Monday, 25 March 2013

Snowmobiling to Old Man's Pond with Darren Park

Having a boil up on the shores of Old Man's Pond

By Keith and Heather Nicol
       “You know most of my clients are novice snowmobilers. I would say that at least 60% have never driven a sled before so we spend the first 15-20 minutes of a tour showing them how to steer and stop a snowmobile as well as the basic hand signals. I have had people this year from England, Ireland and even Pakistan but most of my clients come from the East Coast of the province.” Darren told us over the phone. Darren Park operates a popular snowmobile guiding business based in Cox’s Cove in the Bay of Islands near Corner Brook, which also happens to be in the main snowfall area of the province. We first met Darren two years ago through his fishing tour business in Cox’s Cove and have told countless people about the great tours that he does in the summer time. We have been out with him on several occasions and have seen eagles up close, viewed great scenery and always caught our limit of cod during the recreational cod fishery.  
Heather appreciated the smooth trails for riding

        On our most recent trip with Darren on March 25, 2013 our main objectives were pretty simple: to see some nice scenery and let Heather have the experience of driving a snowmobile for the first time. And we accomplished both in our ½ day tour thanks to Darren.  Darren has his own snowmobiles along with a variety of helmets so all you need to bring is your winter clothing. After our safety session we set off toward Frenchman’s Pond. From there we took a side trail which gave us good views of the distant North Arm Mountains as well as the rugged hills surrounding Frenchman’s Pond. The trail was remarkably smooth and Darren told us that it is regularly groomed to make it easy to ride on. The previous night's snow sparkled in the trees and we stopped several times for photos. Next we headed to Old Man’s Pond via a scenic hill top trail that gave frequent vistas of Frenchman’s Pond. The route gradually descended to Old Man’s Pond where we had a boil up with hot chocolate and muffins. Although we returned via the same route the views were different and we could now see the snow covered Blow Me Down Mountains in the distance as we wound our way back to Cox’s Cove. Besides half day tours Darren also leads full day trips to the North Arm Hills and the Lomond “Sinkhole” and he figures he has at least 2 weeks of snowmobiling left this season depending on the weather. You can also bring your own sled and Darren will guide you. He can be reached at 709-688-2125 or
Darren riding on a side trail with Frenchman's Pond in the distance

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Avalanche season not over yet in Western Newfoundland

     by Keith and Heather Nicol

Photo 1- Selby says the thickness of snow was 3-4 meters
      I just received some photos of what appears to be a large avalanche that occurred recently in Gros Morne National Park. The coordinates are 49 41 47 N and 57 34 27.5 W which puts it about 3 km east of Western Brook Gorge near Narrow Pond. On the topographic map the hill seems pretty small but Selby (who sent me the photos) says that the left hand face of photo 1 is about 3-4 meters high. He said that the debris had chunks the size of small cars so there was lots of ice and snow involved !! What is unusual is that it appears to have slid to ground on the smooth bedrock (see photo 2). This is an east facing slope meaning that it would have received a lot of wind blown snow over the winter and hence the huge accumulation of snow. He took the photo on Tuesday, March 19, 2013  but doesn’t know when the avalanche came down.  Also as John Smallwood says in the video below – the combination of new snow on top of a crust layer is often the recipe for avalanches in the area he snowmobiles in near Hawke’s Bay. If you see avalanches in your travels send me an email ( with the GPS coordinates and a photo or two.We will add them to our avalanche data base. Also thanks to the Canadian Avalanche Foundation for funding avalanche awareness in Newfoundland.Thanks as well to Genuine Guide Gear ( for assisting with equipment for avalanche awareness sessions.

Photo 2- The avalanche seems to have slid on the smooth bedrock

Monday, 18 March 2013

Tidbits on the history of ski skating

    by Keith and Heather Nicol
     For people interested in the early days of ski skating here is a great video from Minnesota in 1985. Skating began in the early 1980’s and as you can see in the video many of the different skating techniques were already well established by 1985. It appears that they used classic boots and that the bindings of the day certainly didn’t help the skating action. It is hard to tell what the skis are like but they appear to be classic skis that are waxed for skating. Also note the narrow trails and sharp changes of pitch. In some cases the skiers are herringboning up the steep sections. In the video you will see skiers like Bill Koch (often given credit for “inventing” skating) as well as several Canadians including Pierre Harvey and Swedish skier Gunde Svan who was always a super smooth skier. Bill Koch and Pierre Harvey have links to Newfoundland since Bill Koch designed some of the ski trails in Labrador City and Pierre Harvey designed the racing trails in Corner Brook. Also here is a link to a story written by Jack Sasseville on his impressions of the early days of ski skating: