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Le Massif+ March 4-6, 2016

Cannonball

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Disclaimers:
1) Technically Quebec is in the Southeast but this seemed best located in the Northeast forum.
2) This report is 5 days old, conditions have definitely changed by now. Seemed worth posting anyway.

A few weeks ago a casual work acquaintance mentioned that he was planning a trip to Le Massif Quebec and asked if I was interested in joining on. It sounded like it good opportunity so I was in. His group consisted of about 10 guys some of whom I vaguely knew most of who I didn't. As the weeks progressed and New England conditions continued to deteriorate and Quebec wasn't looking too much better, people started dropping out from the trip. We were close to cancelling altogether as of a week ago when we had a cut off for the hotel reservations. I decided to go for it regardless of conditions since it was a rare weekend where I had absolutely no other conflicts. By then we were down to a group of 4 with still some hesitation. And then it started to snow in Quebec. Last week Le Massif got hit hard picking up close to 3 feet in just a couple of days. They were even closed for half a day because of road closures.

At this point I had no idea what to expect. I didn't know what type of skiers these strangers were. I didn't really know what their plan was for skiing. I didn't know what kind of conditions we would find. So I packed up of an assortment of cross country, backcountry, and downhill skis. Threw random gear in a bag, and decided to just take whatever came my way.

We left Lincoln NH at 6 a.m. and headed north. The lack of snow on the ground in northern NH and VT didn't make it feel like a ski trip. But by the time we got near the city of Quebec we could see the snowfall that they had just been slammed with. Road crews were still digging out the city and some highway lanes were shut down. North of the city snow banks where 6 to 8 feet high at least.

Our first stop was Mont Saint Anne Nordic center. As we passed the Alpine resort we could see really crowded trails, most likely due to the QC school vacation week. But as always the XC center was a ghost town. I've never seen such as extensive Nordic operation. A couple of lodges, 200km of well maintained trails, a half dozen serve-yourself tuning benches complete with irons, locker rooms, etc. They Nordic seriously and we were out of place with our beat up old backcountry gear and lack of spandex. Trail network is amazing and we had a blast on the rolling terrain. Conditions were perfect: 15degrees, bright sunshine, and super soft fresh snow. Moose prints were everywhere. We did about 10 miles including stops at a few of their cool huts.
hut.jpg

The next day we switched gears for some downhill/BC skiing at Le Masiff, where the had a LOT OF SNOW!! The road in....
snowbanks.jpg

The other 3 guys were on tele, so I opted for my AT setup, still not sure what kind of skiing they had in mind. Le Massif is a unique place. Most of the parking and facilities are at the top. Our in was near the bottom so we approached the mountain that way. The bottom has limited parking and services, but they open 15min ahead of the top so that you don't lose fresh tracks opportunities. Ticket prices were $75CAN, which is great considering the exchange rate. But don't forget taxes!! It never even occurred to me that a lift ticket would have tax! That was another $11. Still $86CAN is something like $64US. We took a couple of laps on the groomers to orient ourselves to the mountain and to each other. Groomers were perfect soft corduroy with a generous ~10' wide ungroomed swath on the sides. I wish more New England mountains would do that. The most famous and impressive aspect of LE Massif is it's location directly on the St Lawrence Seaway. The views are absolutely insane! There was a thin cloud layer so the pics don't really do it justice....
IMG_20160305_103948071.jpg

After confirming that the everyone was basically the same level of skier and that everyone was mostly interested in getting into the woods, we departed the groomers. Le Massif has an enormous adjacent section of off-piste sidecountry. They barely advertise it and the printed trail maps don't really explain it. However, there are these signs along the fringes that give you a tiny bit of info.
map.jpg

The green are nicely cleared glade "sectors", the rest is pretty dense and with unfavorable fall lines. There are entrances at the top and at the mid point. We opted for the mid point first. This include about 20min of skinning up narrow, moderately pitched trail onto a knoll to access Sector 550 and 4.
sector 550.jpg

Continued in next post for more pics.....
 

