders.


The organization is active in the Beaufort Sea area, from time to time intercepting foreign aircraft flying near its borders. Norad launches some of its operations from Inuvik’s Mike Zubko Airport.