From the Eastern Front –March 7, 2001
Quebec: C’est Magnifique!
mes amis! Comment ca va? Nous avons jusqua retourné a faire du ski a Quebec, and
il [was] magnifique!
Well, maybe the high school
French is a bit rusty, but the intent is obvious - we’ve just returned from skiing
in eastern Quebec and it was magnificent! You’ve heard of “lake effect” snow that
upstate New York gets from the Great Lakes? Well, how about the “river effect”
snow that Mont Ste. Anne and Le Massif receive thanks to their location on the
shores of the St. Lawrence River. Now, before you dismiss that as hyperbole, remember
this: in that area, the river is nearly twelve miles wide. That’s a lot of water
and it helps to generate considerable amounts of snow.
Le Massif sits directly
on the river. On some runs, given the steep but consistent pitch, you feel like
you’re actually going to ski right into the frigid water. As a result, the skiing
yields views that are truly unique - with a twisting shoreline disappearing to
the east, ice flows making their way up or down river (it’s a tidal river, still
affected by the Atlantic Ocean), and sometimes wonderfully eerie cloud formations
drifting around below you. Just ten years ago the only uphill transportation at
Le Massif was by school bus. Now there’s a top-to-bottom high speed quad that
makes accessing the slopes extremely efficient. Still, out favorite section is
off the “other” chair, a double that served a handful of black diamonds and one
nifty trail that travels “sous bois” - under the trees. And, come next season,
a major expansion will further improve things.
Mont Ste. Anne is sometimes
cast as the “other” ski area in Quebec, because many folks think first of Mont
Tremblant, north of Montreal. But, Mont Ste. Anne is a big hill, and one that
loves kids. (Take a week here and your kids just may be speaking French by the
time they go home.) They’ve even got a green-rated glades trail called La Vital
Roy that was cut particularly with kids in mind. (We confess to sneaking in there
unaccompanied by kids and having a very good time.) During our recent visit, however,
the highlight was six inches of new snow - kept western-fluffy by prevailing cold
temperatures - that provided a classic eastern powder day. We scurried all over
the mountain looking for stashes,
and even helped to open two trails, thus getting some fine first tracks. In between,
we stopped by the trailside “cabine `a sucre” (“sugar shack”) for some “sugar
on snow.” (The secret is to let the hot maple syrup cool for a few minutes before
you roll it onto your wooden Popsicle stick.) Delicious.
We also spent a few nights
at the magnifique Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, North America’s only walled
city. When you toss in the urbane urban element to the continental feeling that
eastern Quebec exudes, you’ve got a nifty European adventure without having to
cross the ocean. And, all with that fantastic Canadian dollar exchange rate. Nous
l’aimerons. We love it.