A family ski trip to Quebec’s Eastern Townships starts out rainy but ends up poudre.
It was one of those storms that locals talk about for the rest of the year. February 2020. COVID-19 not really on the radar yet. Everything was normal. And normal means we got walloped with a 48-hour snowmageddon. It was the type of storm that closes roads and businesses. The type where guys lucky enough to have snowmobiles are the only guys lucky enough to make it to local ski resorts.
The only problem? The storm hit Ontario and we were in Quebec. And here it was raining. Radar showed that the snow was headed our way, but the front end of it carried rain, as winter storms often do.
The Trip: Dads and Sons
This was supposed to be the ski trip we’d finally nailed. Our wives had granted permission for us Mountain Lifers to take our 11-year-old boys out of school for a week to ski Quebec’s Eastern Townships, an area rich in all the things we love: cool people, culture, craft beer, super-rad terrain and amazing restaurants—all within an eight-hour drive of our home in the Blue Mountains.
Our sons Mav, Leo and Phoenix were now of the age they could keep up with us—a golden period of time before they start leaving us in the snow dust.
We love Quebec, and are new enough to the province that it’s still mysterious and exciting. And this trip the language barrier had also been solved: Phoenix is enrolled in French Immersion. So he was our official communicator.
“La pluie battante!”
Then came the rain.
“La pluie battante!” said Phoenix. We were at Bromont, looking at the beautifully spaced glades and steeps and imagining how incredible the place would be if it were a couple degrees colder. But the boys were thrilled with the terrain park, the amenities of the resort and the incredible night skiing (the largest lit ski area in North America). An amazing dinner at the world-class restaurant Les 4 Canards also helped.
On the second day of rain, however, our optimism got a little soggy, buoyed only by the envious and mean-spirited reprieve we received when we learned that one of our buddies back home got his snowmobile stuck in deep snow on the road so he didn’t actually ski.
Life is only as good as you make it, though—and humans who adapt, survive. We soon found ourselves at Bromont’s local climbing gym, Backbone, with its cozy clutch of friendly locals, cool tunes, rich and healthy food at the in-house café, and an array of craft beer and local teas. We watched as the rain outside turned to snow and by the time our buddy had freed his snowmobile back home, we were headed an hour down the highway to Owl’s Head, feeling a lot better.
Owl’s Head was in the midst of a $25 million upgrade, including new lodging, groomers and a new chairlift. The glade skiing at Owl’s Head is very intriguing: beautifully spaced giant hardwoods, massive granite boulders, on-resort chutes and steep pitches, all draining down to the lift. The snow kept flying, accumulating to two feet overnight.
Quebec’s Eastern Townships: “C’était Genial”
Little dudes skiing: It’s a pretty cool thing. They are made of rubber and they bounce. We skied from the moment the chairs opened ’til the moment they closed.
Which is how I ended up at the après bar with a ski patroller named Pierre, drinking super tasty IPAs created by a microbrewery called Trou du diable from Shawinagan, while the exhausted boys watched a movie upstairs in the room.
The Eastern Townships have a storied history dating back to the 1700s when English Loyalists left the U.S. shortly after the American Revolution. For us, this meant we didn’t need to rely quite as much on Phoenix. And Pierre was just the kind of local common in that area: super-helpful and happy to tell us all the secret spots on the mountain. It snowed another foot overnight and we skied everywhere Pierre told us to go, heading home in the afternoon.
“La pluie s’est transformée en neige et c’était genial,” said Phoenix as we left the resort. We had to agree.
More about winter in Quebec here.