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Backcountry skiing in the Tablelands of Gros Morne National Park

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The Tablelands are backcountry skiing mecca in Newfoundland that attracts skiers from across the Island and beyond in the months of April and May. This area is located between the communities of Woody Point and Trout River in Gros Morne National Park and there is a turn off and large parking lot giving quick access to the mountains. We were also interested in checking out the snow stability and likely cornice fall that had been associated with the previous weekend’s double digit temperatures (it reached 17 C in Corner Brook on Saturday). As we skinned into the bowl we could see the results of 2 large avalanches that had occurred since our last visit to the bowl in mid April. One avalanche was quite extensive and covered quite abit of the eastern side of the bowl. But more impressive was the cornice fall and resulting slab avalanche that was likely produced during Saturday’s very warm temperatures. Some of these chucks were easily the size of cars and the debris, although less extensive than Wednesday’s avalanche, was piled much deeper. You wouldn’t have wanted to be hit by either avalanche but Saturday’s avalanche would have been deadly for anyone in its path.

The view to Bonne Bay and Gros Morne Mountain is spectacular 

After investigating the avalanche debris we headed to across a sloping bench to access the chutes leading down into Winterhouse Brook Gorge. On Tuesday these slopes had been sitting in the sun and whereas the bowl had crusty frozen snow, the chutes held softening corn snow. The local name for this area is the “Lunchbox Gullies” and although the run started off fairly wide it constricted to a narrow slot between 2 rocks before opening out again. The slope was very steep but the soft snow meant that your edges bit into it giving good control. Andrew Stokes dropped in first and quite a bit of sluff followed him down the slope. We all followed suit and it was definitely my most exciting run in quite awhile. The snow extended just about to Winterhouse Brook in the valley floor and over all the vertical drop was about 280 meters. We alternately skinned and boot packed back to the top of the chute. We rested for a short time on the rocks in a spectacular spot with rugged Winterhouse Brook Gorge on one side and the blue waters of Bonne Bay and Gros Morne Mountain in the distance. There is still good snow in the bowl for another couple of weeks so if you want some scenic and exciting backcountry skiing head to the Tablelands. For safety sake, give the cornices a wide berth.

Jamie Sparkes skiing Lunchbox Gullies into Winterhouse Brook Gorge

Colin Sparkes skiing in the main Tablelands Bowl