A ski resort in the Laurentian Mountains, just 130 kilometres from Montreal and less than two hours’ drive on an excellent motorway, even in winter.
This is one of Quebec province’s most attractive destinations, with a charmingly colourful and exclusively pedestrian village that boasts myriad attractions and good infrastructure, as well as countless outdoor leisure options beyond skiing and snowboarding that are suitable for everyone. Good news for snow fans not put off by temperatures (weeeeeeeellllll) below zero.
One example of this is the motoneiges (what Canadians call snowmobiles), which are serious fun. Although some dexterity is required, anyone can have a go. Another option, especially for those under 16, is riding pillion, as these powerful machines are designed for two. First, the guide gives brief instructions, which includes the correct body posture and how to interpret the signals he makes with its left hand during the trip: a thumbs up, everything OK; a raised hand means stop; and so on. Thrill seekers will love this toy, which can reach speeds of 110 km/h – although the legal limit is 70. Also, considering the number of deer to-ing and fro-ing, it’s better to be careful. And, let’s face it, gliding through the snow at 70 km/h already feels like you’re about to take off! There are over 33,000 kilometres of trails, covering the most diverse terrain, from winding forest stretches, long straight courses (a real temptation to speed!), and itineraries around or above lakes or frozen plains, where every scenario is idyllic.
The trips are organised by local companies and the most popular last four hours. For bolder folk, there are multi- -day tours, where participants can stay in small hotels. There are also night trips, when there’s a full moon.
All this means avoiding the cold as best you can because, even when the sun is out, temperatures are normally below zero. The tour companies provide thick waterproof overalls, helmets, gloves and special boots. The snowmobiles have an adjustable heating system in the handles, but it’s best to wear two pairs of gloves and take “heater” bags, which can be bought in any shop in the area. Normally, a conventional three-hour trip covers an average of 100 kilometres, including the hot chocolate pit-stop. Another option is an independent tour, without a guide, as trails are very well signposted. It’s cheaper, but you really have to know how to read maps. The magical, all-white scenario makes it easy to lose track of distance and reference points. This choice is only for the experienced.
Rackets in the snow
This activity isn’t for everyone. You don’t need experience but it’s not for those interested in the quiet life: it’s a kind of aerobics. Get ready to flex your muscles and get motivated, because the new fashion for fitness freaks is snowshoes. This involves moving around in the snow wearing something that looks like a large tennis racquet attached to your boots with claws, while trying not to sink or slip. Ecologically friendly, it doesn’t harm the environment and leaves only superficial marks on the landscape. Using a stick is optional, but seriously helps on steeper slopes and descents, when the trick is to lean backwards and step heel first.
Another advantage of this activity is that you don’t require transport to get to the trails. All you need is nice scenery and weather conditions are almost irrelevant. If the itinerary is in the national park, you’re protected by the trees. Saying that, it’s always a good idea to hire a guide. After a few hours of this, one thing’s for sure: your muscles will know it. Your reward? What about a massage at one of Mont Tremblant’s spas, followed by a good raclette savoyarde, or a gourmet dinner at one of the many restaurants.
text and photos Antonella Kann
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