Newfoundland – The Rockies of the East
When you step off the plane in Deer Lake—the hub of snowmobiling in Newfoundland—in February, you’ll notice two things: it’s cold and there is a ton of snow.
When visitors first think of Newfoundland, they might picture the sea, the rocks, or the rugged beauty. But the province is on the cusp of being discovered for its backcountry snowmobiling opportunities in winter.
Miles of Untracked Snow
The statement, the early bird gets the worm, doesn’t really apply here. The sheer amount of ridable, mountainous terrain enjoyed by a relatively small number of snowmobilers results in miles and miles of untracked snow. No matter what time you drag yourself out of bed, you can know there will be powder fields waiting. I have yet to ride a tracked out zone, even when it hadn’t snowed in a week or two, and it’s not uncommon in Newfoundland for our group to ride an entire day and not encounter another soul.
A Varied Landscape
Newfoundland is big and varied in its geographical makeup. The western portion of the province boasts the highest elevation at just over 800 m, with an average snowfall of between four and six meters. The land gets flatter the farther east you go, but riding possibilities still exist that way. In central Newfoundland, there’s a legendary tree zone known as the Hodge’s Hills that even the most seasoned BC backcountry rider would enjoy!
However, much of the best riding can be found in the western portion of Newfoundland, where the season typically starts in December and lasts well into May in the higher zones. From Deer Lake, it is possible to ride in any direction to access all of the major riding areas along the west coast of the island.
Riding Opportunities in the West
Newfoundland has the only national park within all of Canada in which you can legally snowmobile, called Gros Morne National Park. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the second largest national park in Atlantic Canada. Gros Morne provides the deepest snow in Newfoundland and some of the most spectacular views our province has to offer. It is home to the famous Western Brook Pond Gorge and the Lomond Sinkhole (outside of park boundaries).
Western Brook Pond Gorge is a vista that needs to be on every sledder’s bucket list. It’s an impressive fjord that juts up from the ocean with rock faces over 600 m high. The weather can get nasty very quickly there, so it is best enjoyed in spring conditions and with an experienced guide who can also put riders into some fun terrain outside the park boundary.
Another highlight in the area is the Lomond Sinkhole. This 30 m deep, 45 m wide sinkhole was formed when an underground cave collapsed. The sinkhole can be reached by sled and accessed by climbing down a rope-assisted trail. A mass of frozen waterfall looks like something out of a Disney film. It’s simply beautiful and worth finding.
Cormack, which is 25 km northeast of Deer Lake, boasts one of the province’s main staging areas. Within an hour of riding there, backcountry sledders can tackle waist-deep pow, sloped terrain and technical sidehills.
To the south of Deer Lake, the Lewis Hills region features a range of mountains that runs along the coast between Corner Brook and Stephenville. There, you’ll find some 600 m chutes at Rope Cove Canyon, tons of deep snow and cornices through Hines Valley and a two kilometer long, arm-wrenching sidehill with the raging Fox Island River below—not for the faint of heart, but a total adrenaline rush and worth every minute.
An Emerging Backcountry Scene
The industry here in Newfoundland has finally caught up with the expectations of the market. You can now fly into this province, rent mountain sleds and find guides that will keep you safe and ensure you have a blast. You’ll find a full array of accommodations providers including five-star operations, all-inclusive operators, hotels, motels and tons of Airbnb options.
And you’ll quickly discover that Newfoundland truly has its act together when it comes to riding. The province has more than 3000 km of groomed trails and a vast network of warmup shelters on all the main routes. All of this, plus groomed access to our mountainous terrain, can be enjoyed for as little as $95 with the purchase of a seasonal trail pass.
The Rockies of the East
“The Rock” really has some awesome backcountry riding and the province boasts a growing backcountry riding community for good reason. As a local who has been exploring this country for much of my life, I have yet to scratch the surface. With a healthy scene full of passionate folks and the terrain and conditions to match, Newfoundland is quickly becoming recognized as the Rockies of the East.
About the author: Andrew Goldsworthy is the publisher of Sledworthy Magazine and a partner in Sledcore, a snowmobile riding clinic provider in the province.