Que­bec at its Best

SkiTrax - - Front Page - By John Symon

Que­bec is renowned for its alpine and cross-coun­try ski­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, and a key cen­tre for Mon­treal­ers is lo­cated at Mont-trem­blant, home to some of the best cross-coun­try ski trails in the prov­ince. Ap­prox­i­mately 140 kilo­me­tres (87 miles) north­west of the city's down­town core, skiers have ac­cess to two net­works of cross-coun­try trails: one that tra­verses around Do­maine Saint-bernard, near the Trem­blant re­sort and vil­lage sec­tors, while the other strikes off into the wilder­ness of an ad­ja­cent 1,510-square-kilo­me­tre (583-square-mile) provin­cial park.

“Here we have prox­im­ity: trails that are mostly close to the vil­lage,” ex­plains ski-cen­tre di­rec­tor Daniel Char­bon­neau. “We have a net­work of many short trails, so you are never far from the vil­lage or our ski cen­tre. We also have mul­ti­ple ac­cess points. There is good groom­ing for both Clas­sic and skate-ski­ing here. And our ser­vices are all of­fered un­der one roof.”

Ski de fond Mont-trem­blant of­fers 89 kilo­me­tres of ski trails that in­cludes 75 kilo­me­tres for Clas­sic ski­ing. Of these, some 71 kilo­me­tres are shared with skate-skiers. There are also 14 kilo­me­tres of back­coun­try trails. De­spite the area be­ing one of the most moun­tain­ous in south­ern Que­bec, 46% of these trails are clas­si­fied as “easy,” while an­other 37% are “dif­fi­cult” and 17% are “very dif­fi­cult.”

But not ev­ery­one who vis­its the pop­u­lar cen­tre is a skier; Ski de fond Mont-trem­blant also wel­comes snow­shoe'ers, fat­bik­ers and win­ter walk­ers on its trails. The cen­tre of­fers some 40 kilo­me­tres of snow­shoe trails. Fat­bik­ing is also grow­ing fast here, yet only in its third sea­son.

“Feed­ing the birds here is very pop­u­lar,” says Char­bon­neau. “Re­mem­ber to pick up sun­flower seeds at our Welcome Cen­tre [Ac­cueuil] to feed the [chick­adees] win­ter birds.” He points out that feed­ing the birds and win­ter walk­ing are ac­tiv­i­ties that you can do with grand­par­ents.

The ad­ja­cent Parc na­tional du Mont-trem­blant (ac­tu­ally a Que­bec park) of­fers 43 kilo­me­tres of Clas­sic-style cross-coun­try ski trails re­put­edly among the best and most beau­ti­ful in Que­bec, to­gether with 117 kilo­me­tres of back­coun­try trails and 48 kilo­me­tres of snow­shoe trails. Fat­bik­ing is not al­lowed in the park. There are some 400 lakes and 40 species of mam­mals living here, in­clud­ing wolves, a tes­ti­mony to how wild this sec­tor re­mains.

“The best things about ski­ing at Parc na­tional

du Mont-trem­blant are the pris­tine na­ture and beau­ti­ful views,” says Jean-françois Boily, its ski-cen­tre di­rec­tor. “All of our trails are one-way, and if you come here mid­week, you might not meet many other skiers. Our ex­pert trails also of­fer up to three-kilo­me­tre down­hills. The trails are safe be­cause you will not meet skiers com­ing in the other di­rec­tion. For many peo­ple, if they try ski­ing here once, they will be back!”

An­other lo­cal cross-coun­try ski area is the P'tit Train du Nord Lin­ear Park, which fol­lows a for­mer train track for 232 kilo­me­tres. This area avoids ma­jor hills; it is suit­able for Clas­sic and skate-ski­ing.

About 1.5 me­tres (five feet) of snow falls in a typ­i­cal win­ter (from early De­cem­ber to late March). Early win­ter usu­ally re­quires blue wax, Jan­uary is green or po­lar, while March often calls for red wax or klis­ter. The lo­cal ter­rain in­cludes for­est, mead­ows, hills, lakes and rivers.

