When most people think of winter tourism it usually conjures up images of sporting and recreation activities like skiing, ice skating, snow shoeing and perhaps snowmobiling. We also tend to think of well known winter destinations like Aspen, CO, Whistler, BC or the Swiss Alps.
Thus, when Newfoundland talks about expanding our tourism season to avail of our winter potential, we are inclined to chase the established norm – unfortunately, with limited success. While we boast a wide array of wonderful winter activities and infrastructure – none of it is considered world class and it therefore provides limited potential as a competitive alternative.
“… think of winter tourism…”
The ski hill at Marble Mountain is truly lovely and worthy of proper management, (and dare I say, further development and expansion) but it cannot compete with any of the world’s great ski resorts; at least not in the fashion to which the world is accustomed. Modern refrigeration allows cities as far south as San Francisco to offer outdoor skating surfaces and there is no way we can compete with the frozen network of canals found in Canada’s capitol city of Ottawa. Cross country skiing is available in just about every snowbelt and holds little appeal to an audience with limited incentive to travel. The snowmobiling products we promote pale in comparison to the massive network of perfectly groomed trails found in places like Quebec, Michigan and NY State.
“… outdoor skating surface…”
When these activities are observed individually the likelihood of developing a profitable winter tourism product seems somewhat absurd, but when we combine traditional activities with a host of truly unique and bizarre winter experiences that are readily available in Newfoundland, you have something that is both desirable and very saleable.
“… to experience pack ice…”
To experience pack ice as we’ve seen in Newfoundland this week, a guest would have to travel a lot farther north, to a much harsher environment; one which could actually kill you. Whereas in Newfoundland, spending a day ‘Copying’ on a series of ice pans before returning to a comfortable hotel room and the brilliant nightlife for which Newfoundland is so renowned, is in comparison, “terribly civilized”. Our winter winds reach higher magnitudes than the wildest hurricane; made that much more sensational with the massive ocean swell that follows. Newfoundland’s snowstorms are something to behold – especially with the colourfully painted town houses as a backdrop. And can you imagine tunneling an entranceway to your hotel, as we’ve seen in some of the harder hit snow scapes found on the Great Northern Peninsula this winter.
We’ve taken photos with pupping seals. Rescued a pod of small dolphins from an ice pool, photographed our first iceberg, reported numerous polar bear sightings and even caught an escaped emu on the pack ice in Conception Bay. My uncle is currently on a five-day, guided snowmobile trip that will take him on a wilderness adventure that stretches over a thousand kilometers of back country riding, all the way from Corner Brook to St. Anthony and back. There’s herds of wild caribou roaming the foothills of the Long Range Mountains, there’s plenty of trout for river angling or ice fishing, sealing is about to start and fresh snow crab will soon be on the menu.
Newfoundland is truly a winter wonderland and it’s simply a wonder we’ve taken so long to recognize what makes it so wonderful.