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Ian Brown skis Take It or Leave It on Monashee Powder Snowcats' terrain in the interior of B.C. (Colleen Gentemann/Colleen Gentemann)
Ian Brown skis Take It or Leave It on Monashee Powder Snowcats' terrain in the interior of B.C. (Colleen Gentemann/Colleen Gentemann)

East vs. West: Where's best skiing in Canada? Add to ...

Once you're finally up there, snow and terrain abound. The lodge and separate sleeping quarters are full of pleasures: hot tubs (two, both outdoors, covered and uncovered), massage therapists, dining room, staff of 15, pool table, gear store, two bars, excellent wine list, on-slope photographer, en-suite bathrooms and showers in every room, in-house chef (Dave, a mad snowmobiler) and baker (Fiona, a rock climber with Haida tattoos on her precision-cut triceps, who I meet as she returns to the kitchen from the hot tub in her bikini top to make a rhubarb compote and pistachio crème anglaise for her caramel meringue – oh, and, where was I?, a large screen TV on which to view the day's crop of video ski-porn, which is what everyone does before and after dinner each evening, all the while oohing and mmming and saying things such as “when you land that fakey, then we'll talk.” This is a ski vacation. It's total immersion. You would be surprised how engaging a conversation about refurbishing a set of snowcat treads can be.

5. Le Massif, perched as it is in Quebec and closer to civilization, presents a less unilateral approach to its pleasures. You fly to Quebec City, whereupon your options multiply. As of this month you can take a passenger train from Quebec City's legendary Montmorency Falls to Le Massif. You get off the train and step onto Le Massif's gondola, and reverse the procedure at day's end. This is a fantastic thing to do, given that the train is très relaxing, has WiFi and offers full-course meals by the same people who run the kitchen at Fairmont le Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie, Charlevoix's grandest hotel.

Because Le Massif is still a work in progress (which is part of its charm), it has no slopeside hotel yet, although overnight train/hotel packages are available on weekends. But if you make the scenic hour-and-15-minute drive from Quebec City to Le Massif by car, you can stay in nearby Baie-Saint-Paul (20 minutes north) or La Malbaie (40 minutes, ditto). Your correspondent spent a very pleasant night at Auberge La Muse in the former, where I drank local Quebec microbrews and contemplated sweetbreads in puff pastry and duck cooked in a reduction of Charlevoix honey. As I ate I watched two local women in the busy restaurant flirt with their dates. The women were wearing plunging leather spaghetti-strap camisoles despite the fact that it was minus 12 outside. Rural Quebeckers bow to nothing.

After another day of powdery skiing, I drove back to Quebec City for a last night at Auberge Saint Antoine – the city's finest boutique hotel, built on the site of a 17th century warehouse. Whatever you do – I mean this seriously – eat at Panache, its restaurant, celebrated for modernizing traditional Quebec dishes. My meal, one of the best I've eaten in a restaurant, began with an amuse-bouche of celeriac and shrimp graced with basil and clementine jelly and a glass of 2009 California Tamas zinfandel. It got even better from there.

6. A lot of the charm of both Le Massif in the East and the Monashee Powder Snowcats in the West stems from the fact that their histories as ski resorts are recent, within graspable living memory. Le Massif was a purely local attraction until the late 1980s: Three hundred skiers a day climbed the hill or rode up by Ski-Doo and school bus. Its steepest run, La 42 – on a part of the mountain that was deemed difficult enough to host the women's Olympic downhill but not the men's when Quebec City made a bid for the Winter Games – was a 45-minute trek from the top of the hill.

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