CORNER BROOK - It may be a long, drawn-out winter, but for those who thrive on adventure tourism, conditions couldn't be better.
Martin Hanzalek, who started up My Newfoundland Adventures about three years ago, now operates his adventure tourism business at the base of Marble Mountain.
He said the early winter and consistently cold temperatures have created some great opportunities for enjoying the season.
Marty Hanzalek said the list of things to do is as long as it is exciting and goes beyond a day of skiing on groomed downhill or cross-country runs or snowmobiling on manicured trails.
For example, his company offers the chance to experience backcountry skiing or snowmobiling, or alternative winter activities such as dog-sledding, ice climbing or snow kiting.
Hanzalek has seasoned guides from across Canada who can lead short or long expeditions for beginners or experienced outdoor enthusiasts alike.
"You don't need to have any experience or any equipment to enjoy the things we offer," he said. "Just the other day, we had three kids aged six, seven and eight out dog-sledding and they were all driving themselves at the same time.
"The same goes for ice-climbing. We can take young kids all the way up to senior citizens."
Dog-sledding and ice climbing have been two focal points this year. Elaine Pinnard came from Quebec with her huskies to work for the first time last winter. This year, she's back with 32 dogs and two pups and can go for an afternoon jaunt or a multi-day trek into the mountains with her teams and camping equipment.
With thousands of square kilometres to choose from, she said the west coast always offers something exciting when venturing about on dog sled.
"Last year, I was driving sled with some visitors and we came face-to-face with a caribou," recalled Pinnard. "The guests were right behind me and they couldn't believe that."
While adventure tourism often brings to mind backcountry excursions, sometimes an extreme adventure is mere metres from the road. That's the case with ice climbing on a steep cliff between Marble Mountain and Corner Brook overlooking the Humber River.
"We call it the 'Million Dollar Wall' because there's only a one in a million chance that you'll ever find such a great spot for ice climbing that is suitable for beginners and a challenge for experts and which is right alongside the highway," said Hanzalek.
While frozen ponds and waterfalls make for great dog-sledding and ice-climbing, western Newfoundland's winters also feature wind, which can be harnessed for snow-kiting over frozen ponds and snowy plateaus.
"You'll never look at the wind the same way again after you've had the chance to go snow-kiting," said Hanzalek.
"We have a lot of great areas with premium snow-kiting conditions too with flat-topped mountains like the Blow-Me-Downs, North Arm Hills and the Tablelands.
"People who know about this sport want to come here because this is one of the best places in the world to do that activity."