Quebec Ski Trip Summary
Still posting some trip reports, but thought I'd share a summary of our trip, in case anybody is interested in checking that area out.
1. This was an incredible vacation. I have long enjoyed skiing new areas, but there are not many left in New England left for us to check out that are within a reasonable driving distance. We had previously skied 3 Quebec areas (Mont Joye-lost, Mont Orford and Bromont), but those were quick day trips. Discovering how much skiing was able in the Laurentians made it an easy choice to visit. Saint Sauveur is only 3.5 hours from home (plus a border stop of less than 15min), and is almost all highway. You can leave your house early and still get in a full day. No airports, and having your own car is a huge plus.
2. Make sure you have good 4 wheel/all wheel drive and snow tires! Quebec actually requires all registered vehicles in Quebec (does not apply to other provinces/states) to have them. With cold temps, the first few days still had snow packed roads, and side roads were particularly snow covered. My all wheel drive/snow tired Volkswagen Alltrack handled it all just fine. The roads got better as the temperatures moderated throughout the week.
3. Use Airbnb! We got a 7 night, 8 day stylish 1 bedroom condo with a full kitchen within a 3 minute walk to the Atomic Express quad at Saint Sauveur. Total cost in US dollars - $420. There are lot of other great choices - you can rent whole homes with 3-4 bedrooms for $150 US/night.
4. Buy tickets online, at Liftopia or the resort websites! If you buy in advance, you can make the already cheaper tickets even better. For 8 ski areas, our total ticket cost was about US $170 each, just barely over $20/day. That means you can ski multiple areas in the same day if you are trying to "peak bag". Certain areas like Belle Neige had Mustache Thursdays for men - $20 Canadian, but it included a free drink at the bar. Be aware though that taxes are sometimes not included, and the taxes were about 15% extra to the tickets.
5. These areas are family friendly - lots of school groups were present, lessons for kids, cartoon characters, programs, etc. The low ticket prices makes it an affordable destination.
6. Thankfully, Scott is bilingual (he was a French Major in college), so that helped smooth things over. Often they thought we were from Ontario because a lot of Ontario residents ski there and speak a little French. Employees and residents appreciate it when you at least try to speak French. However, they will switch right over for English if you don't. We never had an issue communicating, even at the smallest of areas or local restaurants.
7. The food - oh the food! Everything just tastes better up there. It may be a combination of the culture and scenery, but it is amazing. I'll do another post on it. Lots of dishes have maple as an ingredient, from coffees to martinis. Be adventurous and try something new! On a splurge night out I had sweetbreads (pancreas) in a creamy cognac sauce and Scott had beef tartare, made at our table. You can get poutine everywhere. Breakfast was often chocolate croissants. Try a bloody caesar, which is like a bloody mary but with Clamato juice. And get duck confit - melts in your mouth!
8. Everybody we met was extremely friendly. A lot of the staff at the ski areas reacted very positively when we told them we had driven from Saratoga Springs to ski their mountain, they were impressed.
9. Lots of people asked - "Are you going to Tremblant?". We never went. In the big storm now almost 2 weeks ago, they got 1-2". Saint Sauveur and the local area got a foot of powder instead. The conditions were fantastic where we were, and we heard loose and frozen granular up there. Why go an hour a way and spend $115 on two tickets on Liftopia for not so great conditions? We used the money towards better dinners. Tremblant will be saved for another trip.
10. Skiing 8 ski areas in a row can be tiring. Skiing 9am-4pm (or into the night too) would be too much. Many days were 9am-2, or 9am-4 with a big break in the middle, or a few hours of night skiing instead.
11. By skiing a smaller area, you can really get the to know the area well in a day, and decide if you ever want to return. If you didn't like it, no worries- it was just $20 and you checked it off the list. We enjoyed all areas, but a few we would do midweek and not weekends.
12. Weekday vs. weekends are night vs day. Weekdays - no lines, place to yourself, less than 50 people skiing and in some cases being the only ones on the mountain. Weekends - crazy! Everybody from Montreal is up there on weekends. At Mont Olympia, on Saturday, it was jam packed, with up to 15 min waits on lifts, an overflowing lodge, yet trails were not overloaded. We still enjoyed it, but we would have gotten in more runs on a weekday. Find an out of the way area for the weekend, or instead, go xc skiing or snowshoeing.
13. We had the wonderful opportunity to meet up with other ski history enthusiasts while up there. Pierre Dumas showed us all around on one day. He has done an amazing amount of research on lost Quebec areas and has found almost all of them. He showed us the Laurentian Ski Museum, which is a must visit in St. Sauveur. He also showed us Foster's Folly area, the site of the first rope tow in N. America. He showed us other lost areas, then his wife and him treated us to a delicious lunch at their place, followed by snowshoeing on the Petit Train d'Nord, a former rail line that is open for xc skiing and snowshoeing. On Saturday, we met up with Pierre again, along with Paul Giddings at Olympia, who has researched many lost Quebec areas, and Bob Soden, who runs the Jay Peak History facebook page and is on the ISHA Editorial Board with me. We all enjoyed skiing Olympia and talking about ski history.
14. If you xc ski/snowshoe, the possibilities up there are endless. They have hundreds of km of trails, groomed and ungroomed, that form a spiderweb network throughout all the towns. It would take forever to explore it all.
15. There are lost areas EVERYWHERE. Exploring or visiting them would also take months.
16. If you're looking for a classic, local type ski area, go to Vallee Bleue. A historic area - Mont Gabriel. A resort - Saint Sauveur. Quick night skiing - Habitant. A surprisingly sprawling 500' vertical area - Morin Heights. Some challenging albeit short runs - Gabriel, Chantecler, and Olympia. A relaxing a quiet mountain midweek - Belle Neige.
17. We had no issues at all at the border, even with the government shutdown. We have enhanced driving licenses, as we live in a border state, so no passport needed. They know pretty quickly if you are a concern or not.
18. We have 8 more areas in that region alone for another trip, then other potential future trips to Quebec City, Ottawa, or day trips from the inlaws in Newport VT to the Eastern Townships or the smattering of areas north of Sherbrooke.
19. I know some skiers would think we would be crazy to drive 3-4 hours north to go to a 400-700' vertical area - but we had a blast - and I know everybody on this forum "gets it" when it comes to checking these places out.
20. Night skiing at Saint Sauveur was magical - with the lights in the valley and the fresh snow.
So there's an exhaustive summary - let me know if you have questions or are considering going up there.