Quebec at its Best
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.