College students from Vermont to spend their March break skiing the Tablelands

Diane Crocker dcrocker@thewesternstar.com
Published on March 3, 2012

When you think of March break you usually picture college students enjoying themselves in some warm climate with sandy beaches.

But that won’t be the experience for a group of students from Vermont.

They’ll be spending their March break backcountry skiing in Gros Morne National Park.

Bruce Saxman is the director of adventure programs with Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vt.

He’s bringing a group of nine students from the liberal arts college to Newfoundland as part of the college’s non-academic outdoor program.

Saxman said the extracurricular program provides all kinds of outdoor activities and an outdoor leadership program for students at the college.

“Skiing is very popular with students,” said Saxman, so when the trip was announced at the beginning of this semester it filled up really quick.

Saxman has been running backcountry ski trips for the past few years. Recent trips have included destinations like Maine and last year Quebec.

Saxman said he actually planned to take the group to Quebec again this year, but was too late in making cabin reservations and that left him trying to find another destination.

“And I was doing some research and Newfoundland came up.”

Saxman emailed and called some friends that had skied around the East Coast, but found it a bit hard to get information on backcountry skiing in Newfoundland.

So in December, he and two friends travelled to Gros Morne to check things out.

“Cause it seemed a little daunting to take a bunch of college students up there with no research.”

The group spent New Year’s in the Tablelands area of the park. He said Newfoundland, like Vermont, was experiencing a slow start to winter, but a storm that hit after they got there provided them with some really good skiing for a couple of days.

“I loved it,” he said of the experience.

“I thought the interaction of the mountains and the ocean and having them be so close was really beautiful and really cool. And just the ease of just pulling off on the side of the road and just heading up into the mountains was really nice,” said Saxman.

“We didn’t even have a good map of the area and so we would just hike up and we’d just find these like beautiful bowls to ski in. And there’s no trees to hit, like where we ski in Vermont there’s trees everywhere we have to dodge them, a lot of them.

“And just to have that wide-open mountain terrain with such easy access and good snow was really fun.”

The group will leave Vermont today to catch that nights ferry crossing from Sydney to Port aux Basques. They’ll arrive in Port aux Basques on Sunday morning and hope to be in Rocky Harbour by that afternoon.

The group plans to spend a couple of nights in Rocky Harbour staying at the Gros Morne Cottages and then has a backcountry hut booked in the southwest gulch area of the Tablelands for three nights.

Saxman said the snow conditions will dictate where and how they ski.

“The idea would be we’d be out from morning to evening.”

He said they’ll most likely bring a sled along to carry supplies and pairs of students will be responsible for bringing dinner for everyone each night with breakfasts and lunches being their own individual responsibility.

They’ll spend a week in the area before heading back home on March 10.