Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Ski Touring in the Tablelands in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

by Keith and Heather Nicol    
Some of the avalanche debris with Bonne Bay in the distance
 On Tuesday, April 16 we headed to the Tablelands in Gros Morne National Park to ski what many people simply refer to as the “Bowl”. The forecast was calling for highs of 8 C with sunny conditions so we thought the snow would soften nicely. Boy, were we wrong! As we skinned up from the Tablelands parking lot we could see that snow was not melting even though it was close almost 11:30. “It’ll warm up” we told one another. One of the reasons for heading into the bowl was to check out an avalanche that had occurred recently and it took us just 40 minutes to reach the toe of the avalanche on the western side of the bowl. Further down the slope were the remnants of a previous avalanche that had slid in the same spot earlier in the winter. This part of the bowl faces south east and is a location of frequent avalanches since the prevailing winds piles up the snow in this area and as it begins to heat up in the sun the snow loses its strength and slides.  The avalanche seemed to involve storm snow that fell on April 7 and it likely slid a few days ago. Although the slide didn’t look that big, we investigated the sizable chunks of debris and realized it could easily have injured and possibly buried a person.
Jamie Ryan carving through the sastrugi
      We took several runs on the western side of the bowl and found the best snow to be on bed surface of the avalanche! The slope was getting just enough sun to soften where as other aspects stayed frozen all day long. On the main climbing route up there seemed to be lots of sastrugi or wind eroded snow which will take some time to metamorphose into good corn snow. We tried a couple runs off on a steeper section closer to centre of the bowl but the crusty snow made for challenging skiing. There seems to be tons of snow around and we could easily ski back to the parking lot. There should be good skiing down in this area for awhile longer. From a snow safety standpoint watch out for slopes that are facing into the sun, especially if there is any new snow sitting on them. Thanks to the Canadian Avalanche Foundation for helping promote avalanche awareness in Newfoundland. Thanks as well to Genuine Guide Gear (http://www.genuineguidegear.com/) for assisting with equipment for avalanche awareness sessions.
Steve Howlett telemarks through some wind scoured snow

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