Dan Gardiner once wrote an article suggesting that Newfoundland's Boondockers had converted to a new snowmobiling faith in the State of Utah.
There’s no denying our feelings about the northwestern United States for this has indeed become our favorite place to ride on the entire planet. The area boasts some of the most dramatic terrain imaginable. Utah powder is drier than the world’s finest champagne. And Salt Lake's massive storm systems erupt violently, pass quickly, and thus create some of the most glorious “Blue Bird” snow days imaginable.
Though we’ve been overwhelmed by our riding experiences in the Mormon State, a snowmobile excursion to the west coast of Newfoundland reminds us that our island is also a significant riding area that should be acknowledged as an epicenter for back country sledding; a truly accessible mountain environment that can be shared by all – from the beginning ‘Angashore’ to the professional snowmobile enthusiast.
The beauty of this sport, and the very essence of “Boondocking” is the freedom to travel “unbounded” through whatever terrain presents itself. Whether that means a pointed journey to a distant mountain top or the opportunity to veer off the beaten path at any time – exploring hidden glens, pounding out some late season river powder, or letting it all hang out with a “full bar” speed run on a frozen lake. This is where Newfoundland’s sled experience really stands alone.
With only 500,000 people spread over 100,000 square kilometers, there is an abundance of “Crown” or government lands which offer free snowmobile access throughout all of Newfoundland & Labrador. Conversely, Utah is far more densely populated, and as such, “private access” and “wilderness areas” restrict some of their best riding areas.
The aged mountains of Newfoundland's ‘Appalachian Chain’ are quite challenging, but the less experienced/skilled rider can easily circumnavigate nearly every range with an alternate escape route. Whereas Utah's “youthful” ‘Rocky Mountains' are unforgiving, often blocking access and advancement to all but the world's bravest soldiers.
Riders in the western United States and much of Canada must be constantly concerned with avalanche awareness. Newfoundland's dense snowpack rarely slumps, let alone slide from less daunting slopes.
And of course, the elevation factor really plays to Newfoundland’s advantage. Where western riders don’t often reach the trailhead til nearly 5000ft – “islanders” are sucking oxygen rich air that pumps horsepower into both jockey and sled at sea level.
Finally, while Utah's powder provides an “out of body” (almost celestial) experience, its bottomless nature is difficult for even the most fit and skilled rider to navigate. Though we’ve extracted over 70 “stuck” sleds in a single day of guiding in Newfoundland – you must apply serious consternation to anything that Utah redefines as “Tangly”.
So yes Daniel, it’s more than fair to suggest that we’ve been born again in Utah – for the LDS (Latter Day Saints) have embraced us with a new kind of high.
There's a lot to be said about “Riding with the Gods”, but you'd want to be completely out of your mind to try and deny Newfoundland her place on the “Stairway to Heaven”.
Sweat your brains out boys!