Québec has no shortage of snow-covered landscapes, which means we can count on a long cross-country skiing season. As a matter of fact, it's the longest in Eastern Canada. Each of Québec's region proposes its own wintry charms through about one hundred planned ski trails for all levels of skiers. Whether it's for a quiet hike or more of an intense sports outing, cross-country skiing is the ideal family activity. Red cheeks and lungs filled with fresh air: what better setup to an evening of cocooning at the cabin? Here, then, is a short-list of our most favourite trails.
The criteria we considered were:
The Québec City area has many high-quality ski centres, but it's the Mont-Sainte-Anne Cross-Country Ski Centre that takes the win because of its incredibly vast network of trails. It's actually the largest cross-country ski centre in Canada and the second largest in North America. To wit, it offers a total of 208 kilometres of classic trails and 125 kilometres of ski skating trails. Add to the 7 lodges to warm up skiers during their hike. Such a vast network is sure to satisfy all levels of ski enthusiasts. Some come to learn, others to train professionally. Many of our Canadian athletes actually train at the Mont-Sainte-Anne Cross-Country Ski Centre. Visitors can take advantage of its specialized boutique, its very well equipped waxing room, as well as all the other services offered by the imposing Mont-Sainte-Anne ski resort: restaurants, classes, the many lounges at the lodge, fire pits, etc.
A mere 20 minutes from downtown Québec City, the Sentier du Moulin ski centre takes you right into a hilly forest where you will immediately forget how close you are to the city. Its network of trails is a well-balanced mix of climbs, downhills and rest areas. Six heated refuges are located over its 38 kilometres of classic trails and 10 kilometres of ski skating trails. It also offers 35 kilometres of snowshoe trails. The well-maintained marked trails will satisfy beginners as well as intermediate and advanced skiers. The reception lodge offers snacks for your energy needs, a fireplace to warm you up, a waxing room, a ski school and a rental boutique for all your skiing and snowshoeing needs.
The Charlevoix region is a must when it comes to outdoors and cultural activities as well as terroir gastronomy. While we all know its main, downhill skiing attraction—le Massif de Charlevoix—, it's cross-country skiing trails are not as well known, and among them, Les Sources joyeuses, a recreational centre located in La Malbaie that proposes a network of 36 kilometres of trails with incredible vistas on the mountains of Charlevoix's hinterland. It also offers snowshoe trails, a skating ring and tube sliding so that the whole family can enjoy a day out. Services include a reception lodge, a restaurant, a ski school, a waxing room, heated huts and tents as well as a rental centre for everything you need: classic and skating ski equipment, snowshoes, ice skates, lockers, etc.
The Parc national de la Gaspésie is one of cross-country skiing's best-kept secrets. The Mount Albert area gets an annual average of 3 metres of snow, making it a bona fide snow magnet that allows to stretch out the skiing season until mi-March! It has 24 kilometres of mechanically maintained trails, 4 marked trails that are not mechanically maintained for Nordic ski enthusiasts—with a pretty high level of difficulty—as well as 190 kilometres of marked trails for longer ski hikes. There even is a baggage transport service for even longer expeditions! Fifteen heated cabins are located over the whole park to get some rest and grab a bite. The reception lodge offers full rentals for classic or skating ski equipment.
The Laurentians are the mother lode of snowy ski trails. The Sépaq-managed Parc national d'Oka stands out because of its rich historical and natural heritage. The park has 6 mechanically maintained trails, with the exception of trail #5 which is reserved for Nordic skiing. Its 35 kilometres long network will take you to Le Calvaire (the Calvary), a unique historical infrastructure composed of four oratories and three chapels. At the top of the Calvary trail, you will have an unbeatable view of the lake of Two Mountains and the Adirondacks. In the Grande Baie zone, pay attention to Rivière aux Serpents which ends in a rich ecosystem where fauna and flora flourish: a wetland. You can rent all the equipment you need on site as well as sign up for cross-country skiing lessons (ski school for children).
The Centre Bec-Scie will please every snow enthusiast with its tons and tons of accumulations throughout the season. The trees are so covered that they look like they're made of cotton wool. Such a winter wonderland will surely charm grown-ups and young ones alike. The centre offers over 90 kilometres of trails for classic and skating ski enthusiasts, as well as 4 heated cabins, one of which has an unbeatable view over the Canyon. The reception lodge hosts a restaurant, waxing room, and a full-rental boutique.
This was a list of our favourite places, but there are countless trails to discover and enjoy in Québec. For the best ski ride possible, consider going as early as possible in the morning: it will be quiet and the trail conditions will be optimal. There's nothing like freshly driven snow, gliding downhill while the birds sing and having lunch in a well-heated cabin.
Enjoy your season!