Best Places to Ski Near Québec City
Québec City provides a ski base unlike any other in North America. Instead of staying in some variation of faux-Alpine condo camp, skiers here can lodge in a 400-year-old walled city. With the natives speaking French, Old Québec feels positively Old World. As the cliché goes, it's like Europe without the jet lag.
Sébastien Larose/Québec City
The city offers three ski resorts within an easy commute. It is, however, Eastern skiing, which means that by some standards, the areas are small, the vertical relief shallow and ice isn't limited to just après ski cocktails.
On the positive side, low elevations mean no altitude issues. Artificial snowmaking ensures adequate ground cover, and thick vegetation separates trails, packing more runs into a small space. A thigh-burning day can be had at any of the areas.
The ski season generally runs from late-November through early-April, with the best conditions generally coming from mid-February through mid-March. Around Québec City, lift ticket prices remain reasonable, Canadian beer flows freely and mountain-side eateries generally offer poutine. After all, the fries, gravy and cheese curd combination was invented in the province.
Nearest to town, Stoneham (800-463-6888, www.ski-stoneham.com) lies about 25 kilometres (15 miles) north of Québec City. On dry roads, plan on a 20-30 minute drive. The ski area offers 326 acres laid out in a horseshoe shape around three main mountains. From the entry road, those with a bit of imagination will see that the runs across the face appear to spell out the word "SKI." The vertical drop is 420 metres (1,380 feet), and from the top, the slopes look out onto an unspectacular sea of rolling hills.
Stoneham is owned by Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR), which also runs nearby Mont-Sainte-Anne as well as Fernie, Kimberly and Nakiska out West. It features 39 trails, 19 of which are open for night skiing, and its longest run stretches 3.2 kilometers (two miles) in length. Lifts include three quads, one double and four ground conveyances. Trails seem nicely balanced between easy, intermediate, advanced and expert. Grooming runs rampant, and mogul and tree runs remain few.
For those who want to fly above the snow rather than on it, Stoneham offers three terrain parks and a 22-foot Olympic Super Pipe. Helmets are required in all parks, and a special pass must be purchased (CDN$10-15) to access all but the beginner's park.
Stoneham's easily-navigable base area offers bars and restaurants catering to a variety of age groups and financial means. For those wanting to overnight onsite, there's one hotel and a group of condos. Because of its proximity to Québec City, Stoneham is extremely popular with locals. For those who despise lift lines, it's best to avoid visiting on weekends and holidays.
Over-the-counter lift tickets run CDN$52-55 for the day and CDN$30-32 for skiing under the lights.
Also owned by RCR, Mont-Sainte-Anne (888-827-4579, www.mont-sainte-anne.com) lies about 40 kilometres (25 miles) down the St. Lawrence River from Québec City. Under good conditions, it's about a 45-minute drive on a route that passes the impressive Montmorency Falls.
The mountain offers 625 metres (2,050 feet) of vertical on 465 skiable acres. Its 66 trails cover three different sides of the mountain, with 17 of them available for night skiing. Nearly half are ranked intermediate with the rest nearly evenly divided between easy, advanced and expert. There's a terrain park with serious features for serious jibbers as well as an easier learning park for those starting out. Helmets are required in both parks, and an extra-cost pass (interchangeable with Stoneham) is needed to enter the big one.
More of a resort destination than locals' area, Mont-Sainte-Anne offers a main base ski village with overnight facilities ranging from hotel rooms to chalet and condo quarters. The resort features an eight-passenger gondola plus three quads, one triple and one double chair plus five surface lifts. Views from the top look out at a distant St. Lawrence River.
Like Stoneham, Mont-Sainte-Anne relies heavily on grooming. Its steep, smooth trails provide perfect pitches for the perfection of carving technique. For those wanting more daring terrain, the resort offers an array of mogul runs, and its Black Forest serves up 20 acres of double-black-diamond glades. Good skiers and riders do not have to hit après ski early out of boredom.
Lift tickets cost CDN$64-69 for adults, with night skiing going for CDN$30-32.
Farthest from town, Le Massif (877-536-2774, www.lemassif.com/en) lies beside the St. Lawrence River about 75 kilometers (45 miles) northeast of Québec City. The 90-minute drive there passes Mont-Sainte-Anne along the way.
The area began years ago with buses carting skiers up a snaking road to the top of the hill. Today, an eight-passenger gondola, three high-speed quads and two surface lifts do the work, but Le Massif still sports a parking lot at a road's end "base area" near its summit. Instead of awaiting first lift, early skiers wait for a rope to be dropped.
Now owned by Daniel Gauthier, cofounder of Cirque du Soleil, the mountain offers a 770-metre (2,526-foot) vertical drop down to a base lying a mere 36 metres (118 feet) above sea level. They brag that it's Canada's highest vertical drop east of the Rockies.
The resort covers 401 skiable acres with 52 trails, the longest of which runs 5.1 kilometres (3.17 miles). The long, steep trails favor experienced skiers with over half the trails for advanced and expert skiers and only 15 percent for beginners. While grooming is abundant, there remain plenty of bumps to bash and glades to glide. Le Massif also sports a terrain park where, of course, helmets are mandatory.
While the slopes are grand, the most fantastic attribute of Le Massive is the view. The resort rises straight above the St. Lawrence River, and nearly every run looks as if it's bound for water. On a cold winter's day, the river's surface takes on a gray hue with a white-bordered shore and sheets of ice floating in the strong current. It's a scene that inspires awes.
Le Massif offers dining and bars at both its base and summit areas. There is no lodging at the resort, but rooms are available in nearby towns.
One-day lift tickets for adults run CDN$64 with lower rates covering the beginner only areas.