Friday, 11 January 2013

Early Season Ski Touring in the Blow me down Mountains, Newfoundland

  By Keith and Heather Nicol
Trevor Beck skinning through the small trees
     So far in the winter of 2013 it has been quite windy and snowy in early January and so we decided to check out the snow stability and skiing in the Blow me down Valley area of the Bay of Islands in Western Newfoundland. We drove from Corner Brook along the south shore highway and parked near the Blow me down Brook Nature Parking area lot (UTM 21 0410043E 5434993N). From there we put on skins and headed in along the summer trail which is hard to see in the winter but is marked occasionally by flagging tape and small wooded signs.  The area is quite open so route finding is not too difficult. The route passes by many rare white pine trees and this really adds to skiing in this area. The mountain tops were visible through a light snow but a real highlight was the lack of wind. When you head into a valley called “Blow me down” you really appreciate a light wind day. 

Checking the stability in the snowpit
        After about an hour we crossed a brook draining a large bowl and gradually climbed up to a small gully which local skiers have called Market Gully. There we decided to check out the snow depth and dig a snow pit (21 0410947E 5431978N). The snow in the gully was between 1.8 m and 2.4 m, although along much of the way in we skied across snow that was less than half that amount. The effect of wind was very apparent since the ridge crests were blown free of snow and we could see a large cornice (produced by wind blown snow) at the top of an adjacent bowl. We could also see the remains of a deep fracture line of an avalanche that had occurred just below the cornice.  The snow pit showed very solidly packed snow with very few signs of layering or instability. I think we all expected there to be more powder snow but we had to settle for anywhere from 2- 20 cm of fresh snow which gave us some nice turns on the way down. From there we headed to the south to check out area called Palaceglades. Here the new snow was deeper and we made many turns through the velvety snow (21 0411539E 5431918N). This trip also gave me a chance to try out a new G3 carbon speed tech probe and G3 Spade Tech shovel (  I really liked how light the probe was and quick it was to put together. A bonus of the Spade Tech shovel is its small size so it fits nicely into your pack. If you haven’t been into this area it is worth checking out for anyone into ski touring or snowshoeing. Also if anyone is interested in doing an avalanche awareness course this winter contact Keith Nicol at  We have received funding from the Canadian Avalanche Foundation to do school visits, search and rescue group sessions and AST Level 1 courses as well to meet with other interested groups.
Andrew Stokes skiing in Market Gully

1 comment:

  1. Also if anyone is interested in doing an avalanche awareness course this winter contact Keith Nicol at Fast Growing Tree Nursery