The frigid cold snap we experienced over Christmas and New Year’s was Mother Nature’s way of reminding us that we most definitely live in a winter city. But that doesn’t mean we have to hibernate. Quite the opposite, in fact. If we’re going to live this far north, we might as well embrace the chilly temperatures and make the most of it.
With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at some of the wonderful skiing our region has to offer. Aside from the Rideau Canal, what better way is there to enjoy the winter outdoors than with a brisk ski?
An obvious place to start is Gatineau Park, our fabulous natural backyard. Covering more than 350 square kilometres, even sticking to the areas closest to home offers a variety of possibilities, with cross-country skiing probably the most popular. The park website has a pile of valuable information updated daily, from best places to start your outing to length of trails to type of wax to use and the amount of snow base.
Gatineau Park also offers snowshoeing and snow biking trails as well as winter hiking trails, plus overnight accommodations in tents, day shelters and rest spots.
One popular option for snowshoeing or snow biking is to start at the P15 parking lot in Meech Creek Valley and take trail 70, which alternates between hills and valleys, open and wooded areas. It also features two rest cabins, Healey Shelter and Herridge Shelter, where you can stop with friends for a winter picnic.
The southern sector is considered the heart of the network, and many of the trails criss-cross. For experienced skiers, this sector contains most of the back-country trails, which are not mechanically groomed. Some of the day shelters in this area are more accessible than others: you can ski to the Western Shelter from parking lot P12, for instance. And hikers who don’t have a lot of time can try the Pioneers Trail at the southern entrance to the park, just steps from the city. Unlike some of the other trails, you can walk your dog on this trail.
Of course, there’s also downhill skiing in the park at Camp Fortune, which offers 24 runs, night skiing and two cosy lodges. After a long day of skiing, why not stop by Le Spa Nordik for a chalet-style meal or, if you’ve reserved, a soothing massage or salt-water float?
For an adventure a little further afield, there’s Mont Tremblant with its 96 runs and weekend-getaway feel. The village encourages a community connection, with benches that surround the little bonfires around town packed with revellers, making them a perfect spot for finding new friends or warming up with old ones.
Chances are you’ll have to drive to Tremblant, which is about two hours away. But if you’re a member of the National Capital Ski Club, there are weekly bus trips on Wednesdays.
Haven’t got a whole day to devote to your winter pursuit? Here are some spots around the city where you can go for a shorter outing. The main thing is to get out and enjoy winter!