About a year ago, my husband and I who run a Ski School and Snowboard Training in New York decided to spend our skiing winter vacation in Charlevoix, Quebec with our three teenage sons. With reservations made months before through online tour booking companies, and my kids having their school vacation much earlier than expected we eagerly look forward to our once a year family ski adventure and vacation. After my husband prepared all our papers from crossing the Canadian borders, we head off with our ski gears and adventurous spirit to explore this beautiful snow covered region in Quebec. Charlevoix was unlike any other places we visited; it has a different setting with undeniable charm. The ski and tour over the eastern part of Canada was an unforgettable holiday vacation for us.
We arrived early in the morning after a five hour US Airways Express flight from La Guardia International Airport to Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec. Upon clearance and retrieving our luggage at the airport we hailed a cab to take us to Charlevoix. Along the way we saw a beautiful landscape covered with idyllic villages, birch, aspen, and coniferous trees. We were greeted by the smiling and friendly staff at the La Pinsonniere where we stayed for a week. We began our tour by hiking the mountain trails of Parc National des Grandes. This park is located in the tourist area of Charlevoix. It is very well laid out with clearly marked trails. We were accompanied by three park rangers who were funny and kept us entertained along the trail. In this park we discovered a mixed forest and also the peculiar vegetation of the boreal forest. A diverse selection of flora and fauna are sheltered inside this park. One of the trails is even categorized as “the field of the black bear”. We saw a moose munching on tree barks along the Pommereau Path. It is a great place to enjoy the wild and the serene atmosphere.
Another interesting trail is the Pioneer Path where we saw remnants of a forest devastated by fire a few years ago. The Lake of the Swans Mountain which we hiked for four hours holds the most impressive view of all. It has a great overlooking view over the sea of mountains surrounding Charlevoix. The views were stunning along the trail to the highest point which is over seven hundred meters. On the top is a 360 degree view of a landscape of mountains, valleys, and trails. A beautiful feast to the eyes! We enjoyed the rest of the day with a picnic on their camping sites. It was a stunning experience of the 21st century in a stunning rural setting.
The next day was a fifteen hour adventure on board the Le Train du Massif de Charlevoix. This activity is one of the things that must not be missed on a visit to Charlevoix. The ride begins at the Montmorency Falls Park, boarding was fast and seats are already assigned on board. Aside from having simple but elegant cars, the staff was very friendly and highly professional. We were served two gourmet meals and good service along with a sight of the St. Lawrence River. It is the most beautiful train journey on a river edge! Each table is equipped with an i-Pad which presents regular video clips of the interesting places the train passes by. It also features real time updates so we can see the progress of our train ride, great idea! The last stop of the train was at the tourist centre where a bus fetched us to enjoy a game of casino at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu while the boys enjoy their pool. After a rewarding game at the casino we comforted ourselves with their relaxing spa service. After this we head back to the train that took us back to the falls, honestly we had a great time and it’s an experience that is worth repeating.
The next day we started our skiing adventure with a visit to the Ecuires Entre Monts Et Marees. We toured around the stables to see well cared horses and complete horse saddle equipments. From here we enjoyed a sleigh ride adventure riding a sled not pulled by reindeers but the husky, strong breed of horses. My husband kept singing Christmas songs while the horse and a guide tour us along the snow covered mountain. The kids had a grand time too as they rode along the saddles for an individual horse riding adventure. Along with appreciating the beautiful scenery around us, the well trained staff made our tour more enjoyable by being so accommodating. They also offer riding lessons for beginners and equestrian training for professional riders.
The following day was spent visiting the ski slopes of the Petite Riviere Saint Francois region. From here we enjoyed the most of our skiing holiday at the Le Massif de Charlevoix. For three days we fully enjoyed all their amenities. The first day we enjoyed the view of the river as we ski. The other two days were enjoying the slopes on their good skiing conditions. While there we met some Canadian Ski Olympians who were training for the upcoming Winter Olympics. The slopes and views were so gorgeous I had to concentrate where I look because of the breathtaking scenery. There were slopes for all levels and preference. At 770 meters high the descents took a long time, it is very much not like what we had back home and other skiing regions in America. The site itself was very large having 52 tracks all with guides and clearly identified. We all admire their selection of well groomed and maintained trails with specified bumps along its tracks. They also offer snowboarding, Snowshoeing, and the classic skiing experience. The river view when we descend gives us a virtual impression that we are going to land on water. Great snow, cool breeze, sun, nice tracks, clean stations, and new equipments plus a great view of the river, a perfect place to ski!
While staying at the Le Massif, we had a chance to visit the wood work shop of the Atelier J.M. Dirand. It has a gift shop that sells ornate wood craft done by Mr. Dirand. This passionate artist also gives lessons and courses about his passion for creating marvelous wood craft items. I bought wooden candle holders, gift boxes, and carved bowls from his shop with a big discount. Afterwards we head on to our next adventure by spending a day and a half at the Les Randonnees Boreales. Here is where we get to appreciate and understand what Dog Sledding is. With professional guides who accompany us during our mushing lessons, we truly enjoyed the experience of being led by a pack of dogs to tour the snow capped mountain of Charlevoix. It was fun getting acquainted with the dogs and feeding them, they were obviously well taken care of and loved by the resort owner. The resort was beautiful and very well organized for skiing and the dog sled ride was unforgettable! The affordable log cabins provide a rustic atmosphere and feel to the place. After our touring activities we head for a shopping adventure at the Le Grand Marche de Charlevoix. We found everything we need in this public market. The boys loved the souvenir shirts I bought them while my husband was contented on his new sunshade goggles for skiing. While the kids enjoyed watching an ice hockey game at the hotel we enjoyed our nightcap with a meal at the street cafes in Charlevoix. These outdoor cafes reflect how much of the French lifestyle dominates this part of Canada. We strolled in the park before heading back to our hotel.
We went home that evening filled with beautiful memories of our ski holiday in Charlevoix. It is one tour that I will highly recommend to everyone. We will definitely go back again this summer and explore the other attractions we missed seeing. Vacations are always much enjoyable when spent with family.