When I was in Goose Bay over the holidays I had the great fortune of good weather. Not only did I see the northern lights, but I got several large Labrador days.
What is a large Labrador day?
A large Labrador day is when:
- It’s sunny;
- it’s winter;
- there’s lots of snow on the ground;
- not a cloud on sight; and
- you can go out on snowmobile and whip across the frozen bay at -30˚.
It means it’s a great damn day to be outside enjoying the winter. To make the most of it, we suited up and went on skidoo.
My fiancée’s mom took this cute picture of us. See that balaclava on my head? Also known as a ski mask, that balaclava is key! You might feel like a navy seal special ops pulling it over your head, but it will keep you warm.
Traveling up to 50km/hour even with a helmet in -30˚C, any bit of skin you leave uncovered will be exposed to the wind. Uncovered skin feels like it’s being stabbed by hundreds of little ice daggers. Uncovered skin also increases your risk of hypothermia and frostbite.
You also want a pair of ski pants. The best are the kind that come up over your shoulders with straps because they usually have a thick middle section that protects your core warmth as well. All that extra padding made it hard to zip up my winter coat, but it was well worth it.
A helmet and/or goggles. The same kind of helmet as you’d have on a dirtbike, it should have a visor. If you can get a model that has some extra fabric to protect your throat, all the better. Your throat is the most at-risk of frostbite while on the skidoo. If you go with goggles, be sure you’ve got enough balaclava or scarf to cover the rest of your face.
The biggest lesson in skidoo prep is cover up.
Quite a beast, isn’t it? Skidoos can do over snow, ice, the road and sometimes even water (if you get up enough speed – don’t try it for too long though).
Some skidoos have hand warmers and seat warmers. One trick I learned about sitting on the back (the coldest place on the skidoo) is to use your legs to absorb the shock. Skidoo trails can be really bumpy.
If you don’t use your legs, you’ll just be bouncing around on your butt and you could hurt your back or tailbone. In the photo above you can see my boots are gripped onto a set of spikes. You can dig into the spikes to stand up and brace yourself over rough terrain.
First I should clarify that ‘skidoo’ just means ‘snowmobile’.
Much like how people say ‘kleenex’ instead of ’tissue paper’, most people just refer to their snowmobiles as skidoos here. Ski-doo is a brand name.
Other popular brands include Polaris, Arctic Cat, Bombardier and Yamaha. They’re all referred to as skidoos.
Also, the way people here pronounce, it sounds more like (ske/doo), all pronounced like once syllable.
A komatik (com/a/tick) is a big sled on skis that gets pulled behind the skidoo. It’s an arctic sled of Inuit design. You can use it to pull hunting supplies, ice fishing huts, children, beer or (more commonly) all three.
My boyfriend and his friends all remember being kids at one point and being pulled behind their parents or relatives in the komatik.
They’re also called qamutiik, written ᖃᒧᑏᒃ in Inuktitut.
“Going for a razz on skidoo“: going for a skidoo ride
When someone says this they mean they’re going for a skidoo ride.
On Newfoundland & Labrador
Since we’re here, let me clear up the large difference between Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s true, two pieces of land are consider one province, ‘Newfoundland and Labrador’ but don’t you ever (for your own sake) make the mistake of calling someone from Labrador a Newfoundlander, or vice versa. Few things make a Labradorian more irate than being called a Newfie.
Goose Bay Skidoo Trails
There are groomed (maintained) trails all around Happy Valley and Goose Bay. Some popular ones are the Mud Lake Route, out around the bay, and up to Dome Mountain.
Here’s a map I made to give you an idea of where everything is.
When we went out it hadn’t snowed in awhile, so the snow on the ground was hard and crusty. Not soft and fluffy. This meant it was a lot more slippery out to skidoo. On the bay we went across a couple patches of black ice. The ice isn’t any thinner there, it’s just where the snow blew off the ice before freezing. It was kind of freaky going over it – very slippery.
I also had my first wipeout! You can see it on the map. We were going around a corner when one of the skidoo tracks caught on the ice and the machine flipped.
I let out a lackluster, “ahhhh”, the machine flipped over and I slid across the ice. Ouch. I’m fine, but bruised my right elbow that I landed on and strained my left shoulder from trying to hold on to the ski-doo before letting gravity do its thing.
Tips for Wiping Out
- Don’t try to hold on. Just go with the flow and fly off. You’re less likely to hurt yourself.
- Think of something clever to say when you fly off. Like, “Geronimo” or “Here I go!” instead of “Ahhh” (like me).
That’s it from me! I hope you get to try going on skidoo some day too. It’s one of the most fun ways to discover Labrador in winter.