Barely spring. The tundra is covered in 4.5-m (15 ft) of snow and ice. Temperatures hover around -10 degrees C (14 degrees F). Lounge inside by the fire? Flip on the TV? Not in Labrador—that’s the mainland part of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada’s most easterly province (one divided by the Straight of Belle Isle). It may look like a winter wonderland outside, but the warm weather lures sun-lovers outdoors into a vast wilderness that extends as far north as Finland. Yes, the landscape is raw and rugged, and yes, caribou outnumber people 25 to one. But since the only subcompact vehicles are snowmobiles, this is when everyone can finally ride out and celebrate together. Close-knit communities are connected by some 1,500 km (930 mi) of groomed snowmobile highways stretching all the way to Quebec. With all that gorgeous white space, there’s plenty of room to play.
Inuit, Métis, Innu and other settlers embrace the abundant daylight with wintry abandon. In March, there’s the annual SnoBreak in Happy-Valley, NL. Goose Bay is the starting line for the 20-km (12-mi) Big Land Challenge Dog Team Race. The town also celebrates nine days of family-friendly skating, skiing, curling, snowmobiling, ice sculpting, live music, wine tasting and communal feasts.
Labrador City hosts the week-long Labrador Winter Odyssey of snowmobile races (during Cain’s Quest Snowmobile Endurance Race alone, teams of two ride 2,000 km (1,240 mi) into the pristine backcountry), skiing, snowboarding, sliding, sled-dog rides, tubing, ice sculptures, parties, fireworks and the Zamboni Olympics. Snowmobilers travel to Port Hope Simpson for the annual Sno’Blast, Labrador’s oldest snowmobile festival.
Canada’s cross-country team perfects its technique on swooping downhills and gentle, woodland trails at the Menihek Nordic Ski Club, which offers almost 40 km (25 mi) of groomed trails open to all. Birch Brook Nordic Ski Club has 30 km (18 mi) of challenging cross-country trails for skilled classic and skate skiers. There’s a cozy chalet and sauna après-ski, too. And on these cold clear nights, the otherworldly glow of the shimmering Northern Lights illuminates silent spruce forests.
And that shimmering glow on your face? Probably a famous Labrador suntan from the fresh-fallen snow. Who says summer’s when all the fun happens?
www.tourismlabrador.com www.maxximvacations.com www.adventures.ca www.southeastern-labrador.nf.ca www.labradorwintertrails.com white-wolf.net