Cannonball

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....These glades are amazing! Reminiscent of Burke's best glades in terms of pitch and spacing. But with a water view....
IMG_20160305_113205914.jpg

There was hardly anyone in there and the powder turns were plentiful. One of our tele crew.....
IMG_20160305_113948526.jpg

That first lap had us hooked and next we headed for the summit entrance to link together as many of the Sectors as possible. The hike in from the top was a little more crowded with people, a little steeper (bootpack instead of skin), and also about 20-30min. We got some advice from locals at the top on how to link together the maximum of woods (stay right at the Maples). We were able to stay in the woods for over an hour of skiing that included re-hiking the knoll in the center. I can't think of any other place where you can put together so much tree skiing in one run. The upper part was slightly more tracked out, but we still found plenty of stashes there and the bottom sections continued to have fresh lines everywhere.

Me enjoying a graceful pre-release from my right ski. 0.5secs later was significantly less graceful as I ate bark and powder......
12312.jpg

I can't say enough good things about Le Massif. I would go back in a second. They only downside is that you couldn't count on replicating conditions. We asked some locals: "Is this the best weekend of the season?" They answered: "This is the best weekend in many, many seasons."

They next day we put the Nordic gear back on and skied the Railroad bed along the St Lawrence. Again, it was a perfect day, 25 and blazing sun. They water and mountain views make this a really special spot.

IMG_20160306_082047154.jpg

IMG_20160306_080010447_HDR.jpg
 

xwhaler

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Wow.....what an adventure. Looks absolutely breathtaking.
Having been to Quebec city 2x I can appreciate the view of the St Lawrence River----I bet up on the mtn it is that much better.

You should perhaps buy a lottery ticket tonight---you have been very lucky this season outside of Cannon
 

steamboat1

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"Ticket prices were $75CAN, which is great considering the exchange rate. But don't forget taxes!! It never even occurred to me that a lift ticket would have tax! That was another $11. Still $86CAN is something like $64US".


If you stop at a duty free shop at the border you can get a full refund on all Canadian taxes paid if you save your receipts. This includes all taxes ie. food, hotel, lift tickets etc.
 

Cannonball

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If you stop at a duty free shop at the border you can get a full refund on all Canadian taxes paid if you save your receipts. This includes all taxes ie. food, hotel, lift tickets etc.

That's good info! I never even thought of that. Next time....

Actually I just looked into this. They stopped doing that about 5 years ago.
 
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granite

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Glad you had a great trip and nice report. Did you get over to the La Charlevoix side and was it open? Did you ski any of the double blacks over there?
 

Cannonball

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Glad you had a great trip and nice report. Did you get over to the La Charlevoix side and was it open? Did you ski any of the double blacks over there?

The upper "cone" was closed. What a crazy operation that is! I would love to climb those stairs some day. We were more focused on the eastern trees to ever make it to those double blacks on the other side.

FYI: your report from Valentine's weekend was incredible, and it was part of what sold me on this trip. If people missed it they should check out the elegant descriptions and pics from your report...... http://forums.alpinezone.com/showthread.php/137822-Le-Massif-de-Charlevoix-02-11-16
 

granite

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The upper "cone" was closed. What a crazy operation that is! I would love to climb those stairs some day. We were more focused on the eastern trees to ever make it to those double blacks on the other side.

FYI: your report from Valentine's weekend was incredible, and it was part of what sold me on this trip. If people missed it they should check out the elegant descriptions and pics from your report...... http://forums.alpinezone.com/showthread.php/137822-Le-Massif-de-Charlevoix-02-11-16

Glad my report was a help. It is unlike any other ski area in the East, even though the mountains are part of the Appalachains, it has a totally different geographic feel. The entire region-land and sky-seems expansive. The language and culture are different and also the river (it must be 5 miles wide there, or more) and Le Massif has a south-east exposure. The forest there is very healthy and beautiful. I've only gone skiing there twice, neither time I made it over to the off piste sector, always saying I will return for a mutli-day trip to really explore. It must have been really cool staying down at the bottom, near the river. Both times I was there I arrived at the top. Did you notice that 10 foot high fence on both sides of the highway for at least 10 miles to keep moose and deer off the road as you drive up Le Massif? It's a long drive but if you have at least a few days it is very well worth the trip.
 

Cannonball

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Did you notice that 10 foot high fence on both sides of the highway for at least 10 miles to keep moose and deer off the road as you drive up Le Massif? It's a long drive but if you have at least a few days it is very well worth the trip.

