Visit during our long snow season and explore a true winter wonderland of nature and activities
In the wintertime, western Newfoundland defies nature and comes to life in new and exciting ways. When the birds fly south and the powder gathers, the region is transformed into a playground for fun winter activities and adventures. Don’t take our word for it. We once hosted the ten largest newspapers from the UK for a winter getaway. After a week of playing they summed up their experience by saying they had never been anywhere that offered such variety in winter activities. Said one writer:
“You can sit at breakfast and decide if you want to spend the day doing world-class backcountry, cross-country or downhill skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, dog sledding, snowmobiling, ice climbing or survival training.”
Call us and let’s chat about what you would like to try and the level of adventure you are comfortable with. We will customize a trip just for you.
When to visit
It depends on your idea of ‘fun’! Different times are ideal for different activities. You can downhill and cross-country ski, or embark on most day adventures just about any time. If it’s multi-day a backcountry trip you seek, March through early May is optimal, because at this early stage of the season, the snow is so deep and soft that it makes getting off the trails more difficult. Temperatures are rarely cold, given our southern location (we are south of the 49th parallel) but the spring is glorious with cold nights to keep the snow hard and days that make shorts and T-shirts common.
Is it really that good?
The best way for you to know is through the experiences of trustworthy folks who have experienced our abundant winter offerings for themselves. Here are just a few samples of the media’s reaction after spending some time with us:
Winter on the Rock
“What can we do today?” is a favourite saying among those who live on the treed and undulating western side of Newfoundland. The answer? Plenty. In fact, I took part in more exhilarating winter activities during a four-day trip to the area encompassing Deer Lake, Gros Morne and Corner Brook than I have in the past 30 winters combined. Here are my top picks for what to do and see when the snow starts falling and you’re ready for some big-time adventure, Eastern Canadian-style:
Cat-skiing is basically heli-skiing without the helicopter. A Snowcat, a trail-grooming vehicle that looks a bit like a bulldozer with a little bus on top, takes you up the Blow-Me-Down Mountains and you ski down. For the X-treme skier, it’s all about waist-deep powder (the region gets almost five metres of snow a year), no tracks and lots of big rocks and trees to veer away from at the last minute… You do five runs in the morning, with a break for snacks and a snowy picnic lunch, then five runs in the afternoon, for a total of 12,000 to 14,000 vertical feet, making for sore knees but big smiles.
Every place has its secret finds that only locals know about. The Corner Brook Caves are the find here, and Ed English is the local. Not only is Ed a great guide and ambassador for Newfoundland, he’s got stories from here to next Tuesday. (Hint: Ask him about his autistic dog and deaf cat.) Ed leads us into the woods, where we strap on homemade snowshoes (more on those later) and set out on a trek along the Corner Brook Trails… A short while later we arrive at the mouth of the Corner Brook Caves. A twisting network of limestone chutes and caverns, the caves were carved over millennia by the Corner Brook Stream. Ed hands out orange overalls, hard hats and LED headlamps, which we gamely put on before disappearing into the darkness. Every twist and turn in the caves has a name appropriate to its particular peril, such as Dolomite Dam, Dinosaur Teeth and Rat’s Crawl, and each one yields a white-knuckle surprise. We start down the Chute and shimmy along the edge of the Whale’s Back, which makes for some tricky manoeuvring, because if you slide off you get wet. Or worse. The caves go on for a couple of kilometres, and if you don’t stick with Ed, you’ll be lost forever. The place is all icicles, frozen walls and jagged rock faces that would rip your clothes up if you weren’t wearing overalls. No ropes, no life jackets, just slippery rocks. It’s dark as death down here… In other words: big-time fun.
…It’s Saturday, touton day at the gazebo in Corner Brook, where people are lining up for the island delicacy of bread dough fried in bacon fat and topped with molasses. At Blow Me Down Trails, we’re kitted up with cross-country skis and gear. Corner Brook has 40 km of groomed trails, but we’re going to make our own tracks and head deep into Gros Morne National Park. Our destination is the Tablelands, the flat-topped hills that rise above the clouds drifting over the Long Range Mountains. These mountains, an outlying range of the Appalachians, are made up mostly of peridotite, and contain lots of iron. In summer they shine bright red in the sun, taking on a Mars-like appearance.
