Glide over the snow. Move your body. Raise your heart rate. At the same time, gaze at nature, enjoy a picnic, and travel. Cross-country skiing enables you to do all this, and more. Whether practiced as a leisure activity or a sport, it is one of the most popular winter activities in Quebec. According to Ski de fond Québec, the regional division of Cross Country Canada, there are half a million enthusiasts in Quebec, and 25% of them go skiing at least 20 times a year. Things have come a long way since Norwegian-born Herman “Jackrabbit” Smith-Johannsen introduced this mode of transport to Indigenous peoples in Quebec before cutting the first trails in the Laurentians around 1920.
“The perfect sport for active people who love the winter, crosscountry skiing is also an excellent way to encourage others to embrace the season,” note the experts at Boutique Courir. It is certainly an ideal activity for enjoying the snowy season in the great outdoors, especially since the latest ski equipment does not require waxing, a task that many found daunting.
For many, cross-country skiing goes hand in hand with travel. I have a lot of happy memories of fantastic ski vacations or getaways in Quebec City, the Laurentians, the Outaouais region, and the Eastern Townships, staying near cross-country centres in charming hotels or inns known for fine dining.
Located halfway between Old Quebec and the chic villages of Charlevoix, Mont-Sainte-Anne is the largest cross-country ski resort in North America, boasting 200 km of classic trails and 191 km for skate skiing. Quebec Olympians Pierre and Alex Harvey both trained there. The rugged terrain can obviously get your heart pounding at times, but the stunning vistas of the Jean-Larose River and the summit of Mont-Sainte-Anne will offer moments of respite and contemplation.
Gatineau Park in the Outaouais region, only 15 minutes from Parliament Hill and the Rideau Canal Skateway, features 200 km of trails, including 45 km in the backcountry for off-trail enthusiasts. Your calves will no doubt appreciate the undulating terrain!
Parks in the SEPAQ network—notably Camp Mercier in the Réserve faunique des Laurentides and the Mont Tremblant, Mont Orford, and Gaspésie national parks—are also highly regarded for their trails. When skiing in these immense magnificent landscapes, we look like mere ants, though with wooden slats on our feet. The carefully groomed trails are lined with chalets that can be rented for weekends with friends. Proof of their popularity: they are often sold out for the season by the fall.
The Ski Montagne coupée resort in Lanaudière has 72 km of track on the beautiful grounds of the Abbaye Val Notre-Dame monastery. The views of the surrounding hills, the cliff, and the Assomption River render the hours of outdoor activity even more pleasant. I particularly enjoy the family atmosphere of the place, which is, in fact, run by a welcoming family. When you are finished for the day, cap off your visit with a stop in the monastery’s boutique for some delicious cheese, condiments, preserves, and chocolates.
Here’s to a great winter!