Wintertime sports abound in this Canadian City
By Arvin Steinberg
Photos by Phyllis Steinberg
Icy adventures await the traveler in Quebec provence, but be certain to bring along a few sets of long underwear. Well known for its primarily French speaking population and outstanding gourmet French cuisine, this city is bursting with wintertime fun for those who aren’t afraid of artic-like temperatures.
As far as the natives are concerned, the colder the better! Many of the main attractions in the area depend on low temperatures and plenty of snow. The skiers will tell you that the more snow, the better they like it. And the owners of ski resorts pray for plenty of the fluffy white powder because if it doesn’t fall, they have to make artificial snow and it’s very costly.
At my visit to Mont-Sainte-Anne, a ski resort about a half hour from Quebec City, only a few of the ski trails were open and the resort was busy making enough snow for the rest of the trails. It was late December, early for the ski season which puffs up with mounds of the billowy powder around January.
There is a restaurant at the top of the mountain, where skiers can warm up and enjoy their favorite brew along with a hearty meal. Mont-Sainte-Anne also has a cafeteria at the bottom of the mountain with fantastic views of the slopes and of skiers sliding down the pearly white powder.
Mont-Sainte Anne offers skiers a majestic view of the surrounding countryside and of the St. Lawrence River, the largest waterway in Canada. Skiing down from the trails one sees this magnificent body of water surrounded by glistening tree tops and snow covered homes.
I stayed at Hotel Chateau Mont-Sainte-Anne which is a skier’s delight. The Chateau is located at the foot of the ski lift. I just walked out the door and onto the gondola which escorted me up to the top of the mountain in less than 10 minutes. The accessibility of the gondola to the hotel enables skiers staying at the resort to make several runs down the mountain with ease.
The rooms at Chateau Mont-Saint-Anne are roomy, clean, and comfortable and many have fireplaces and great views of the mountain, skiers, and ski lift. Food at the resort is top notch with many choices including awesome French pancakes served cold if you like them that way.
Not that skiing is the only activity, I also enjoyed meeting up with some friendly dogs on my first venture with dog sledding, a five minute walk from the Chateau Mont-Sainte- Anne. Les Secrets Nordiques is the home of these energetic hounds that are a mixture of Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute and six of them weighing about 90 pounds each pull a dog sled carrying a rider and a driver through varying trails stretching out several miles from Chateau Mont-Sainte- Anne. The hour and a half ride costs about $87 in Canadian money and is an adventure not to be missed. Kids over the age of four can even participate as they are guided by experienced drivers.
Ice skating and ice fishing are also popular sports nearby, and there is also a spa in the area featuring ice baths in outdoor ice pools.
It’s a challenge to conquer the uppermost steeps at Le Massif, the highest ski terrain east of the Canadian Rockies, where spectacular river scenery, never-ending panoramic trails and a climate that delivers abundant snowfalls. Le Massif provides an opportunity and a challenge to skiers of all levels with 770 meters of breathtaking vertical drop and 43 scenic trails and glades, perched high above the St. Lawrence River. Le Massif is 46 miles from Quebec City in the Charlevoix region, 20 miles east of Mont-Sainte-Anne, making both ski destinations highly accessible for vacationers to the Quebec area.
I’m a food smart sports fan and took pleasure in the restaurant at the top of the mountain at Le Massif where the cuisine steers clear of fried foods. An inspired menu composed of hearty meals-in-a-bowl, a variety of sweet or savory crepes, fresh pasta, vegetarian dishes, grilled meats and fish replenished my energy level in a healthy way, not often the offerings at typical ski destinations.
There are two delightfully cozy inns in the nearby area of Baie-Saint-Paul, located in the Charlevoix region. I enjoyed my visit to La Muse Inn and Inn Auberge La Pignoronde. They are comfortable and charming inns that also serve excellent regional foods.
Restaurants in Quebec are the vacationers delight with deliciously prepared meals made with ingredients that are indigenous to the area. One of my favorite dinners was at the L’Orange Bistro also in Baie-Saint-Paul.
And for those who like more passive icy adventures, there is the Ice Hotel. Unique in North America, this magnificent ice and snow architectural wonder offers a distinctive experience. It takes seven weeks, 500 tons of ice and 12,000 tons of snow to craft the Ice Hotel with its ceilings as high as 18 feet. The walls are covered with original artwork and furniture is carved from ice blocks. The Ice Hotel is located in the town of Sainte-Catherine-de-la-Jacques-Cartier, a 30-minute drive from Quebec City.
Many visitors to Quebec plan a day trip just to see the unique Ice Hotel, a popular tourist attraction. Others get married in the Ice Chapel. I did enjoy a drink at the Ice Bar where my drink was served in an ice glass. I wore gloves as I sipped my favorite libation. Vacationers who are more adventurous than I, stay at the Ice Hotel. I prefer creature comforts and stayed at the recently built and wonderfully comfy and cozy Duchesnay Station Touristique lodge next to the Ice Hotel where I also enjoyed fabulous French cuisine.
A visit to the old city in Quebec is a must with many interesting art galleries and gift shops which offer locally made handcrafted items. The city will be celebrating its 400th anniversary in 2008, giving it the distinction of being the oldest city in North America.
It is also one of the cleanest cities, from the streets to the public restrooms and hotel rooms.
OThe language of the majority of the population is French, but I found the people to be very friendly and accommodating even if they didn’t understand English. They tried to help me with directions and patiently tried to answer questions about activities.
I live in Fort Lauderdale, and what made my vacation to Quebec extra-enjoyable was my non-stop direct flight on Maestro Airlines. They even served a hot meal on the three hour and fifteen minute flight. Maestro offers year round service from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to Quebec City.
Chateau Mont-Sainte-Anne, 1-800-463-4467, chateaumsa.com
Les Secrets Nordiques, (418) 827-2227, www.lessecretsnordiques.com
Le Massif., 1-877-LeMassif (536-2774), www.lemassif.com
Le Muse Inn, 1-800-841-6839, www.lamuse.com
Inn Auberge La Pignoronde, 1-888-554-6004, www.aubergelapignoronde.com
Ice Hotel, 1-877-505-0423, www.icehotel-canada.com
Duchesnay Station Touristique, (418) 875-2122, www.sepaq.com/duchesnay
L’Orange Bistro, Baie-Sainte-Paul, (418)-240-1197, www.coeurdeloup.com
Charlevoix Region, 1-866-324-4919, CharlevoixTourism.com
Quebec, 1-877-BONJOUR, www.quebecregion.com
Maestro Airlines, 877-737-3760 or log on to www.maestro.travel