Backcounty Skiing in Gros Morne National Park is a well kept secret. If you’re an avid hut to hut backcountry ski enthusiast or have some experience skiing in areas with public access alpine cabins like British Columbia, Alberta, and the Alps, you’ll be pleased to know Newfoundland has a great backcountry cabin for you to visit, and it’s in a world class location.
The Tableland Mountains located in Gros Morne National Park between Woody Point and Trout River offer some great backcountry ski routes. The area is a World UNESCO site and one of the only places on earth you can see exposed mantle rock that’s usually hidden deep underground. Besides being a geologist’s dream, the area is frequented by caribou, is only open to non-mechanised self propelled activities (which means no noisy snowmobiles or ATV’s buzzing around), and is easily accessed from the parking lot at the base of the mountain’s most popular ski descent, Trout River Bowl.
From the parking lot at the base of Trout River bowl, keeping the mountains on your right, skiers can continue past the next basin called Winterhouse Brook before turning right up the Southwest Gulch and all the way to the Southwest Gulch Cabin hidden in a grove of sub-alpine trees.
Even though the Tableland Mountains max out at about 2000′ of elevation, the experience of skiing here is much more like skiing above the treeline on a larger mountain. Since the Tableland Mountains are composed of mantle rock, they’re rich in elements like selenium and arsenic making it difficult for trees and other vegetation to grow. This means you get all the features you would expect to see in the alpine of a larger mountain range at a lower coastal elevation.
Another unique feature of skiing in the Tableland Mountains is that they’re flat on top. Since the Tableland Mountains today are really the base of a much larger mountain that existed here millions of years ago, the mountain tops are now rolling plateaus. The Tablelands Mountain Plateau is over 50 square kilometres of rolling alpine terrain that makes route finding difficult and at the same time offers the best views of Trout River Pond and Bonne Bay when visibility is good. The area is also a top snowkite destination with snowkiting being best on top of the plateau where winds are consistent and clean. A snowkite can also be used in the generally open southwest gulch with favourable wind conditions making the trip to the southwest gulch cabin a breeze. The trail up the southwest gulch from the parking lot at the base of trout river bowl to the southwest gulch cabin is approximately 8 kilometres each way and should only be attempted in good weather.
Like any snow covered mountain, avalanches in Gros Morne National Park’s Tableland Mountains are a real concern. Avalanches are commonplace in Trout River Bowl, and cornices overshadow the snow loaded slopes. Avalanche transceivers, shovels, and probes, along with the skills and knowledge to use them, are essential survival tools for any team backcountry skiing in avalanche terrain, Be sure you know how to identify and avoid avalanche terrain before venturing into the Tableland Mountains.