The Ultimate in Winter Treks: Where to Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe
If you’re a winter enthusiast, Newfoundland and Labrador is the ultimate destination for outdoor adventure. With an annual snowfall of up to 16 feet, and the activity season running into March and April, there’s no shortage of winter fun. But with so many options available, determining where to go to get your winter kicks can be overwhelming. I’ve never been cross-country skiing or snowshoeing before, but I’ve always wanted to try both activities. So I did some research to find out the best places to strap on some equipment and explore, and I decided to share my findings.
First I spoke with my friend James – head coach for the Special Olympics Newfoundland & Labrador Young Athletes Cross Country Ski Program. Every Sunday they gather at Pippy Park in St. John’s to ski along the pristine trails. As James and I chatted, he told me of the family-friendly environment, and explained that the trails are built to suit beginners and experts alike. The great thing about Pippy is that it’s an escape right within the city, so those visiting can get both the colourful city experience, while still engaging in outdoor winter adventure. Both lessons and rentals are extremely cheap, making for a fun and economical day. For those seeking a little more excitement, there is also the option to go off the trails into the barrens.
Next I talked to Barry Manuel, Executive Director of the Corduroy-Brook-Enhancement-Association – a non-profit, charitable organization committed to building and maintaining a system of scenic, accessible trails along the Corduroy Brook. Barry gushed about the serene beauty of the area, located in the heart of Grand Falls-Windsor. An excellent destination for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, he explained that along the 15-km trail system you’re completely surrounded by the stillness of nature and the wild. If you look closely you’re sure to see rabbits, foxes, and a variety of birds. The trail is suited for everyone, especially beginners due to its flat terrain. And if you’re looking to go off the beaten path quite literally, there’s 4 km of un-cleared trails around the ponds, making it perfect for snowshoe exploration.
Next, I looked west. If you know anything about Newfoundland and Labrador, you’ll be familiar with Gros Morne National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Having visited two summers ago, I can attest for it’s unsurpassed earthly wonder. I can only imagine its terrestrial beauty when covered with a blanket of snow. Gros Morne Adventures has experienced guides that will take you through the dramatic winter landscape with the Long Range Mountains as a breathtaking backdrop. I was elated to find out there is a guided snowshoeing tour through Western Brook Pond Fjord. Having taken the boat tour through the most northern section of the Appalachian Mountains – I would jump at the chance to explore it on snowshoes. Carved from the surrounding plateau by glaciers, this otherworldly trek would surely be a life-changing experience. There’s also the possibility to strap on skis and explore the forested valley of Burridge’s Gulch, or the more challenging Long Range and Tablelands Mountains. Needless to say, this would be the outdoor winter experience of a lifetime.
The last destination I researched, the Menihek Nordic Ski Club, sounded like an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. It’s only 3 km from Labrador City and nestled in the Virgin Birch and Spruce Forest of the scenic Wapusakatto Mountains in Western Labrador. The club consists of 16 km of recreational trails for classic and skating cross-country ski technique, including a 6 km lighted trail – perfect for a magical late night venture. But the crown jewel of trails is the 15-km Koch Trail System designed by 1982 World Cup Champion Bill Koch. These competition trails consist of 15-, 10-, 7.5-, 5-, and 2.9-km loops offering challenging up hills and swooping down hills.
With so many winter activities available across the province, there’s always a reason to get outside and explore. From coast to coast, there are plenty of options to traverse the snow-covered province by ski or snowshoe. Now that I’ve done my research, the hardest part is deciding where to go first. Regardless of where I choose, it will be a winter adventure I’ll never forget.