We glide across fresh powder and take in the stunning views: Snowy mountains tumble into the icy river and Bay of Islands. This is avalanche country, and we come across the remnants of a few recent spills. The skiing is great, hilly and challenging, but when the wind picks up we decide to pack up and go for a drive through the park.
We stop at Trout River, a fishing village inside Gros Morne, where the main catch is crab, lobster, herring and mackerel. We could be looking at a postcard snapshot of a Newfoundland fishing village; it’s as picturesque in winter as it is in summer, perhaps more so.
- Amy Rosen
The Rock’s cold charm
The Toronto Star
The locals are legendary. The scenery is spectacular – even in the dead of winter. But want to hear the best joke of all? Newfoundland has a mountain. And it’s nothing to laugh at.
Corner Brook, Nfld… There aren’t many places in Canada where skiing and snowboarding are a religious experience. But here on Marble Mountain, so many people heading downhill fast have turned to prayer that one of its signature, black-diamond runs is known simply as OMJ (Oh My Jaysus). Legend has it that local churchgoers were so offended that they threatened to keep their kids off the mountain unless the blasphemy was banned. And who knows if the final outcome was really more Newfie joke than religious conviction? The run was officially renamed Blow Me Down, though locals still call it ‘the J.’
“At the top, it’s a blue run – wide and gentle – and then, about halfway down, the mountain just falls away,” says local ski bum Keith Cormier. “Used to be that people would hit that point, put on the skids and say, ‘Oh My Jaysus, what am I doin’ out here?’ And it just kind of stuck.”
It’s hard to imagine a more genuine mountain (and people) than you’ll find out here in on The Rock, almost mid-way between Corner Brook and Deer Lake, overlooking the picturesque Humber River. Marble Mountain is a big part of the reason…
“Newfoundland has massive appeal because it’s a year-round destination,” says British orthopaedic surgeon Michael Mowbray who owns one of Humber Valley’s upscale chalets and makes the six-hour flight from London a few times a year to hike and salmon fish in summer, ski and snowmobile in winter. “On top of that, the people are incredibly friendly. When they say, ‘Have a good day,’ you have a sense that they actually mean it. It’s a bit of a treasure here.”
It was Canadian Olympic ski champion Nancy Greene who first “discovered” Marble Mountain decades ago and pronounced it “the best skiing in Eastern Canada” – a claim that has earned Marble a bit of a cult following among diehard skiers and the curiosity of those looking for something different. Marble feels much more challenging than its 519-metre vertical (to put it in perspective, Mont Tremblant north of Montreal boasts a drop of 650 metres), and the climate on this western coast of Newfoundland is far more moderate than you might expect, averaging just -5 C in winter. This area gets an average of almost five metres of snow in winter, about a metre more than Tremblant, and boasts hundreds of kilometres of pristine snowmobile trails, as well as legendary ice climbing and cat skiing in the ruggedly beautiful Gros Morne National Park.
But the best-kept secret is that Marble Mountain offers top-calibre skiing with almost no lineups (even on weekends), phenomenal cruisers and challenging black diamonds like the aptly named Corkscrew and Boomerang. “Even people who’ve skied the world will come to Marble and say, ‘I’ve never skied this much vertical in my life in a day,’ says local Ed English, who used to race at Marble. “It’s just great skiing all the time. You get off a chairlift and there’s none of this cruising for 45 seconds or more to get to where you want to be. Because there are no lineups, and so many advanced runs all the way down, it’s just up and down and up and down. By two o’clock, even good skiers will find that their legs are worn out.”
A quick drive away, in Corner Brook, Deer Lake or even at Marble Inn right across the road, you’ll find a belly full of moose meat sandwiches, cod tongues and deadly, deep-fried pork cubes called scruncheons.
…It’s also a remarkably accessible ski hill. You don’t have to endure a 45-minute, white-knuckle drive up slippery, snow-covered mountain roads to get to Marble.
The Trans-Canada Highway runs right past its spectacular post and beam lodge, jokingly referred to as the Taj Mahal by non-Newfies. This magnificent piece of slopeside architecture looks like it’s right off the hills of Aspen or Whistler, but it was constructed by the cash-strapped Newfoundland government before someone grabbed a pencil and piece of paper and added up the total cost of turning this somewhat remote, government-owned mountain into a year-round tourist destination with first-class skiing in winter and golfing in summer.
- Susan Pigg