3 Surprising Backcountry Destinations

Reading Time: 2 minutes
3 Backcountry
Ski Tuonela * photo: RYAN STUART


Sure, B.C. and Alberta offer the biggest, deepest and most consistent backcountry skiing in Canada, but it’s no duopoly when it comes to opportunities for earning turns. And after last winter, when it was still snowing in the Maritimes last spring while western skiers were mountain biking, heading east might be the ticket. Quebec’s virtues are well known, starting with stars like Le Massif’s hike-access ski area and the Chic-Chocs of the Gaspé with some of the biggest vertical drops in eastern North America. But what about Ontario, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia? Believe it or not, you can backcountry ski in all three.

Gros Morne National Park: The Tableland Mountains and fjord-like ponds of The Rock’s west coast create a unique backcountry environment of long runs, alpine terrain and abundant snowfall. A true backcountry experience, there are no marked routes. Instead it’s up to skiers to figure out where to go and explore for the best snow. Any of the summer mountain hikes will have potential for roadside day trips. As well, two backcountry huts are ideal bases for overnight trips deeper into the park. Bakers Brook Hut is a good intro, with a packed cross-country ski trail most of the way in and plenty of mellow terrain nearby. Southwest Gulch Hut is for the more experienced, with avalanche danger and western-style skiing on Crow Mountain and up onto the Long Range Mountains. $30 per person per night hut fee; pc.gc.ca

Ski Tuonela: The Maritimes only backcountry ski area, this backwoods village on Cape Breton Island sits at the base of a 150-metre-high hill of perfectly gladed forest. But you have to ski to get there—four km from the Cabot Trail highway to the collection of cabins and lodges. From the village up, tracks lead to a windswept summit and panoramic view. Pull the skins and arc lazy GS turns back down. There’s also 18 km of cross-country ski trails for the classic fans. Recover with a swel-tering sauna, a group game in the social centre and then bunk down in one of three cozy cabins—all dog friendly—with lights and a propane-powered kitchen. From $155 for one night and two days of skiing for two people; skituonela.com

Algoma Highlands: Seriously! There really is decent backcountry skiing in Ontario. King Mountain, in Algoma Highlands Conservancy near Sault Ste. Marie, brags a lofty 600 metres of vertical through mature sugar maples. With a little searching you’ll find nice openings to link turns through and, with at least 300 cm of snow most winters, plenty of powder to share among the few seeking a reward. Start at the Stokely Creek Lodge, the centre of the 120-km cross-country trail network, follow marked trails up King Mountain and then explore the forest off the north side to find the best snow. algomahighlandsconvervancy.org

Ryan Stuart
To top