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Gros Morne National Park of Canada

Backcountry skiers
© Parks Canada

Backcountry Ski Touring

Gros Morne National Park has all the ingredients for a great backcountry skiing experience: coastal mountains with heavy snowfalls, lowland boreal forests, treeless alpine highlands, and stunning vistas. Trips can range from short roadside skis to multi-day adventures involving camping or ski huts. Advanced skiers can choose routes up into the windswept arctic-alpine zone of the Long Range Mountains where they enjoy hard climbs, extended traverses, and long, varied downhills.

Terrain

The coastal lowlands in the north of the park offer flat or rolling terrain with moderate climbs, and sheltered forested valleys. Hilly landscapes with short, rolling climbs dominate in other areas, such as the Southeast Hills near Wiltondale.

Much of the park has steep mountains that climb above 600 metres, such the Tablelands and the Long Range Mountains. Here skiers can traverse hundreds of square kilometres of rolling, windswept arctic-alpine terrain.

Trips into alpine areas are best suited to experienced skiers in groups. Be aware of extreme, changeable weather, steep terrain and gullies, and avalanches. Cornices build up on many cliff tops and can break off without warning. Stay clear of these areas and of cliff edges. Assist avalanche monitoring by reporting the location and extent of any slides to park staff.

Ice & Snow Conditions

While there is often good skiing in early winter and spring, snow and ice conditions are most reliable from late January through late March.

Never assume that the ice covering water bodies is thick enough to support you, even if you see tracks in the snow. Always check ice thickness or avoid travelling in such areas. Avoid crossing ice near inflows and outflows of ponds as these areas rarely develop safe ice cover. Baker’s Brook Pond, Western Brook Pond, and Ten Mile Pond are large, deep, and slow to freeze. They are rarely safe. Avoid these lakes or use extreme caution.

Snow conditions vary with the terrain and change frequently. Expect to encounter clear blown patches of hard icy snow on slopes that appear to have an even layer of soft powder snow. Beware of open or hidden snow crevasses over areas with running brooks, especially in gullies where wind-blown powder snow collects. The water in these channels often causes the snow to melt from the bottom up, forming snow caves up to 7 metres deep. The roofs of these caves collapse easily and can injure or trap skiers.

Plan & Prepare

Wider skis with full metal edges are preferable and climbing skins are often necessary, especially in the steeper terrain of the highlands. As a minimum, it is recommended that skiers carry:

  • In a waterproof bag, insulating clothing, spare socks & gloves, and a base layer
  • Navigation aids including a map, compass, and GPS
  • Food, water, sunglasses or ski goggles, and a headlamp
  • Avalanche safety and rescue gear, if travelling in avalanche zones

Beginner backcountry skiers should seek experienced travelling companions or hire a guide, and seek out training programs on topics such as wilderness navigation, first aid, and (if you travel in the mountains) avalanche safety.