After listening to the weather wimp forecasters here in Maine, it was a welcome relief to be in Quebec City last week.

As we neared the center of the old city, we could see cross country skiers enjoying the sunny day on the Plains of Abraham. There were people walking and their numbers increased as we approached the entrance under the wall that defines the old city from the new.

As expected, the ice castle was on our left just outside the wall, 14,000 blocks of ice frozen together to form the home of Bonhomme Carnaval, the giant red capped snowman that leads parades and appears at special events during this two week celebration of winter. The temperature according to the read out on our dash was near zero, but the pedestrian traffic clogged the sidewalks. The walkers had one thing in common — they were dressed for the weather, with long heavy coats, mittens or gloves and many fur hats with huge ear flaps.

We were there for a meeting and some skiing. Our drive of just less than 300 miles took the usual six hours with our last stop before the border in Jackman.

On this trip, we stayed at the historic Chateau Frontenac, and traveled by bus to the skiing.

I don’t know how many trips we have made to Quebec City, and even how many times we have been there during “Carnaval,” which is the first two weeks of February including three weekend, but we always learn something new.

Our itinerary was all laid out, and all we had to do was be ready to go when the buses were leaving and it included a lot more than skiing. Our first event was a parade on the Saturday night of our arrival. This was a parade for the children as opposed to the big parade which takes place the final Saturday evening (last night) but it didn’t lack for colorful floats, bands and dancers and it was in early evening, lasting only an hour so the little ones who lined the street could see it. Everyone was dressed for it and didn’t seem to mind what our weather weenies would have called dangerous conditions.

The next day, we lined up with the crowd along the waterfront where bitter wind came off the mighty St. Lawrence River as teams lined up with specially built canoes for an annual boat race. Five paddlers and a helmsman manned each boat, all in dry suits and wearing spiked shoes. The river was a jumble of ice that is piled up by the current and the tides and teams started out by dragging their boats upstream through this morass to gain a downstream angle to the far side as they strived to reach some open water. After watching the start, I convinced my companions to seek a friendlier environment to watch the rest of the competition. 

I had wanted to get pictures of the race but the cold had drained my batteries when we were walking about the ice sculptures. 

After a visit to the Ice Hotel, we headed for Stoneham for an evening of skiing. We left the skiing to the grandchildren at this area, about 20 minutes north of the city. Stoneham has 1600 feet of vertical and has hosted women’s World Cup GS and slalom, so it offers plenty of terrain. They join Mont Ste. Anne and Le Massif in a lift ticket good at all three mountains.

Day two of skiing was at Le Massif, an expanding resort with the most vertical in Eastern Canada, sufficient to host women’s World Cup downhill. This mountain is part of a long ridge that towers as much as 2500 feet above the river and the trails end within a hundred feet of the water. There is now a train that runs along the river from Quebec City to Malbaie. 

Day three of skiing was at Mont Ste. Anne, completing the tour of big resorts. Next year, this resort will celebrate its 50th birthday. Big changes are coming to Massif, as the permits are now in place for a new base village.

A lot is happening in this part of Eastern Canada and with all the fine restaurants, shops and museums, there is no finer ski town in North America than Quebec City. We hit it right with packed powder under sunny skies. If you haven’t yet explored the skiing in this 400 year old city it’s certainly worth considering for your next trip.

Enjoy vacation week, and see you on the slopes.

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