Destinations, February 1999
You're Carving Where?
Top-notch cat-skiing in an unlikely spot
I'd come a long way to see Charlie's Bottom, and I wasn't going to be denied. After a two-hour flight from Toronto to Halifax, another hour puddle-jumping to western Newfoundland, a 50-mile drive through a blizzard, and then a restless night anticipating my outing with Blomidon Cat Skiing, I stood straining into the fog, hoping for a glimpse of those fabled cheeks.
Our group had climbed to a 2,200-foot plateau, and though the Bottom wasn't in sight, I could sense that Glenn Noël, founder of the four-year-old outfit, was on to something. As the sun sneaked out, I saw exactly what that something was: flat-topped mountains covered by drifts of North Atlantic powder, undulating to an abrupt end at the Bay of Islands.
Indeed, from November until May, perpetual west winds disgorge snow that blows across the Blomidon Mountains' plateaus of peridotite — a startlingly orangeish eruption of the earth's mantle so heavy-metal-heavy that even lichen has trouble getting a spore-hold — and stacks up in deep bowls. Which, when combined with plenty of above-treeline terrain, makes this one of only two East Coast spots (the other being Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula) where heli- and cat-skiing rule. A typical day with Blomidon (709-785-2222) brings eight epic runs in conditions that range from fluff to hardpack; you're guaranteed at least 14,000 vertical for your $90 to $115 per day.
Between outings, the place to bed down is Corner Brook, a nearby pulp town-cum-outdoors hotbed. Mooseburgers, seal-flipper pie, and cod tongue still dominate local menus, but lodgings are surprisingly cosmopolitan, ranging from the three-star Glynmill Inn (doubles, $57; 709-634-5181) to Strawberry Hill Resort (doubles, $68-$196; 709-754-1174), a turn-of-the-century manor that's hosted the likes of Queen Elizabeth II.
Her highness, truth be told, never made it to Charlie's Bottom. We, on the other hand, did, scrambling up over wind-scoured rocks to the vaunted, glacier-carved bowl. A 40-degree screamer that's amazingly light underfoot, it was worth every anxious, uncomfortable moment it took to get there.