March 13, 2017 / Property Spotlight

Quebec’s Winter Wonderland

Visit the magnificent snow-capped slopes of the Charlevoix region in Quebec and discover sledding, night skiing, and Nordic-style hot tubs


East of Quebec City, the Charlevoix region offers up a unique landscape that has led to it being designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Every winter, Charlevoix is covered in snow and the ski hills of Le Massif and Mont-Sainte-Anne pull in visitors, drawn by two very different alpine experiences. Le Massif has been described as one of Quebec’s “best-kept secrets” with jaw-dropping scenery, while Mont-Sainte-Anne is a bustling resort with a multitude of winter sports on offer.

Le Massif
A four-mile toboggan run that winds down Mont Liguori is one of the main attractions of Le Massif. Photograph: AlamyFresh powder, moguls, gondolas—all compelling reasons to spend a day skiing at Le Massif, rushing down toward the banks of the St Lawrence River. It may not be as well-known as Mont-Tremblant or Mont-Sainte-Anne, but Le Massif moves local ski enthusiasts to speak in reverential tones about its views, its lightly groomed trails, and the short lift lines.

Daredevils should note that Le Massif has the highest vertical drop east of the Canadian Rockies. There’s also a triple black diamond run, as well as two of the longest expert trails in eastern North America. The less adrenaline-seeking can choose from more than 50 trails spread over several skill levels. There are 32 acres of true backcountry/off-piste skiing. If virgin powder and unmarked trails are your kind of thing, Le Massif is your kind of place.

Daredevils should note that Le Massif has the highest vertical drop east of the Canadian Rockies

But the truly unique feature at Le Massif is the sledding—or rodeling, after the German. It’s a four-mile toboggan run that takes two hours to complete, roughly, factoring in the chalet stops en route for hot chocolate.

Mont-Sainte-Anne is a vast skiing area, with 71 trails and four snow parks spread across three sides of the mountain. Photograph: Alamy. Banner image: Lemassif.comWhere to begin with the charms of this full-service resort? Dog sledding, ice skating, snowshoeing, plus 125 miles of cross-country ski trails and challenging loops for fat (tire) winter biking are just some of the draws.

Most appealing, though, might just be the night skiing: at dusk the slopes here light up, creating a magical journey down the mountain. Not the kind of resort to do things in half measures, Mont-Sainte-Anne has Canada’s highest vertical drop for night skiing.

Just 30 minutes from Quebec City, the hill also indulges visitors with restaurants, hot tubs, shops, ski school, daycare, and even an alpine museum.

Station Blü Nordic Spa
Soothe aching muscles after a day on the slopes in the steam baths, hot tubs, and Finnish saunas at Station Blü Nordic Spa.Don’t worry, nobody will shush you at Station Blü. It’s a social spa, not a monastery, so bring your most talkative friend for a day of dipping and dunking in the Nordic baths.

Nestled halfway between Le Massif and Mont-Sainte-Anne, Station Blü is a perfect alternative to the ski hill. There is a sauna, steam bath, two hot tubs, two ice baths, massage therapy, and more. The spa has its own source for pure water piped directly into the steam bath and Finnish saunas, but the real moment of bliss comes when you step onto the heated concrete walkways.

It’s difficult not to admire how well the contemporary design showcases the natural landscape

Station Blü’s edgy architecture is reason enough to visit. The three main pavilions are faced with black wood—a bold choice, but a good one. Massive picture windows keep things light. While sitting beside the outdoor fireplace, it’s difficult not to admire how well the contemporary design showcases the natural landscape. It’s also hard not to notice the occasional professional hockey player sitting in the hot tub. Partially financed by hockey players, Station Blü is a magnet for top talent and the beauties they attract.

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Joanne Latimer
is an award-winning Montréal-based journalist who has written for The New York Times and The Globe and Mail