In the beginning of March I spent 2 days with Ski Chic Chocs in the Quebec Maritimes. Timing was perfect, it happened to be during one of their biggest winter storms of the year! Coming from Western Canada with no prior knowledge of the region, I never imagined there to be internationally renowned alpine ski touring. Needless to say my expectations were exceeded.
The Chic Choc Mountains (The Rockies of the East) are a part of the Appalachian Range on the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec, Canada. Gaspésie National Park (5 hour drive east of Quebec City and roughly 8 hours from Montreal) encompasses 25 summits over 1000m with Mont Albert being the highest in the Chic Chocs at 1,154m. There is more snow here than anywhere else in the Province making it prime territory for winter activities.
Day 1: Mount Hogs Back (830 m)
The morning started off with a delicious breakfast buffet at the Gîte de Mont-Albert Hotel. Afterwards I met up with my guide "Chip" and two others who had road-tripped from Toronto. The meeting spot was at the Gaspésie National Park Discovery Centre where we were briefed and gathered equipment for the day. Around 10 am we set off to the base of Mount Hogs Back, strapped our skins on, and started the steep ascent to the top.
-22 degrees Celsius, wind howling around 70 kilometres per hour and snow engulfing the sweeping vistas. We skied 4 lines of incredible soft champagne powder which instantly took our minds off the weather. After a long and rewarding day on the mountain it was nice to head back to the hotel, eat a well deserved meal, and relax in the sauna.
I had never done any touring before this trip, you appreciate and make the most of every turn you get after skinning up a mountain multiple times. It's also the perfect way to stay fit and active in the winter months. Having an informative and knowledgable guide to show us the best spots on the mountain was incredibly helpful and highly recommended for safety reasons. If you're new to the sport like myself, Ski Chic Chocs offers gear rental and guiding at an affordable price if you don't have all of the required backcountry knowledge and equipment.
Day 2: Madeleine Mines
The morning routine was the same as the first except now a bigger group of us rode in a 4x4 tank-like machine 12kms to the Madeleine Mines. This service is offered privately to guests and is the most ideal way to make the journey to this remote area.
Once again it was incredibly windy and this time -30 degrees celsius. They call it "classic Chic-Choc skiing". We quickly got accustomed to it the moment our skis glided through untouched soft powdery snow that made it all worthwhile.
I had to cut this day short due to travel so I didn't get to ski as much of the area as I wanted to. I highly recommend visiting the Chic Choc mountains (especially if you live in the USA with the way the dollar is right now)! This range is underrated and many people don't even know that it exists.
For those who don't ski; You can explore the scenic trails by snowshoe be sure to keep an eye out for the many caribou, moose, deer and, other wildlife that live the park.
Things to keep in mind:
-The closest town is about 40 minutes away from the park and the only place to eat is at the hotel during select times that you have to reserve. It would be best to grab some snack/drinks before you head into the park.
-This area is known for strong winds year round, make sure to pack lots of warm layers and wind breakers.
-French is the primary language in Quebec, although English is very common.
-If you're flying here, the closest airport is in Gaspé, QC.
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