The best thing about living in the city of Corner Brook is that you can walk out your front door with a pair of backcountry skis, and within ten minutes (on foot) you can ski for an hour or a month. One of the best routes I've done so far this winter is a 16 km route that runs from Massey Drive, which lies just on the outskirts of the city, to the ski resort at Marble Mountain. This is a moderate route that involves a lot of sidestepping (or use of skins) and deep powder touring but can provide a great day of fun in the backcountry.
The route begins at a small pub at the end of Massey Drive and follows a logging road for just over 5km. The road is a good ski with a slight uphill grade and a few winding turns. You have to be cautious of snowmobilers who also use the road and trails in the area but for the most part the tracks provide a nicely groomed surface for skiing.
The road section of the route ends at hydro line running N-S, and taking the South involves a long 100 meter uphill climb that must be sidestepped the whole way. The trail resumes on the right hand side and is hard to miss. From here the route becomes a mix of ups and downs as you criss cross your way through snowy valleys and around a few unnamed lakes, up into the foothills of the Long Range Mountains. This is by far the most scenic part of the trip. The snow in the valleys is chest deep if you happen to walk off the trail with your skis off, not that there is much of a trail at this point, just snow. Marble boasts an annual snowfall of 16 feet but that looks to be a conservative estimate for this year. The trees were laden with the stuff, bending under the weight it and January is not even really known as a snow month around here. The best view is the crest of the hill just below Mount Musgrave. The great panoramic off the Bay of Islands back dropped by the Blow Me Down Mountains is breathtaking. The beautiful city of Corner Brook lies right at the bottom of the bay and the end of the Humber Valley. On a clear day you can see as far as the Lewis Hills in the south and the Tablelands in the north.
As the trail climbs higher it meets up with another snowmobile trail and follows it for about 3km. The trail is steep in a few places and required sidestepping but for the most part the climb stayed fairly gradual. You have to follow the snowmobile trail until it merges with another hydro line, this one taking you to the top of the plateau. As soon as you emerge out of the protection of the forest it gets bitterly cold as the land opens up. A few lonely spruce trees tried to keep a hold but few were taller than any skier. It is nice to begin to ski on a slight downhill for a change as you travel down the plateau to the back side of Marble Mountain. If you follow the snowmobile trail down you arrive at the ski lift and the top of the resort.
After a long day of hard work and hard climbing the reward for this trip is a long gentle ski down the hill carving some nice telemark turns as you go. It is defiantly a work out but some great views and a couple of nice powder runs along the way keep it interesting and fun. Map and compass skills are needed for this route and a good gps would be a good bet as well. The trail is mostly easy to follow but one wrong turn can force you to rethink your situation. This is a fun ski with little danger, but all backcountry trips should be treated with respect. Newfoundland weather can greatly reduce visibility in a short period of time so remember to dress and pack accordingly. There is lots of wildlife to be seen and plenty of scenic photo opportunities.
Start at Massey Drive, on the outskirts of the city of Corner Brook.
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