Best Spots for Ski Touring
No matter what you call it—backcountry skiing, off-piste skiing, or alpine touring—this sport is all about skiing off the groomed trails and climbing a slope and then skiing down it. Far from the crowds, often surrounded by pristine natural beauty, ski touring fans are hooked on the satisfying sense of freedom and heart-pumping exertion this sport brings! Here are some helpful tips and recommendations on how to enjoy it to the fullest in the Québec City area.
Jacques-Cartier National Park
This little slice of heaven for experienced skiers with their own equipment offers 3 different backcountry zones with drops ranging from 200 to 330 metres. The first two areas are close to the welcome centre and very easy to get to, while the third is about a 7 km hike away, but those willing to put in the effort will be rewarded with some primo powder. Since these areas don’t open until there’s at least a metre of snow on the ground, it’s always best to ask what’s open before heading to the park.
Sentiers du Moulin
- Nick Dignard
This off-piste ski area is the closest to Québec City and offers woodland skiing and 170 metres of vertical drop. The trail up to the summit takes less than 20 minutes. Sentiers du Moulin is the perfect spot to get your snow fix if you’re short on time. You can also rent equipment from the sunny new reception building that doubles as a great après-ski spot.
Massif de Charlevoix
- Le Massif de Charlevoix, Jean-Sébastien Chartier
A plethora of powder, vertical drops of up to 800 metres, and one of the most breathtaking views of the St. Lawrence around—welcome to the Mont à Liguori sector at Massif de Charlevoix. There are multiple trails to get you to the top, and all the descents ultimately lead back to the resort’s groomed trails. The extensive network of skiable areas makes it easier for beginners who can split the descent in two for a more manageable 200-metre vertical drop. The Alpine Touring day pass includes one lift in a chairlift or gondola, and you can rent equipment.
Mont-Sainte-Anne and Stoneham
- Mont-Sainte-Anne, Michelangelo Oprandi
Over at Mont-Sainte-Anne and Stoneham ski resorts, all downhill runs are on traditional downhill ski trails since backcountry skiing is not allowed.
At Station touristique Stoneham, alpine hiking is newly offered on a trail leading to the summit in about 60 minutes.
At Mont-Sainte-Anne, ski touring enthusiasts can climb their way to the top on three marked trails, with one located on the north face. This resort is still one of the best places for those looking to give alpine touring a try: it’s easy to rent equipment, they offer beginner clinics, and the trails are patrolled, which can be reassuring for first timers. The fabulous views of the St. Lawrence River and Île d’Orléans from the summit will be your greatest reward.
Ski Touring Excursions
There’s nothing better than going out with a guide to learn the basics of the sport or to discover a ski area’s best-kept secrets. To get the most out of backcountry skiing, it helps if you already have some downhill skiing experience.
- Quatre Natures: For beginners, a guided excursion with Quatre Natures is a great way to get familiar with the loaner equipment and master uphill and downhill skiing techniques at Jacques Cartiers National Park.
- Québec Pure Expérience/Éco Plein air: The spectacular ski area at Vallée Bras-du-Nord Park is accessible only if you go with a guide from this adventure tourism outfit. But that means you’re less likely to run into others so you get to be the first to schuss your way through the deep, untouched snow.
Ski Touring Season
Resorts wait until a good amount of snow has fallen before opening up their backcountry ski areas. Generally, the season doesn’t start before January and ends in mid-March.
Clothing and Gear
When you’re in the forest sheltered from the wind (especially going uphill), the winter cold often fades into the background. It’s best to wear layers so you can adjust as needed to stay comfortable. Basic gear includes touring skis with climbing skins and free-heel boots. If you’re just starting out, it’s best to go with a guide to learn the basics before heading out on your own.