The Welcome Cen­tre in­cludes a Cansi-cer­ti­fied ski school, din­ing room and rental bou­tique (Clas­sic and skate skis, snow­shoes, cram­pons and baby glid­ers). While fat­bikes are not avail­able at the rental bou­tique, many lo­cal busi­nesses within the Mont-trem­blant net­work of­fer fat­bike rentals. There are heated cab­ins ( refuges) along the trails.

Trail-groom­ing at Ski de fond Mont-trem­blant is done with both Bom­bardier and Pis­ton Bully ma­chines, as well as a Yel­low­stone tracker sys­tem. On smaller trails, a snow­mo­bile is used. The ad­ja­cent park uses a Bom­bardier BR 180 ma­chine.

Ski de fond Mont-trem­blant is, of course, also one of the lead­ing alpine-ski re­sorts in east­ern North America, com­plete with ho­tels, spas, restau­rants and a casino. Cross-coun­try skiers who come here have an in­cred­i­ble ar­ray ac­com­mo­da­tion, après-ski and din­ing op­tions to choose from near the vil­lage, from five-star ho­tels to log cab­ins in the woods. Good road ac­cess from Ot­tawa and di­rect flights from Toronto add to the al­lure.

All of this draws some 25,000 skiers an­nu­ally to Ski de fond Mont-trem­blant and an­other 7,000 to Parc na­tional du Mont-trem­blant. The cen­tre de­scribes its clien­tele as “70% Clas­sic, 30% skate and 60% women.” Only 5% of skiers are “lo­cals,” but an­other 40% are from the lo­cal Lau­ren­tian re­gion or Mon­treal, 25% are from On­tario and 20% from the U.S. Some orig­i­nally came for the down­hill ski­ing, but are now tempted by the spec­u­lar cross-coun­try ski­ing.

Mean­while, ap­prox­i­mately 75% of skiers of the 7,000 skiers com­ing to Parc na­tional du Mont-trem­blant wear wool or Gore­tex, and only 10% are in Ly­cra, ac­cord­ing to Boily. “There are also a lot of fam­i­lies com­ing into the park, per­haps partly be­cause trail-ac­cess fees and rentals are free for kids up to 17 years old. Many of our guests are car­ry­ing back­packs and stay overnight in some 27 fully-equipped cab­ins in the park.”

The well-de­vel­oped tourism in­fra­struc­ture here also makes it dif­fi­cult for vis­i­tors to be­come bored. Other win­ter ac­tiv­i­ties of­fered in­clude horse­back rid­ing, horse-drawn sleighs rides, snow­mo­bil­ing, ice climb­ing, snow polo, he­li­copter rides, snow tub­ing, paint­ball, ice fish­ing and zi­plin­ing.

Trail-ac­cess fees are $20.50 (adult day ticket), while an adult day pass for snow­shoe­ing costs $10.25 and for win­ter hik­ing is $5.00. Those hold­ing a valid ticket at Ski de fond Mont-trem­blant can also get a 50% ticket-price re­duc­tion at Parc na­tional du Mont-trem­blant from Mon­day through Fri­day (con­di­tions may ap­ply).

Regular (adult) Nordic ski ticket prices at Parc na­tional du Mont-trem­blant are $20.65, which in­cludes park ac­cess. Snow­shoe'ers pay only $8.50 each. Those stay­ing within the park ski for free af­ter pay­ing for their cabin rentals.

(far left from top) You can warm up, take a break or have a lunch in one of the refuge huts along the way. En­joy spot­ting the wildlife or feed­ing the birds amidst the pris­tine na­ture and beau­ti­ful views. Only in its third sea­son, fat­bik­ing is grow­ing...

De­spite be­ing one of the most moun­tain­ous ar­eas in south­ern Que­bec, Mont-trem­blant's trails have some­thing for ev­ery level of cross-coun­try skier, along with fab­u­lous ac­com­mo­da­tions and ameni­ties.

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