Learn to love Canadian winter
Quebec wilderness comes alive in the snow, with many opportunities to play
Nowhere in Canada do people embrace winter as much as in Quebec. The belle province sparkles in the cold. Don’t let winter get the better of you. Do like Quebecers and you’ll start to love those icy flakes. For those of us who have an inclination to hibernate, we can learn a few tips from the Quebecois on the best ways to enjoy this magical season.
In the regions of Mauricie and Lanaudière, a two-hour drive northeast of Montreal, many miles of wilderness and a good number of luxury resorts offer winter activities to keep the blood moving. Guests at Auberge Lac Taureau (lactaureau.com), situated on a peninsula bordering Lac Taureau Regional Park, bundle up for snowmobile rides through the snowy forest or lace up ice skates for a turn on the rink in front of the hotel. An indoor pool offers the perfect way to relax after a bracing day.
Winter is a good time to visit a woodsy log resort for other outdoor activities including snowshoeing, dog-sledding, cross country skiing, and horse-drawn sleigh rides. Overlooking a majestic lake with a shoreline extending for more than 26 miles, Hotel Sacacomie (sacacomie.com) draws visitors from around the world who want to experience the season’s frozen beauty. Breathe in the crisp, pine-scented air. Listen to the crunch of the snow and marvel at the dogs that bark happily, only too glad to take you for a glide along the frosted forest paths. After a nippy day, get toasty in front of the huge fireplace in the lobby with a mug of hot chocolate, or warm up in the GEOS Spa Sacacomie, an outdoor spa with hot thermal pools, sauna, and steam bath. The hotel’s restaurant features many locally sourced dishes, including duck, venison, bison, and lamb to fortify you against the cold, especially when paired with Quebec wines. Don’t forget to try homemade sugar pie with fresh cream for dessert.
Quebecers are proud of their gastronomy. At Auberge du Vieux Moulin (auberge-lanaudiere.com) owner Yves Marcoux helms the kitchen, creating mouth-watering dishes, while his wife Sylvie serves guests in the 110-person dining room. Their son Kevin manages the rustic family-owned property and is happy to show guests their resident elk, Beau and Belle, and spotted deer, all housed in a fenced off area behind the auberge. Guests can rent snowmobiles, go snow tubing down an outdoor slide, or swim in the heated, indoor pool. From mid-March to mid-April, the auberge’s sugar shack bubbles with maple sap as it transforms into liquid gold¬–maple syrup. Maple syrup is in many items on the menu, plus delicious homemade maple butter is served with toast at breakfast. “Quebec is the biggest producer of maple syrup in the world and 25 percent of our syrup is sold to the Chinese,” explains Kevin. Ice fishing—catching fish through an opening in the ice using “tip-ups” or dandles—is another winter pastime. Domaine Bazinet (domainebazinet.com) offers it all: heated huts, drilled holes, and dandles on its trout-filled lake. The property has 25 cabins, many with wood-burning stoves, and you can rent snowshoes if you want to take a walk in the woods. When hunger pangs hit, try the lodge’s specialty, smoked trout, which comes in a variety of dishes including salads, pizza, and pasta.
Heading back to Montreal, complete your trip with a stop at Chez Dany in Trois-Rivières (cabanechezdany.com). The all-you-can-eat menu includes delicious pea soup, meat pie, grilled salt pork, maple ham, pickled beets, fluffy maple pancakes, and maple taffy on snow. Warm and friendly, the restaurant is known for its rollicking live Quebecois music.
Maureen Littlejohn is a Canadian travel writer and Executive Editor of Culture Magazin.
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 9, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.