Plunging down one of the 45 trails at Le Massif feels as if you’re schussing straight into the ice-dotted St. Lawrence River. This largely undiscovered ski haven in the Charlevoix area has the highest vertical drop east of the Rockies. The resort has come a long way since the early 1990s, when you had to hop into a yellow school bus after each run for a bumpy ride to the summit. Now there’s no downtime between strapping on skis and hitting the trails, and, thanks to a $230-million development, things will get a lot busier. Daniel Gauthier, a Cirque du Soleil co-founder, is building the Territoire Le Massif complex, complete with four-star hotel, Scandinavian spa and circus arts workshops (the first phase opens next year). Instead of a school bus, a vintage train will shuttle skiers from Quebec City to La Malbaie. From Baie-Saint-Paul, they’ll be able to catch a shuttle to Cirque-style chalets set in the mountainside, whether nestled in the trees or perched on a peak.
Off-mountain après-ski includes the microbrewery Le Saint-Pub, with a beer menu inspired by Belgian abbeys, and the slick Nordic-style Zone Spa, with a muscle-soothing spa regimen that alternates trips to the sauna with the ice-cold waterfall. We enjoyed a post-massage tea in front of an outdoor fireplace.
Mountaintop restaurant Mer et Monts offers a white-linen table d’hôte. (We liked the saddle of roasted rabbit with figs and local wapiti, capped with maple crème brûlée.) Over at restaurant Au 51, French chef Patrick Fregni gets kudos for his rich cassoulet with regional duck. If a croque-monsieur will do, Vice-Café has live music on Fridays.
Charlevoix’s church-steepled villages attracted painters like the Group of Seven and Jean-Paul Lemieux – a cultural legacy reflected in the region’s many galleries.
The ice has hardly broken up in early March when Sébastien Savard launches winter kayaking down the St. Lawrence. He’ll supply the warm gear and two-person kayaks for paddling around ice floes at slack tide. Or you can cross-country ski through virgin powder on La Traversée de Charlevoix’s 105-kilometre route; follow a forested ridge above the river to a log cabin, where your luggage, shuttled ahead by La Traversée’s team, will be waiting.
Eat, sleep and ski is the Le Massif mantra. But while Maison Otis in Baie-Saint-Paul is known for its cuisine, we loved our in-suite fireplace and Jacuzzi. On the mountainside overlooking the countryside, Auberge La Pignoronde will hook you up with a dogsledding outfit.
Modern-day foragers take the Charlevoix Flavour Trail through the mountains to find supplies. Maison d’affinage Maurice Dufour is a must-stop for mild Le Ciel de Charlevoix blue cheese and the new, creamy Deo Gratias. For a fireside picnic at your chalet, pair the cheese with brick oven-baked crusty bread from Le moulin de la Rémy and chilled cider from Cidrerie et Verger Pedneault.
Below are the addresses for a ski weekend in Charlevoix.
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