Sensational St. Anthony
Winter Fun for the Family.
By Steve Sheppard
Twelve years ago my wife, Hauna, and I honeymooned our way across the province. Leaving St. John’s, we travelled 1047 kilometres, ending up in St. Anthony where we settled for a couple of years. We had never encountered a winter like we experienced on the Northern Peninsula and we loved every minute of it.
Two years later we were compelled to leave our beloved wonderland, and spent the ten years that followed trying to figure out a way to return. Well, here we are! In June of 2013 we were given the opportunity to return, with our young family, to the place we have affectionately referred to as ‘home’ since we left in 2004.
My two sons, Isaac and Daniel, were born with an affinity for anything associated with snow. This year will be the first time they’re getting to experience a winter that came early and, most likely, will stay late. Each flurry fuels the level of excitement in our snow-crazy house.
Knowing what we were in for this winter, Hauna and I arranged for Santa to deliver the snow machines we knew would be essential to enduring the St. Anthony winter. Living in this part of Newfoundland necessitates having at least one snow machine per family and because we wanted to do a substantial amount of riding together, Santa felt it necessary to deliver two snowmobiles. Hauna affectionately calls her 2010 GT 1200 4 Stroke ‘The Minivan’, as it functions to transport multiple passengers. I refer to my 2014 600 Summit SP as ‘The Beast’, since it was bought with more aggressive riding in mind.
This part of the Great Northern Peninsula (GNP) has a lot to offer families in the sphere of winter activities. Temperatures can drop and snow may begin to fall as early as the end of October and can linger well into April and sometimes even the beginning of May. In addition to the snowmobilers wonderland there are kilometers of illuminated cross-country ski trails, backwoods hiking, sliding, and hockey at the brand new Polar Center.
The local groomed trail is second-to-none. The system begins in the center of town – right across the street from our home. You can travel from St. Anthony to Main Brook-Roddickton, the St. Lunaire- Griquet/Raleigh-Ship Cove area and even continue down the coast towards the Straights when conditions are favorable.
Families mobilize as quickly as they can after work on Friday to head to the cabin, or out the trail somewhere for a boil up. Many people have built ‘winter’ cabins that are accessible from the groomed trail. When I moved here twelve years ago I thought a boil up consisted of beans and wieners with a slice of homemade bread. Boy, was I mistaken. I quickly learned that a boil up in this neck of the woods would put a lot of home cooked meals to shame. I have seen sweet and sour chicken with fried rice, salt fish and potatoes, chicken wings and ribs, steak and baked potatoes, in addition to many other gourmet dishes, all cooked over an open fire.
While these gatherings can happen at any time, you will usually find them later in the season when the weather warms up from -20 degrees Celsius to a balmy -5. March and April usually are a little warmer and are prime snowmobiling months. Some people don’t even bother to ride in January or February because it’s too cold.
Due to the extensive trail system, there are a ton of places to explore. One of my favorite rides in this area is the ‘Tour of the Tip’. Gear up early on a nice day in March with the family or a few buddies and do just what the title says, tour the full tip of the GNP.
While there are a lot of family friendly excursions, let’s not forget the play areas for those who are seeing a little more adrenaline while the kids are skiing or skating. What these hills lack in height, when compared to the Mountains of Gros Morne, they definitely make up for in ‘fun factor’. There are numerous areas where you can go to find jumps, drops, highmark slopes and bowls of pure powder. You can easily spend a full day exploring the White Hills looking for spots to get your adrenaline pumping.
While other areas of the province are frequently battling with a sloppy mix of snow and rain, we are typically receiving a blanket of snow at this beautiful end of Newfoundland. Depending on where you are traveling from, you can get here via route 430 which takes you north from Deer Lake, or you can board one of Provincial Airlines’ daily flights into St. Anthony Airport. With three Hotels and multiple B&B’s in the area, accommodations are not a concern. So what are you waiting for? Gear up and head to the GNP for some fun and adventure. There are many locals, including myself, that would be more than willing to spend a day, or two, or three… showing you around.