It was when I watched a bearded Tina Turner strut across the stage, lip-synching Simply the Best that I understood this was not my usual ski vacation.
That night, despite aching knees after a powder day on Le Massif mountain, I couldn’t help but get up and dance as Tina-in-drag worked the crowd during Club Med Quebec Charlevoix’s insanely infectious pop culture tribute show. It was ridiculous, it was hilarious and it was packed with performances by familiar faces from around the resort: the bartenders, the ski room staff, the spa manager, the front desk attendants, and so on.
On the same stage the night before, a rollicking Québécois quartet had the audience clapping and stomping their feet. The next evening, a rock band would blow us away. But at each night’s show, the young, enthusiastic staff managed to get even the most reserved guests up dancing. Sure, at this all-inclusive resort, the open bar helped, but Club Med’s first foray into the Canadian ski-vacation scene has one unbeatable thing going for it – an irresistible, non-stop sense of fun.
Why you should visit
Club Med knows how to make a family vacation easier and is well known across Europe for its ski package getaways where guides/lessons are included, amongst other amusements. It’s what’s helped make the all-inclusive Club Med Charlevoix so tempting since it opened in December, 2021, a 90-minute drive east of Quebec City. The hotel is built into the mountain at Le Massif du Charlevoix, a ski resort with a good blend of challenging and intermediate (and extremely scenic) runs. You’ll find the highest vertical drop east of the Rockies on a mountain that looms over the St. Lawrence River – sometimes it can feel like you are skiing right into it.
The all-inclusive model takes a lot of the pressure off parents keen to get their kids on the slopes: lift tickets, daily lessons and dedicated, enormous ski lockers (full of hooks and boot holders) make things easier; the ski room has much-appreciated coffee and hot chocolate machines at the ready, and it opens right onto a run. Family rooms have enough beds and storage for four and (thankfully) two bathrooms. And maybe best of all: Children from ages four to 17 can be dropped off for lessons – staff wrangle the younger ones into their ski gear (hallelujah) – while parents can head over to their own ski group, or decamp to the spa (soak in those views from the sauna), well-equipped gym or excellent yoga classes instead. Children aged 0-3 can also be dropped off to caregivers.
Le Massif’s ski instructors lead Club Med guests around the mountain, but guests need to sign up at the Le Massif lesson desk outside the ski room. (When the desk is closed, however, it is hard to get answers about Le Massif, which is frustrating and yet so easily fixed.) Not included in the Club Med fee but a must for thrill seekers, is Le Massif’s Piste de luge – it’s a chance to race a wooden, one-person sled seven kilometres down the mountain: day or night. There’s nothing like it anywhere else in Canada.
Part of the all-inclusive party at Club Med is the food. It’s excellent and artfully plated in an enormous hall with many hot and cold meal stations, three times a day. Ski guides bring their groups back to the resort for lunch before heading out again in the afternoon. This elevated buffet is always tasty but lacking in Charlevoix’s epicurean delights (though I did find Famille Migneron cheese one day and discovered Miele – a lovely Quebec amaretto – at the bar on another). The lack of maple syrup-based desserts was a surprise, too: Not one tarte au sucre! In Quebec! Wine is served at the tables by wait staff who (eventually) pick up your dirty plates. But that’s okay, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the incredible view of the river from the dining areas.
While Le Chalet, the resort’s full-service restaurant, was not available due to low staffing during my visit, the space did become an apres-ski area where bottomless poutine was served next to an open bar. Apres snacks are also spread out near the main bar area where guests can work their way through the fun cocktail list. Just watch out for packs of children running wild once the Kids Club supervision closes.
Room for improvement
First impressions count, and so it was odd not to be welcomed at the front door when we arrived. It’s a lovely entrance with an old dog sled and pretty lighting but none of the staff hanging around the front desk helped us schlep our bags and equipment through the heavy front doors.
There is so much to love about the modern and bright décor, the upscale chalet feel of the rooms is refreshing and it’s fun to pick out the many winks to Canada, Quebec and the St. Lawrence area in the design – marine and bird watching motifs, a moose statue with a beaver perched on its back, ski-lift style chairs in the hallways, and so on. It was also lovely to spot the artfully designed paddles of local Wendat artist Lara Sioui displayed around the resort, but the décor winks to Indigenous traditions that do not reflect the Huron Wendat culture – like dream catchers painted on walls and play tipis sitting on the pool deck – were disappointing.
Since you’re in the neighbourhood
Petite-Rivière-Saint-François is the oldest settlement in Charlevoix and you’ll drive through the idyllic riverside community with its historic old homes and roadside shrines (one figure of Christ on the cross stands protected by an upturned boat) on your way to Club Med. The village grocery shop – a 20-minute walk from the hotel – is home to 45 Quebec gins, local microbrews, Charlevoix cheeses, charcuterie and pastries. Stock up on your way home.
CanLit fans should also wander down the resort driveway to the summer home of author Gabrielle Roy. The quaint cottage where she lived and wrote for 25 summers is now a writer’s retreat, and only a five-minute walk away.
The take away
After all the parties, the dancing and the activities at Club Med Charlevoix, take some time to admire the St. Lawrence River – the panoramic views are unbeatable here, especially during the fall. During my visit, a blinding snowstorm obscured the vista for hours, but I was enchanted by the melancholic cadence of foghorns as ships passed by unseen. It was a surprising, unexpected moment of delight.
- Club Med Quebec Charlevoix is open year round, rooms start at $230 per person/per night, which includes all meals, drinks, nightly entertainment, many activities, guided hikes and ski lessons in season. www.clubmed.ca
- Le Massif’s Piste de luge toboggan run runs seven days a week until April 2. $64 a person. www.lemassif.com
The writer was a guest of the resort, it did not review or approve the story before publication.
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