Yet To Peak!
Newfoundland – Yet to Peak.
By Andrew Goldsworthy
When you think of Newfoundland, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? The sea, rocks, rugged beauty…maybe the occasional Newfie joke or the friendly demeanor of most that proudly call Newfoundland and Labrador home. There’s one guarantee, even if someone has been living 25 years in Pemberton (BC) or Barrie (ON), Newfoundlanders always refer to home as that far east province stuck out in the North Atlantic.
From a perspective of winter sledding activity, Newfoundland and Labrador has a deep history of activity that certainly developed through utility and eventually evolved into sport and comradery that is enjoyed today. I personally grew up in a household that utilized the snowmobile for cutting wood to help heat our dwelling. Once the work was done, there was always the occasional moment to let loose on the sled. I still recall the day when I was 8 years old and Dad said to try the old ’79 Olympic on the pond before we loaded up to head home. I have on many occasions asked folks “About their first introduction to snowmobiling?” and the geography of their response doesn’t really matter because the fabric of the narrative is the same and folks can retell the story with zero effort.
Interesting enough, it was the tech sector that got me into the snowmobile industry. I started Sledworthy Magazine in 2005 as a way to help finance a tech start up. Along the way, Sledcore was born with Evan Morgan and Jonathan Anstey to help cultivate the backcountry riding scene through very hands-on instructional clinics in the powder playgrounds of Western Newfoundland. Thanks to advances in technology and social platforms, geographical borders have been removed to create a broader nation of sledding enthusiast. The physical space still exists but the relationships have grown exponentially. I recall the first time someone living in Western Canada asked me about one of the incredible snowmobiling pictures from Newfoundland, they couldn’t believe the riding conditions; deep pow, technical tree lines and decent climbs. Plus, the fact that Newfoundland boast the only National Park in Canada, Gros Morne National Park, that you can snowmobile in to access one of the region’s top destinations, Western Brook Pond Gorge.
Just this fall, a local Newfoundland tech firm inked the largest Venture Capital deal in Canadian history. Verafin secured $515 Million which puts their valuation in the Billion-dollar club. This software firm employs 400+ employees and plans to hire many more employees. This news was incredible for me from a number of fronts. First, I recall when these guys started back in 2003 and I’ve had a connection to the Newfoundland technology sector since. However, the biggest factor about this news is what it will mean for the snowmobile industry in this province.
Newfoundland and Labrador, like many provinces of Canada has certainly been dependent on traditional industries that did (and they still do) provide good income, allowed folks to travel and yes, purchase snowmobiles and even put that precious fun fuel in them. However, over the past few years, the turbulence of the economy has seen many sledders hope to get another year out of their trusted steed, postpone that new purchase or even delay the purchase of their first sled. I recall reading something about this time last year about Millennials not getting into snowmobiling like the generations before them. The article went on to say the snowflake generation was more interested in online gaming, craft beer and experiential experiences. Well, I’m thinking the deep history of snowmobiling within this province, the popular uptake of Female Oriented riding clinics like the Sledcore series of female events and now, the addition of potentially 1000 new, well-paying jobs in the technology sector will be great for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Firms like Verafin boost an unlimited vacation policy and if you’re going to truly enjoy snowmobiling in Newfoundland and Labrador, you need to ensure you have booked enough days. It’s amazing how many first timers to this province make that rookie mistake or they think they can ride the Gros Morne region and Lewis Hills in the same day, you need time.
The industry here in this province (Island portion – Newfoundland) has finally caught up with the expectations of the market. You can now fly into this province, rent sleds, find guides that will keep you safe and ensure you have a blast. You’ll find a full array of accommodations providers; five-star operations, all-inclusive, hotel, motel or tons of AirBnB options. Newfoundland is on the edge of truly being discovered in the context of the winter offerings. Similar to the technology industry in this region of Canada, the winter tourism industry is only started.
Newfoundland has yet to peak.