Ski Quebec’s Powder Stash

Fairmont Le Manoir RichelieuPhoto: Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu

1. Where to Stay

Collapse into four-poster beds at Auberge La Maison Otis (from $152 per person, including breakfast and dinner), a classic Quebecois inn at the center of Baie-Sainte-Paul, the closest town to Le Massif. Get a double shot of warmth by requesting rooms 4 or 5, each with a double whirlpool bath within feet of the fireplace.

Tap your inner fur trapper at Chalets Le Genévrier (sleeps five from $110 per night), a seasonal campground with 35 furnished chalets beside a frozen trout stream, just five minutes from Baie Sainte-Paul. Each Scandinavian-style post-and-beam cabin comes with a full kitchen and enough cords of wood to keep the fireplace crackling all night.

Let the valets hold on to your skis at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu (from $157), a grand hotel perched on a cliff above the St. Lawrence River just under an hour’s drive from Le Massif. Though suites are loaded with non-necessities like grand pianos and bidets, even standard rooms are plenty luxe, with plush robes, feather-top duvets, and massive pillows.

Mer & MontsPhoto: Courtesy of Le Massif

2. Where to Eat

Treat yourself to the “Return From the Market” tasting menu at the Relais & Chateaux– affiliated La Pinsonnière , northeast of Le Manoir Richelieu (approximately 45 minutes from Le Massif). Dishes change daily depending on what the chef finds fresh at local markets, and can range from decadent Quebec duck foie gras prepared two ways to a crackling roast rack of lamb.

Tear yourself away from the slopeside cafeteria and indulge in a three-course lunch at Mer & Monts , a white-linen restaurant in Le Massif’s mountaintop lodge. The only thing sweeter than the restaurant’s views of ice flows on the St. Lawrence: its scalding ramekin of maple crème brûlée.

Dive into a real Quebec countryside poutine, a steaming container of French fries, cheese curds, and chicken gravy. Though gourmet versions exist, poutine is best devoured in a rickety casse-croute, or roadside fry stand, like Le Rond-Point (96, rue Leclerc; 418-435-6506), conveniently located right along the road from Le Massif to Baie Sainte Paul.

First snow tracks at Le Massif. Photo: Courtesy of Le Massif

3. What to Do

Long heralded by Quebec powder skiers as a secret snow stash (storms can deposit a Utah-like three feet in one day), Le Massif was recently purchased and modernized by one of the founders of Cirque du Soleil. The upgrades include new high-speed lifts and a revamped summit lodge, from which skiers can practice their own Cirque tricks, notably on runs like La 42, a double black diamond strewn with frozen waterfalls and VW-size moguls. For mellower thrills, cruise down La Bouchard, a fast, groomed, tree-lined slope, before taking a break over hot chocolate and tarte au sucre (sugar pie) at the base lodge.

Unlike nearby Mont St. Anne, the fiercely vertical Le Massif has almost no flat “dead spots,” a boon for snowboarders looking to ride rather than traverse slopes. Another plus: Most Americans tend to ski closer to Montreal, which keeps Le Massif’s lift lines shorter. Most après ski usually takes place in the small, family-run lodges around Baie Sainte Paul, such as the Coeur du Loup (Wolf’s Heart) pub, where you can hustle a game of pool, down some fondue, or do the hustle at the nightly disco. Raucous mountaintop parties, fueled by local microbrews and Quebec City rock bands, kick off at sundown at Le Massif’s Summit Chalet Pub.

Photo: Courtesy of Le Massif

4. Insider’s Tip

If it’s the day after a big powder dump, experienced skiers should head for the trees. Le Massif’s ungroomed glades are among the longest and steepest in the East. The run Le Sous-Bois, off the Camp-Boule chair lift, is a good entry point, offering a well-spaced, not too steep pitch that’s just long enough to feel the burn. After warming up there, head to the west side of the mountain for glade-skiing grad school, a winding, vertical maze of tight woods known as L’Artimon.

Galerie BeauchampPhoto: Courtesy of Beauchamp galleries

5. Oddball Day

Shop for vibrant renderings of the Charlevoix region in Baie-Saint-Paul, an artist’s colony of sorts with well over a dozen art galleries. One of the quaintest is the Maison René-Richard (entrance $4; 418-435-5571), the perfectly preserved cottage of the region’s best-known artist, packed with oil paintings of Canada’s frozen frontier. Two blocks away, Galerie Beauchamp stocks a seemingly limitless catalogue of canvases, including vertical landscapes in electric colors by Yvon St-Aubin. The neighboring Galerie Iris shows a smaller selection of works, most notably some exquisitely colored oil paintings by Guy Paquet. Once you’ve scored your new piece, hit the road back to Quebec City, stopping at Érablière Sucre d’art (8516, avenue Royale, Château-Richer; 418-824-5626), an authentic cabane au sucre (“sugar shack”). Pick up maple butter, maple mustard, and gallons of syrup at a fraction of the Greenmarket price, or just do as locals have been taught and pour hot syrup onto snow to make instant taffy.

6. Related Links

Search for accommodations and activities, plus peruse the maps of foie gras producers and cheesemakers on Charlevoix’s regional tourism site .

The Quebec-based Ski Press has regular snow reports for various resorts in the region, plus enough videos and pics to get you psyched for the slopes.

Forget to pack something? Pick up replacement gear at Mountain Equipment Co-op in Quebec City, Canada’s affordable answer to REI.

Ski Quebec’s Powder Stash