If you think summer is the only time for amazing outdoor adventures, consider another perspective.
In Quebec, winters outside are just as lively as summer, fall, or spring, if not more so. French-Canadians not only welcome the snowy season, they embrace and celebrate it. Dazzling and white outside, cozy and inviting inside, this is the cherished season for sledding and skiing, outdoor celebrations and festivals, and traditions like rolling hot maple taffy in the snow. Here are the best places to explore and welcome winter in Quebec — from urban Montreal and historic Quebec City to the slopes of Mont-Tremblant and the solitude of the Chic-Chocs.
Ski resort and winter playground extraordinaire
Old World European-style Mont-Tremblant boasts the best ski slopes in North America’s east, says SKI magazine. It’s also a charming, must-visit winter playground according to Forbes, highlighted by its quaint cobblestone-lined pedestrian village, wide variety of activities, outstanding outdoor adventure opportunities, and acclaimed dining scene. Stay at ski-in/ski-out Lodge de la Montagne, a casual hotel with kitchenettes, fireplaces, sauna, and hot tub, or at a plush suite in the boutique Hôtel Quintessence, overlooking the lake and reminiscent of a French hunting chateau.
Hit the slopes with 96 runs on four mountainsides, go snow tubing, cross-country skiing, fat bike riding, or show shoeing. Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride or go dogsledding; shop or try your luck at the casino. Rejuvenate afterwards at indoor-outdoor Finnish-style day resort Scandinave Spa. Finally, sample a Quebec favorite tradition at the source: Gooey maple taffy poured boiling onto a stick in the snow and then twisted onto a stick at an al fresco hut called Cabane à Sucre de la Montagne — 80 percent of the world’s maple syrup is produced here.
Festive winter wonderland
A picturesque 400-year-old walled city, Quebec City is lovely any time of year. But it’s especially festive in winter dusted with snow when the locals show off their signature joie-de-vivre attitude. Go tobogganing, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, or skating, or join pond hockey right in town. Carnaval de Quebec puts on night parades winding through the streets, dogsled races, and ice canoe competitions on the frozen river attended by thousands. The beloved late January-early February event includes extravagant outdoor parties and free public banquets, snow sculptures, sledding, ice skating and hockey, snow slides, a fancy masquerade ball, and giant Ice Palace. Join bikini-clad revelers dipping into the snow bath if you dare.
Strolling around the cobblestone streets of Old Quebec all lit up for the holidays is particularly enchanting, or for a romantic getaway, stay at the Hôtel de Glace just outside the city, a fantasy-worthy, castle-like fortress made entire of ice and snow each year. Make time to dine out, too — especially on flaky Parisian-style pastries and at the city’s envelope-pushing restaurants — and warm up with a signature Caribou cocktail of red wine, whiskey, and maple syrup.
Eat, drink, dance, and party outside
Montreal is similarly lively in the winter season with no shortage of things to do, see, and join. There’s Igloofest, an uber-popular electronic music fest in January-February in the Old Port, and Montreal en Lumiere, a large-scale outdoor festival melding dazzling light installations, performing arts like circus and dance, free outdoor fun a la ziplining, curling, fireworks, and a Ferris Wheel, the signature Nuit Blanche cultural program, and hot ticket gourmet foodie events throughout the city in February-March. It’s one of the largest of its kind in the world.
You can also go snow tubing on Mount Royal near Beaver Lake, snowshoeing at Morgan Arbortetum, peruse the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for free during the holidays, skate on the postcard-perfect Old Port outdoor rink under the stars, or stroll the holiday Le Grand Marche de Noel, a street Christmas market German-style with food trucks and carolers.
Rugged back country escape
If you want to get away from it all, head to Montes Chic-Chocs, the jagged Chic-Choc Mountains, part of the Appalachians on Quebec’s remote and fabled Gaspé Peninsula. This spot? Well, it's still relatively undiscovered as a winter destination — perfect for exploring. Expect knee-deep powder and the untouched forests frosted in white that you can explore January to March via snowmobile, or guided backcountry ski touring or snowboarding, looking out for roaming moose. Stay at Auberge de montagne des Chic-Chocs, an off-the-grid cozy alpine lodge where you can ski right to the front door, for a vacation pairing outdoor adventure with rustic comfort, gourmet fare, and warm Quebecois hospitality.
Half an hour’s drive northeast of Quebec City, you'll find the south side of Mont-Sainte-Anne nicknamed “La Belle” (The Beauty) for its sweeping views of the St. Lawrence. This Laurentian Mountains ski resort is a favorite with snowboarders, but there’s also ample opportunities for cross-country (it’s Canada’s largest trail network) and backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, ice climbing, and ice canyoning, not to mention wintertime via ferrata and ziplining, tubing, ice skating, and spa retreats. Another more traditional ski option in the area is Stoneham Mountain Resort near Quebec City.
Just north of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, Quebec is Canada’s largest province — filled with gorgeous landscapes to explore, winter or summer.
Plan your winter escape at the Quebec Original website.