It's quite the fence. The number and size of the fence posts must have kept an installation crew busy for a year.
 

steamboat1

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When Le Massif first opened parking was on top with less than a handful of trails to ski down. When you got to the bottom a school bus was waiting to take skiers back to the top, there were no lifts. When they first installed lifts (a HSQ & the double skiers left near the top) parking & the lodge were at the bottom. This added about a 1/2 hour to the ride from Quebec City to the ski area. The road down to the river was several miles past where the current parking is & was steep & twisty. This was the same route the school bus took. The ride along the river to get to the base area is very scenic & I believe there was a town you went through before getting to the base area. I think it was when they installed the second HSQ & built the pyramid on top in an Olympic bid that the new lodge was built on top & parking reverted back to the summit (I believe they used the dirt from excavating for the parking to build the pyramid). I've been up there about a 1/2 dozen times in my lifetime (usually for a week) but haven't been since before they installed the gondola. The other ski areas in the area are also worth checking out (Mount Sainte Anne, Stoneham, Le Rolais). All three of these areas also offer night skiing, Le Massif doesn't. I haven't been to Massif de Sud so can't comment on that ski area. There are lots of other things to do in the area besides skiing if you want to take a day or two off from the slopes. I'd love to get back up there some day but since no one in my family skis anymore except my daughter (parents to old, wife gave it up as did my brothers family) it's less likely. It's to long a drive to do it on my own.

edit: on several of our trips the snow was banked on the side of the road just like your picture, even in QC itself. We first started going to the area for the same reason people are going now, no snow in New England.
 
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granite

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When Le Massif first opened parking was on top with less than a handful of trails to ski down. When you got to the bottom a school bus was waiting to take skiers back to the top, there were no lifts. When they first installed lifts (a HSQ & the double skiers left near the top) parking & the lodge were at the bottom. This added about a 1/2 hour to the ride from Quebec City to the ski area. The road down to the river was several miles past where the current parking is & was steep & twisty. This was the same route the school bus took. The ride along the river to get to the base area is very scenic & I believe there was a town you went through before getting to the base area. I think it was when they installed the second HSQ & built the pyramid on top in an Olympic bid that the new lodge was built on top & parking reverted back to the summit (I believe they used the dirt from excavating for the parking to build the pyramid). I've been up there about a 1/2 dozen times in my lifetime (usually for a week) but haven't been since before they installed the gondola. The other ski areas in the area are also worth checking out (Mount Sainte Anne, Stoneham, Le Rolais). All three of these areas also offer night skiing, Le Massif doesn't. I haven't been to Massif de Sud so can't comment on that ski area. There are lots of other things to do in the area besides skiing if you want to take a day or two off from the slopes. I'd love to get back up there some day but since no one in my family skis anymore except my daughter (parents to old, wife gave it up as did my brothers family) it's less likely. It's to long a drive to do it on my own.

Talk them into going to Winter Carnival in Quebec City for a few days and then take off skiing.
 

steamboat1

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Talk them into going to Winter Carnival in Quebec City for a few days and then take off skiing.

We always went Presidents week which is the week after winter carnival. The ice sculptures in the city & surrounding hotels were still there when we went. My daughters older & starting a career so she has a hard time getting time off & like I said my wife doesn't ski anymore so I think I'd have a hard time convincing her to go up there just for the carnival.

edit: it's not that these areas get a tremendous amount of snow that it's piled so deep. I think they only average about 150" a season. The reason it's piled so deep is unlike New England they don't get hit with the rain & thaw freeze cycles like New England does during winter. Often when it's raining in New England it's all snow up there.
 
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steamboat1

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"Ticket prices were $75CAN, which is great considering the exchange rate. But don't forget taxes!! It never even occurred to me that a lift ticket would have tax! That was another $11. Still $86CAN is something like $64US".


If you stop at a duty free shop at the border you can get a full refund on all Canadian taxes paid if you save your receipts. This includes all taxes ie. food, hotel, lift tickets etc.

That's good info! I never even thought of that. Next time....

Actually I just looked into this. They stopped doing that about 5 years ago.

Sorry I hadn't realized they stopped doing this. Like I said it's been awhile since I last went up there.
 

SkiRay

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We were hoping to make it this year but, we are waiting for our kids passports to be renewed! Wow. These are some amazing photos!
 
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