It’s been a long, cold winter, and March has you dreaming of spring. Spring’s not here yet, though, and what better way to delete the winter blues than a last blast of winter fun?
Living in southern Ontario, I realize that winter is on its way out here, so to grab the last of winter’s loveliness I recommend going to Québec. Québec is known as a winter paradise and with Ontario’s March Break around the corner and the Easter long-week-end at the beginning of April not far away, this a perfect last-minute trip. Québec’s March Break equivalent – la semaine de relâche – is already over, so Québec has some good traveling deals (called forfaits).
This winter I visited the Québec regions of la Mauricie and Lanaudière, between Montréal and Québec City. Skiing, snowshoeing, skating, and dogsledding were on the list of things that we wanted to experience, and we weren’t disappointed!
I was able to find a lot of what we wanted to do at an eco-resort called le Baluchon in the region of la Mauricie, close to the city of Trois-Rivières, but a quick look at the province’s websites will show you the multitude of places in the province that offer winter activities. When I realized that le Baluchon offered a 3 hour dogsledding trip, I jumped at the chance. We arrived at the dogsledding cabane and met Pierre and Michael, our dogsledding guides. “People worry about the dogs” Pierre told us, reminding us that when a weight is pulled it is 1/3 of the weight that it would be if it was lifted; divide that weight between 8 dogs and you realize that each dog is pulling about 5 pounds. After a dogsledding tutorial Pierre and Michael connected the dogs to our sleds and we were off, imitating a Jack London novel.
The trip through the forest and along the fields with the dogs was beautiful, and I imagined what it would be like to be at le Baluchon during the summer when they offer horseback riding (you can even play cowboy and help herd le Baluchon’s Highland cows). Back at the cabane at the end of the dogsledding run we put our feet by the open wood stove. “I don’t have to open the door of the woodstove” Pierre told us “but I do, because it’s romantique”.
Other winter activities on the docket at le Baluchon: skiing, snowshoeing and skating on the 5-km-long river skating rink. Teens and tweens will love the resort’s fat bikes, specially-designed bikes kitted out with fat tires to handle winter biking. The winter conditions at le Baluchon are posted on their website, and all of the gear is available for loan, which is handy for the last-minute traveler.
Another bonus for a March or April visit: each spring le Baluchon offers a traditional cabane à sucre (sugar shack) experience on site. In 2015 the season runs on Saturdays and Sundays from March 7 to April 6. The cabane à sucre is an iconic Québec ritual: during the sugaring-off season farms welcome visitors to sample the ‘first fruits’ of the maple season; traditional music and dancing (‘le party!’) ensue, accompanied by buffets of crêpes, fèves au lard (baked beans) and la tire d’érable (maple taffy). I was at le Baluchon too early in the season to see the cabane à sucre in action, but tasted last year’s harvest on my morning crêpes. Delicious.
If your child is studying French, this is the opportunity to bring real-world practice into play! If your French is rusty, let your child take the lead and translate and communicate for your family.
Additional information about la Mauricie: La Mauricie, along with its neighbouring region Lanaudiere, are seen as ‘le Quebec Authentique’ – authentique Quebec. Featuring the Saint Lawrence flatlands along the river, and the Laurentian mountain chain in the north of the regions, la Mauricie and Lanaudiere are really ‘le Quebec profond’ – typical Quebec.
For more information:
Le Baluchon http://www.baluchon.com/en/
Bonjour Quebec http://www.bonjourquebec.com
La Mauricie Tourism http://www.tourismemauricie.com/en/
Lanaudière Tourism http://www.lanaudiere.ca/en/
You may also like:
About Jane Snyder
Jane Snyder is a bilingual travel writer and writes about active, family, low-carbon travel experiences, as well as travel with children and teens.