Bowls make for great skiing

Keith &
Keith & Heather Nicol
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Jamie Ryan skis across the eastern side of the Tablelands bowl.

Open bowls are a skiers delight since they start off steep and then gradually flatten out.

They are not truly shaped like a cereal bowl, but are more like a bowl cut in half or in thirds. Bowls often trap snow and since they have many varied slopes they appeal to a wide range of skiers.

Many western ski areas are known for their bowls. At Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort in B.C.  there are numerous bowls and they often lead skiers into the real alpine terrain of snow and rock. Popular at Whistler are Glacier Bowl, Whistler Bowl, Flute Bowl and our favourite, West Bowl. For many people, the real skiing at Lake Louise Ski area in Alberta begins with their impressive Back Bowls. As we head further east into Ontario and Quebec, ski areas are generally built onto wooded slopes that are entirely below treeline. It is only when you get to Newfoundland that alpine-style bowls begin to appear again on the landscape.

Alpine bowls have their origin in the last ice age and were the starting point for the build up of snow and ice that would eventually become glaciers. Thousand of years ago as snow became converted to ice and slowly moved downslope it began to slowly carve out the surrounding rock.

Over time as the glacial ice got thicker and the erosion more intense it gradually formed the steep backed bowls we see in the Blow Me Down Mountains and Tablelands in Gros Morne National Park of today.

Fortunately some of these bowls are relatively easy to get to on skis, snowshoes or snowboards and in the spring they become a focus of where people head to in April and early May for late-season skiing. The closest bowl to Corner Brook is located in the Blow Me Down Mountains and is accessed by the well known hiking trail parking lot near Blow Me Down Brook. From here you can follow the summer hiking trail through the open forest to the stream that drains into the bowl.

On our most recent trip on April 11, it took us about one hour to ski the three kilometres to the stream and then we skied up into the bowl.

This bowl is very steep and had avalanche debris in the centre of the bowl and we counted seven small avalanches along its flanks. We had planned on skiing the left side of the bowl, but gusty winds and the start of steady rain gave us second thoughts and instead we had a quick lunch and skied back to the car.

Tablelands easier to get to

The Tablelands bowl is easier to get to and like the Blow Me Down bowl is accessed by a parking lot that is used for a summer hiking trail. The big advantage of the Tablelands bowl is it is free of trees so the route is straight forward. We usually angle up toward the stream bed and then climb into the bowl.

Most people head to the western side of the bowl since it has a more gentle slope and has a great place to stop and have lunch. From there people usually boot pack up the steeper slope and they then can choose a line that suits their comfort level. The terrain gets noticeably steeper as you edge into the main part of the bowl. Because these bowls receive alot of wind blown snow and have large cornices above them they are also prime areas for avalanches so use caution when  the snow is unstable. We have made two trips to the Tablelands b sowl this April and they always provide some of our most memorable backcountry skiing of the year.

Contributors Keith and Heather Nicol live in Corner Brook and are avid explorers of Newfoundland. Keith can be reached at knicol@swgc.mun.ca

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