It feels like I'm schussing straight down into the ice-dotted St. Lawrence River when I'm on the slopes of Québec's ruggedly beautiful Le Massif, an hour's drive east of Québec City. No surprise then that Cirque du Soleil co-founder Daniel Gauthier bought the resort in 2002 to launch an imaginative, Cirque-sized ski development called Territoire Le Massif in December 2010.
He's adding a third peak of runs, plus a chic, sleek eco-hotel, Pole de la Ferme, on an old farm site in the artsy nearby town of Baie-Saint-Paul. There'll be a greenhouse, a multi-purpose room for visiting acts and circus workshops, and a public market featuring the renowned local gastronomy of the surrounding Charlevoix region. Oh, yeah. And a hotel train station. Gauthier's dream includes reviving an old rail line to shuttle skiers on the 30-minute hybrid rail-car trip from Baie-Saint-Paul to Le Massif.
One of my favourite runs is the black-diamond La Dominique Maltais, named after the Olympic snowboarder born in Petite-Rivière-Saint-François, QC, a small town at the foot of Le Massif; bragging rights include the highest vertical drop and the only alpine training center east of the Rockies.
"At the age of five, I would follow my parents skiing on the snow-covered trails of the ski resorts around Québec City," remembers Maltais. "I didn't start snowboarding until I was about 11."
But flying down that snowy hill, "the little girl from Le Massif" became so good so fast, she went to the 2006 Winter Games in Torino for the first-ever Snowboard Cross event-where four boarders descend the mountain simultaneously-and came home with the bronze medal. She still trains at Le Massif, home base for the Quebec ski team-when she's not at her day job as a firefighter.
Award-winning, Montréal, QC-based freelance writer and photographer Margo Pfeiff's work has appeared in Lonely Planet guidebooks, Reader's Digest, GEO, enRoute, explore, Canadian Geographic, Outpost, The Walrus, up here, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, National Post and The Globe and Mail. She is working on a book about contemporary life in Nunavut. email@example.com
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