Last month a motley crew of Newfoundland’s skiing and snowboarding’s most dedicated gathered supplies and headed into the holy land, also known as Gros Morne National Park, for a week of good times, good turns and debauchery. This would be our second annual trip into the region known as Southwest Gulch, which provided us with a little more foresight in the planning department.
The numbers maxed out at 16 this year to assure ample space for everyone and their gear. Last year our homegirl Marina took the lead in organizing, but she decided to take a step back this season with her busy schedule and let her significantly less radical, but all around good guy boyfriend Yvan, take charge along with his partners in crime Chris Gosse and Paul Templeton. Don’t get me wrong, Marina was there for a stint and charged like a boss, but she was just smart enough to avoid having to deal with collecting money from all the broke ass shred bums.
In an attempt to top last year, Gossey once again secured a chopper through his awesome employer Universal Helicopters, to assist in getting food and supplies up to the backcountry cabin we had rented for the week. The boys took it a step further this year and secured sponsorship through Labbatt and local Corner Brook bar McHugh’s, to provide a full size keg of Budweiser, along with about 100 mixed cans of beer and assorted liquor. With the heli and these necessities lined up, we were assured of a good time, snow or not, before we even departed for the trip.
Most of the crew departed the Corner Brook area at 6:00 am the morning of February 8th, having dropped the bulk of supplies at the chopper hanger the night before, and made the two-hour drive into Gros Morne, and ultimately our starting point for our ascent to the cabin at Birchy Head (Mike Hamlyn, Karl Windle and myself drove from St. John’s the day before in a snowstorm, arriving on the west coast at about 4:00 am, and logging about an hour of sleep before the adventure began). From there we made our way into the Southwest Gulch zone by snowshoe or snowmobile. Those on sled made their way up to the cabin first to meet the chopper, as the rest of us made our slow and steady two-hour hike into the mountains.
When we near the end of our ascent to the cabin we come across the main zone we hike for riding. It’s always mandatory to take a hike or two on the way in and drop a couple of lines just to fuel the stoke. From there we complete the final portion of the hike and arrive at the cabin. Time to settle in a take in the surroundings. For those who were there last year, it’s a great feeling to return and return to nature. The cabin has no electricity or running water. A quaint little outhouse is as private as it gets up in The Gulch.
The first night is relatively mellow, as we all hang out around the woodstove and knock back a few cans of brew. The Journey in is always a little exhausting, so we decide not to tap the keg until the following day, and get a good nights sleep before a full day of hiking and riding. The sleeping area of the cabin consists of the entire second floor, which is just a large room with 12 bunks gathered around the woodstove chimney. Limited bunks means that the less fortunate plant mattresses on the floor. Some of my favorite memories of these trips happen just as everyone is going to sleep. Sixteen people relaxing in one room as they succumb to the sandman always entail the most ridiculous conversations.
From this point on the trip is all about riding. Each day involves an early rise, a hearty breakfast, a day full of hiking new zones and trying to find the best lines, followed by evenings filled with good times, good friends, and good food (compliments of precooked and frozen dinners by the man himself, Paul Templeton). As I said earlier, our main zone is a long ridgeline we pass on our way in. This area can provide days of fresh turns as you make your way down the ridge. We were fortunate enough on day four to get a break in the weather and got lucky with a bluebird day and zero wind. When this happens, we can actually venture into the bowl and scope some lines that would be impossible in low visibility. A few of us made our way to the top of the bowl and picked our lines. Blind from the top, it’s always interesting to roll over and hope you hit the line you intended to. This particular day, the point that rolls over into the bowl was solid ice, but we knew that just below it there was a stable snow base with open turns. It’s always fun to get a little scared, since those are generally the times you feel most rewarded.
The cabin was rented for the week of February 8th-15th, and people would come and go during that week, but the theme of the adventure was always the same, get out there and get some. Newfoundland is a special place, and it happens to be filled with some of the most amazing areas to ski and snowboard east of the Rockies. All you have to do is get out there and make it happen, the opportunities are endless. Big thanks to everyone who planned and was involved in this experience. I can’t wait to do it all again next season.
Check out some shots Dru Kennedy captured of our trip, images not in order. More to post in part 2!