Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Where sky, land and water embrace, outdoor enthusiasts arrive in anticipation and leave in awe. Come and experience the unexpected.



By Michael Cowton

As a boy I would wander along the southern shore of the Humber, watching the ferry plough across the waters from New Holland to Hull, keeping a ready eye out for the white elephant that my grandfather told me lived in the muddy banks of the river. The irony would not be lost on him now, as a white elephant did indeed eventually emerge – in the shape of Humber Bridge. And now, years later, I find myself once again wandering the banks of the Humber, but I am in a different place, a different time zone, and indeed a different world entirely.

Once upon a time, the thought of a long-weekend hop to Canada would have been laughable. Economy flights and ease of access have since made that a reality. For in today's competitive global marketplace, with tourism a strategic growth factor in many a country's economy, the promotion of multi-season activity is big business. Newfoundland is a good case in point.

With high levels of snow and breathtaking scenery, the west coast is an ideal place to enjoy winter attractions, including a fine network of groomed trails of snowmobilers and first rate destinations for skiers. Yet it is as a summer location that I was interested this time round. I was soon to discover that Newfoundland has so much to offer in terms of outdoor activity. So how do you get to do it all? Better ask yourself, how much time do you have? For while businesses and community groups have been working to develop new products and extend the season, the government has been busy providing funding to a number of businesses and non-profit organisations from Deer Lake to the tip of the Northern Peninsula, thus helping promote the province as a multi-choice,
multi-season destination.

Woven around a spectacular golf course, the award-winning
Humber Valley Resort is located on the west coast of Canada's most eastern province, and is less than six hours' flying time from the UK. The Humber Valley stretches 70 kilometres from Deer Lake airport to the seaport of Corner Brook. Cutting across this idyllic terrain is the mighty Humber River and the 30 kilometre long Deer Lake. The resort is 20-minute drive from the airport along the Trans Canada Highway, offers luxurious private accommodation and holiday rentals nestling in boreal forest on the north side of the lake.

The splendid wood-built chalets range from three to five bedrooms. There are currently 200 on the sprawling 2,200 acre site, with plans to potentially grow to a thousand. Each chalet is set in a secluded spot with generous pine decking areas surrounded by Canadian Spruce. There is a choice of locations to choose from, including standards. Interestingly, approximately eighty per cent of owners are from the UK and Ireland.

Eagle's Perch, the resort's clubhouse, overlooks the valley and offers spectacular views of the surrounding area. This forms the heart of the resort with recreational facilities, a restaurant, bar and reception area. Lower down the hill the Beach House provides further dining opportunities and nightly entertainment, with both a casual restaurant and a pub eatery (Sully's). It also offers a splendid terrace area with direct access to the sandy beach on the lake shore, from where you can launch your kayak or canoe and follow the lower Humber River as it winds for 19 kilometres through the valley and empties into the stunning Bay of Islands.

You can strike out from the resort for Newfoundland's thousands of miles of coastline, ancient mountains and glacier carved fjords, providing breathtaking contrasts and landscapes. A 90-minute drive away is Gros Morne National Park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gros Morne [photos] offers more than 100 kilometres of marked hiking trails, from leisurely strolls to challenging treks through dramatic rock formations, and it is possible to summit the Gros Morne (806 metres). It is recommended to start your park visit at the Discovery Centre in Woody Point, or the Visitors Centre in Rocky Harbour, where Parks Canada guides will help you plan your tour and identify the waterfalls, marine inlets, sea-stacks and cultural activities available.
From kdg-in-hvr
Ten minutes' drive from Humber Valley Resort is Marble Mountain, which opens its lifts to skiers from mid December for four months. Within easy reach of here is Corner Brook, the second largest city in Newfoundland. Marble Mountain is also home to My Newfoundland Adventures. In the seven years since the activity company's launch, Newfoundland has witnessed &' progressive change, from being primarily a resource extractor with fishing, forestry and mining at its core, to where it sits today, its focus underpinned on an emerging tourism industry. My Newfoundland Adventures has successfully ridden on the back of that wave.

Marty Hanzalek relocated to the Humber Valley from the west coast of Canada and its mature tourism industry, and was taken aback by the multitude of rivers, mountains, beach and ocean venues, very little of which had been utilised. "The opportunity was there to showcase the area to the outside world, offering outdoors enthusiasts from every age group the chance to partake in what this place has to offer," he says.

"My Newfoundland Adventures received a fantastic reception. Newfoundlanders are well known for being friendly, synergistic, and helpful, and that has been tried, tested and proven in our seven years here. We would not have been able to do or be where we are without the help of the locals, who have really identified the opportunity with us."

The business specialises in a mix of water-based and 'high angle' activities such as
canyoning and rock climbing, as well as leading groups into the subterranean world 50ft below Corner Brook, and its spectacular cave system. Rafting has also been a popular activity since the outset, taking place on one of the biggest Atlantic salmon producing rivers in the world. The Humber sees upwards of 70,000 salmon swimming upriver every year.
From Humber River ...
Currently on offer are over
40 unique adventure activities that take place in the Humber Valley. The mandate all along has been to offer high-end accessible adventure, from beginner level, although there is room for every genre to come to Newfoundland and have a fantastic, world-class experience. "From time to time we do get experienced individuals that want to avail of a more advanced programme, and we have those in place, but 90 per cent of what we do is beginner accessible," says Marty. As a result, many enthusiasts return, either wanting to experience other activities or further their skills level at one particular pursuit. That has helped the business grow its more advanced programmes.

As the accent on adrenalin sports grows worldwide, so My Newfoundland Adventures is constantly launching
new product. "We can build your skills, grow with you, and with your experiences, and provide years of unique adventure activities," says Marty. "If we were not in this location, it would be very difficult to find another place in the world that would be conducive to so many different outdoor sports in one zone."

Conscious of environmental stewardship and conservation, My Newfoundland Adventures primarily offers non-consumptive, self-propelled activities like
dogsledding and backcountry skiing during the winter, and tries to include an educational component in everything it does. Therefore, not only does a participant leave having had a great experience, but also with a few tips or ideas to hand that would otherwise would not have been available to them.

Accessibility is such a great thing. With the advent of cheaper flights, it is possible to fly from Gatwick to Deer Lake on a 'Tuesday or Friday, and enjoy a long weekend or week of fun in the sun, or in the snow. That accessibility has opened the door to the UK and mainland Europe. "In the UK, people seem to be money rich and time poor. There are those out there that would love to participate and can afford it financially, but cannot afford it time-wise," says Marty. "That has changed with the advent of cheaper flights.

"We always ask our visitors why they come here, and they tell us every time, it is the things that they can do. We work hard so you now get a chance to come and play hard, and experience those things that you always dreamed about, in a wonderful environment. Come to Newfoundland, because nobody wishes they spent more time at work."
SCANNED PDF Article from the magazine Outdoor Pursuits Sept/Oct07 (Magazine has now closed)

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