Learning to Backcountry Ski – Part 2: First Days

At last! I spent my first days skiing in the backcountry of Gros Morne National Park! Happy to report that I am now one of the people coming back glowing and raving about new lines and awesome runs;)

The weather was perfect, all my gear worked and it was amazing - really and truly amazing. I could ski like that everyday!

So what did I settle on for gear?

Backcountry Ski
Backcountry Ski
Backcountry Ski

Day 1

Monday, Taylor and I climbed up to Trout River bowl which is a popular end of season playground. I know the area without snow but it is very different this time of the year.  We parked at the Tablelands lookout, geared up, tested our beacons and skied down into the valley. We stopped and changed our gear, me assembling my trekkers and skins in snow for the first time, feel a bit nervous but very excited!

As we climbed, I began to feel the rhythm of skinning, noticing the inclines I could climb up and those I had to traverse. My skins are narrower than my skis, which helped me still use my edges in some of the icy, windblown sections. I got to practice the kick turn, to switch directions and play around with my heel risers as the inclines got steeper.

Despite the wind, we climbed up to and inside the bowl for a look around. I am still refreshing my avalanche knowledge and learning the conditions of the area, so we didn’t climb all the way up. There was some avalanche debris directly to the south, which I think came down from a cornice. Switching from climbing to alpine skiing, was chilly! -8C felt like -15C up there in that WNW wind!

The ride down was super fun! Choosing a line, paying attention to the changing snow conditions under me, and taking in the view made the cold climb all the more worthwhile.

Just climbing up a few hundred metres was a perfect intro to my gear and to practice a few essential skills - a great first day out!

Backcountry Ski
Backcountry Ski
Backcountry Ski

Day 2

Tuesday, we met up with some friends (Cory and Alex over at WildyIntrepid) who suggested we ski over in the Southeast Hills in place they had heard about with great snow conditions and terrain for everyone. I am still learning after all!

We met up early, driving and watching the sunrise. As we geared up, I could feel the excitement building - this was our first outing of the season together and we were excited to ride. We followed day old tracks from another group, climbing up a few hundred metres to expansive views of the Long Range Mountains. With our maps in hand, we finally got a glimpse into the areas we have been watching people in the Gros Morne Ski Community skiing - Burridges Gulch, Bad Weather Pond and generally the infamous, if elusive, “Southeast Hills”! And finally I was here - on top of Southeast Hills, in an amazing section of mixed terrain with perfect snow! Can life get any better?!

We boot packed laps all day under a blue sky. It was hard work going up but the best skiing of my life going down! The snow was perfect in every way - it sparkled, it was soft and fluffy, there was about 20-25cms of fresh powder on top of a firm crust. It seemed to me ideal conditions for only my second day as a “backcountry skier”!

There is something to be said for hard work, earning your turns and generally being uncomfortable all the time. One of my favourite quotes is from Jillian Michaels:

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable” ~ Jillian Michaels 

It’s a perfect mantra for backcountry skiing and winter sports in general and for me, it’s what I continually remind myself of as I climb up for yet another run or feel my feet starting to freeze. Because this too shall pass and I want to enjoy the moment, even if it’s an uncomfortable one.

There are already a few more adventures planned for this winter and I am more excited than ever to explore Newfoundland as a backcountry skier!

Have you started a new outdoor sport recently? Share your journey with me in the comments below!

Backcountry Ski

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