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Backcountry skiing in Quebec.

The question: I will be visiting Quebec City in early December and hope to have a couple days to ski the backcountry, perhaps near Mount Valin. Any suggestions?

TRAVEL CONCIERGE: While the Western Canadian resorts are opening to heaps of snow, some of the Quebec hills may read: "Come back in a month." That is, if you want backcountry.

"Backcountry skiing in early December anywhere in the province is risky," says René-Luc Morin, president of the Fédération Télémark Québec. "It takes a lot of snow to do that. ... Not sure if it would be appropriate even in Mount Valin."

Not that the area is lacking in powder once winter is well under way.

Parc national des Monts-Valin, about a three hours' drive from Quebec City, is a great destination for backcountry skiing, says Marika Perron, communication manager for Sépaq, which promotes Quebec's parks. But the snowcat shuttle, which takes enthusiasts to the base of Vallée des Fantômes, begins on Dec. 18.

A better bet now may be to warm up your quads at resorts near the capital such as Stoneham Mountain Resort or Mont-Sainte-Anne. Both are opening this weekend. And there's some exciting things happening at Le Massif de Charlevoix, about an hour's drive from Quebec City, Morin says.

The resort, now owned by the founder of the Cirque du Soleil, is christening a base-to-summit gondola this season, as well as doubling its off-trail offerings. Lifts restart on Dec. 4.

The off-piste section, however, relies on Mother Nature for its opening day, says Isabelle Vallée, spokeswoman for Le Massif. "Experience tells me that people should wait for the second or third week of January."

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