Downhill skiing and snowboarding in the Outaouais: Bring ‘em on!
Cover and text : Sophie Plante (at Ski Vorlage)
As a big fan of winter sports, I’ve always loved downhill skiing. Here in the Outaouais, we’re lucky enough to have five ski centres, four of which offer night skiing and are less than half an hour’s drive from Gatineau–Ottawa.
Unpretentious family ski centres
Relaxing at Mont Ste-Marie
Our ski centres are ideal meeting spots for families, friends, couples, retirees and work colleagues. My girlfriend plays cards with her partner while their teenagers rack up the runs, and they all meet up for breaks and lunch. The ambiance is relaxed and welcoming; the focus here isn’t on nailing the “look” but on having fun on the slopes. From the chairlift, watch the youngsters practising their slalom, slopestyle and snowcross! Sometimes I drop my teenager off with his friends at Camp Fortune for a few hours while I run errands or go cross-country skiing in nearby Gatineau Park.
The day after a snowstorm and springtime are my favourite times to go skiing. I love to get out on the trails when the days are getting longer, the icicles along rooflines are melting, and the smell of spring is in the air—and there’s also the promise of a beer on the patio or a hot chocolate by the fire. Some centres also serve maple taffy on snow, in season.
How about a ski trip to the Outaouais during Quebec March break? Our ski centres will be a lot less crowded than those in other parts of the province, because March break for our season-pass-holding neighbours from Ontario falls a week later!
You can often get discounts and special offers when you buy your ticket or pass online ahead of time. As well, the Gatineau Costco sells tickets for local ski centres. No equipment? No problem: all the ski centres have equipment rental facilities, and several offer an introductory package that includes equipment rental, a lift pass, and a ski or snowboard lesson.
20 trails / 14 trails available for night skiing / 200 m vertical drop / Large terrain park (snowpark)
While the ski trails offer numerous challenges for all types of skiers and snowboarders, the Sommet Eldelweiss‘ snowpark attracts all young riders. The learning area and magic carpet lift have been updated to accommodate snowboarders and novice skiers.
I had a season pass to Edelweiss for years, and one of my greatest pleasures was getting there early to be one of the first down the groomed trails. When there’s good snow cover, I like to ski the Shotgun and the Streif. The snowpark is clearly very popular: from the chairlift, you can watch the daredevil antics of the boarders and freestylers!
Friday All Included: $39. This package gives you access to Sommet Edelweiss on Friday for a full day or full evening, and includes an admission ticket, full equipment rental and a meal (spaghetti plate, Caesar salad and dessert).
2 for 1 Saturday Nights: From 3 p.m. Purchase one regular-price full-evening admission ticket and get a second ticket free.
Introductory ski or snowboard package: $59 per person. Everyday at 1:15 and 3 p.m. Beginners only. Minimum 4 skiers or snowboarders. Includes a 90-minute beginners group lesson, 4-hour access ticket (including lesson time), and equipment rental (4 hours including lesson time). Reservations required.
20 trails / 12 trails available for night skiing / 167 m vertical drop / Large snowpark
Opened in 1920, Camp Fortune in Gatineau Park is one of the oldest downhill ski centres in Canada. In the early days, skiers arrived by train from Ottawa and Wrightville. Camp Fortune was also the first ski centre in Quebec to make artificial snow (starting in 1957).
The mountain is popular for its history, its proximity to the city, its snowpark, its Skyline peak with challenging expert trails, and its new Express Card, reloadable online.
Tuesdays after 4 p.m.: 2 for 1 lift passes (until March 21).
Saturdays after 4 p.m.: 2 for 1 lift passes and ski and board rental (until March 21).
20 trails / 15 trails available for night skiing / 160 m vertical drop
This family-friendly ski centre specializes in providing an enjoyable skiing experience for everyone. All the trails are easily accessible from the main lodge. Night skiing is very popular, and “White HOT Fridays” (4 p.m. to midnight) invite skiers to get a jump on the weekend.
Mont Cascades boasts a widened learning area and the longest magic carpet in the region. I love the view of the Gatineau River from the top of the North Side, and my all-time favourite trail is the Gratton, 2 km long.
18 trails / 12 trails available for night skiing / 150 m vertical drop
Located in the picturesque village of Wakefield, Vorlage is widely recognized as “The Family Area,” with fantastic conditions and friendly service. Though it’s the smallest hill in the region, the trails are varied and interesting. Last time I went, I ran into (not literally!) a lot of young snowboarders.
2 for 1 Monday Nights: From 3 p.m. 2 tickets for the price of 1 (full night lift tickets only).
2 for 1 Family Saturday Nights: From 3 p.m. 2 for 1 on rentals and full-rate lift tickets.
Intro Ski or Surf: $58 per person. Weekends at 1:15 p.m. Beginners only. For ages 8+. Minimum 4 skiers or snowboarders. Includes a 60-minute beginners group lesson, afternoon lift ticket, and equipment rental. Reservations required.
On the slopes at Mont Ste-Marie
20 trails / 381 m vertical drop
About an hour’s drive from the National Capital Region, Mont Ste-Marie boasts the highest vertical drop in the Outaouais. The mountain’s two peaks, Vanier Mountain and Cheval Blanc, are serviced by two high-speed quad chairs and offer some of the region’s best terrain, from beginner to expert. There’s also a novice hill with a surface lift. Mont Ste-Marie’s elevation is comparable to Bromont or Stoneham, but it has fewer runs.
My favourite trail is the Dustin Cook, an FIS-certified slalom and giant slalom run.
There’s live music in the bar every Saturday afternoon, and the outdoor tiki bar is open on sunny spring days.
$34 Mondays and Tuesdays, when only one lift is in operation.
Young at Heart Wednesdays (age 56+): For just $43, you get a lift ticket and a $12 lunch coupon.
Equipment rental and lift pass: Adult $79, child $57. Helmet not included.
Good to know
Sport Échange Outaouais: Ski and snowboard equipment rental for a few hours, a few days or the whole season.
Ski Passe-Partout discount card: Buy your card in October and get discounts all season long at participating ski centres in Quebec.
Grade 4 & 5 SnowPass: For just $29.95, kids in grade 4 or 5 (or 9 or 10 years old) can ski and snowboard three times at each participating ski area.
To sum up
Skiing in the Outaouais stands out for its proximity to the city, family-friendly ski centres, qualified instructors, great mix of trails, night skiing, and affordable ticket prices.
About the author:
When Sophie Plante isn’t managing member services at Tourism Outaouais, she can be found on her skis in the winter time and on her bike in the summer. As a promoter of physical activity, it’s with great pleasure that she explored the region’s ski slopes for you!