The name Québec comes from the Algonquin word kébec, meaning “where the river narrows.” From the top of La Massif and Mont Sainte Anne, it looks like you could ski right into the St. Lawrence River. It’s one of the most impressive vantage points you’ll see from a ski slope.
There’s a lot written and sung about a river’s effect on a person and it’s clear that the mighty St. Lawrence is a force from which the folks of Quebec draw their resolve. These folks don’t fear winter, they party in it. Here are a few hot tips for crushing Quebec, one of the top ski cities in the world.
1. Parlais Francais, Por Favor.
If you’re traveling from the U.S., particularly from the Southwest, one thing you’ll discover straight off is that saying “por favor” and “gracias” won’t get you far in Quebec. Ils parlent français, which is French for “people speak French.”
Folks here are super nice. First, they speak to you in French, and then when they see your deer-in-the-headlights reaction, they’ll say it again in English. Now that’s courteous folks, merci beaucoup!
2. Follow the Sun at Tremblant.
The best strategy for navigating Tremblant’s 662 skiable acres is to follow the sun around the mountain. Start by skiing the Versant Nord (North side), then continue to Versant Sud (South side) and finish the day basking on the sunny side, Versant Soleil.
You can’t see the St. Lawrence from here, but the south side affords brilliant views of Lac Tremblant. Also on the south side is The Refuge, a small log cabin tucked in the woods that serves up the best gourmet beef stew. To get to it, ski Tiguidou, which is French for “everything is alright.” Yes it is.
View Tremblant lift tickets.
3. Save with the St. Lawrence Summit Pass.
Mont-Sainte-Anne, Stoneham, and Le Massif de Charlevoix share a multi-resort lift ticket that also offers 33 percent off ski and stay packages and other promotions all season long. All three are within easy driving distance from Quebec.
4. Night ski at Stoneham.
Stoneham’s base area is one of the easiest to navigate, even for kids, making this a quintessential family ski area. Its 333 skiable acres are just a 20-minute drive from downtown Quebec, and the lifts are an easy walk from the parking lot across flat terrain.
Ski 42 runs by day and 19 runs under the lights at night. An Olympic-sized halfpipe and terrain park features are open day and night.
5. Savor Mont-Sainte Anne.
Mont-Sainte Anne is Stoneham’s big sister. A shuttle provides daily round-trip service from Quebec City or it’s possible to take scenic 30-minute drive. Mont-Saint Anne’s 547 skiable acres top out 2,625 feet above the St. Lawrence River. To the skier’s right off of the Panorama lift are steep double-back diamond runs and glade skiing at its finest with well-spaced trees.
There are 71 runs in all, plus a halfpipe and three terrain parks. It’s also the home to the highest vertical drop for night skiing with 20 runs under lights. Have your lunch at the Chalet du Summit. No English-French translation needed, the views are spectacular.
6. Live Large at Massif.
Le Massif de Charlevoix is the brainchild and 10-year pet project of Daniel Gaulthier, the co-creator of Cirque de Soleil. The area has undergone a revitalization that aims to develop sustainable tourism. You can get to its 406 skiable acres by taking a shuttle from Quebec, or if time is on your side, take a scenic hour and 45-minute train ride along the St. Lawrence.
There are a variety of travel packages including one that serves breakfast, a stop at historic village of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre, and a four-course dinner on the return trip. Enjoy skiing fun, rolling terrain on the hill, and cap your day with a spin down the 4.5 mile luge run.
7. Take a Sip at Two of the Best Après Ski Bars.
Ok, so clearly there are more than two awesome après ski bars in Quebec, but two that I came to love are the Hotel La Ferme and Voutes Napolean. The Hotel La Ferme is owned by Le Massif and is just a short train ride away to the farm village of Baie-Saint-Paul, but there is nothing old-school about this place. The uber-contemporary architecture and gourmet appetizers make this an exceptional experience. Plus, if your après goes into over-time, there are 150 artsy rooms to nestle in to.
Meanwhile three blocks from Quebec’s old city is the Voutes Napolean, a downstairs cellar bar and folk cabaret. I immediately fell for this place after listening to Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” sung with a French accent. Charming bartenders are eager to join in the fun and the folks here are genuine and just plain awesome.
8. Belly Up to a Foodie’s Delight.
Founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, Quebec City is one of the oldest cities in North America and you can add it to the list of ski cities that offer a unique mix of alpine skiing and cosmopolitan nightlife.
The saying goes that the English Canadian eat to live, and the French Canadian live to eat. The result is an entire province stuffed with true-to-life restaurants serving heaping portions of gourmet comfort food that’s filling enough to pop the top button of your ski pants. Seriously, you can pretty much stumble on an awesome place to eat here, the choices are innumerable.
9. Throw Down at Winter Carnival.
The people of Quebec celebrate winter like we in the States celebrate the Fourth of July. More than half a million people come here for Winter Carnival each year, taking part in a slew of outdoor fun and even a night parade. The Quebecers are tough, just check out this short video of the canoe ice races. This is their idea of a good time?
10. Quebec Your Butt its Cold.
The nice thing about 20 degrees below zero and 40 mph wind gusts is that after that, everything else feels warm. It’s true what they say: there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad ski cloths. We’ve come a long way from the days of waffle-iron long underwear made of cotton and loosely knit ski hats. It can be cold in Quebec, so get the most out of your ski trip by dressing head-to-toe in the latest performance technical ski-wear.
Need some help? Here’s a guide for beginners on how to dress for the slopes.
11. Drive Fast and Pretend to Take Chances
In Canada, you get to drive 100 kilometers an hour, which is not as fast as 100 miles per hour but it’s still fun to look at the speedometer and pretend. Also, most restaurants and retail stores accept U.S. dollars so bring your Benjamins – especially if you plan to speed in a foreign country.