Dremscapes Print Subscription Form
Canada Guides Ad
Search Past Articles
(2012 - Winter Issue)


“Bonjour! All aboard for your unforgettable experience!”

With this enthusiastic welcome heightening everyone’s anticipation, my husband Eric and I join passengers bound for adventure on Charlevoix’s new train.      

As we embark from Québec City’s Montmorency Falls station, the magnificent snow cone created by the waterfall’s spray establishes the visual standard for the trip. For here, in Charlevoix, we discover a winter wonderland.

Le Train du Massif de Charlevoix hugs the north shore of the mighty St. Lawrence River. One spectacular view after another unfolds as it wends eastward from Québec City to the massive mountain appropriately named Le Massif. Here, you can disembark to ski 53 trails on three hectares. Or, continue on to Baie-Saint-Paul, a village renowned for its artsy atmosphere and artisanal food.

The terminus of the 140-kilometre line is La Malbaie, where Fairmont’s Le Manoir Richelieu towers over the cliffs—a fitting finale for this rail cruise. Exploring the hotel’s opulent interior and crackling fireplaces reveals why celebrities, such as Bob Hope and U.S. President William H. Taft, frequented this turreted “castle,” which commands superlative views of the river.

However, Petite-Rivière-Saint-François is the stop for skiers. Le Massif towers above the station: its dramatic 770-metre drop is a magnet for boarders and skiers because it’s the highest vertical east of the Canadian Rockies. This mountain delivers serious adrenalin rushes—particularly if you try rodelling, as Eric did.

What’s rodelling? It’s the new sliding experience where you sled-hurtle down a 7.5-kilometre course on nearby Mont à Liguori. Says Eric, “Our group went screaming downhill. It was hilarious: I couldn’t tell whether I was laughing with joy or from fright!”

A Creative Journey

Back on board the train, we continue along the coastline, mesmerized by mini-icebergs swirling along the St. Lawrence. Glancing inland presents equally unforgettable, distinctly Québécois images: farmhouses surrounded by snow-draped fields; snug-looking villages with steeples of stone churches piercing the sky; and craggy cliffs with jagged spears of icicles twinkling in the sunshine.

Not to be outdone, the train itself is stunning. Frankly, I anticipated this, because not only is Le Massif complex owned by Daniel Gauthier, the imaginative co-founder of Québec’s internationally renowned Cirque du Soleil—so is the train.

For instance, carriages feature bright, white interiors where cosy seating is enhanced by a lofty ceiling, which allows natural light to flood the cars. Four seats surround most tables, each of which sports an iPad connected to GPS, so at specific locations screens spring to life in real-time presentations. These shows offer an insider’s insights about events, natural phenomena, or activities you can enjoy if you stop and linger. And, in typical Cirque fashion, accompanying light shows illuminate the car’s ceiling with fuchsia, chartreuse and ultramarine.

For example, while travelling through Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, choral music fills the car as the train passes by the basilica and oratory. As we approach Le Massif, passengers thrill to a skier’s perspective of the slopes. Due to their steepness, a Cirque-like illusion is created whereby skiers appear to fly off the mountain onto the frozen St. Lawrence River. Magnifique!


Upon arrival in Baie-Saint-Paul, we disembark to overnight at Gauthier’s latest creation: Hôtel La Ferme. Not only does it recall the wooden barn that once stood here, it also gives a nod to the terroir—the rich land of Charlevoix. The double entendre terroir also refers to the artisanal, gourmand cuisine created here.

In fact, gastronomical delights fresh from Charlevoix’s gardens and pastures are featured on the train, all prepared the night before by the chef at Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu. Hôtel La Ferme’s restaurant—Les Labours—and bar-lounge—Le Bercail—similarly promote local cuisine. Try specialties, such as emu tartar, and sample regional cheeses, such as l’Origin, made by Laiterie Charlevoix from cows’ milk. Délicieux!

After all this exploration—and a treatment at Hôtel La Ferme’s spa—perhaps it’s time to kayak the St. Lawrence amid the ice chunks. Guide Frédéric Patry of Katabatik explains, “It’s so much fun! We meet our clients here at Baie-Saint-Paul, then shuttle everyone to Cap à l’Aigle (Eagle Cape), outfit them with winter gear, then paddle back to the Baie. It’s fantastique to be amid the ice and snow, paddling in winter!”

Our Journey Ends

The terminus of the rail cruise is La Malbaie, where Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu rises like a castle overlooking “la mer.” No wonder locals affectionately refer to the river as the sea. For starters, it is 30 kilometres wide at this point; plus, its waters are tidal and salty, which is why whale-watching is so popular here during the summer months.

Winter reveals all its glory on board Le Train du Massif de Charlevoix. Whether you’re a skier, boarder, rodeller or kayaker, activities abound in the midst of this spectacular natural setting.

Travel Planner

For more information, visit:

Charlevoix Tourism: tourisme-charlevoix.com/en

Le Train du Massif de Charlevoix: lemassif.com

Tourisme Québec: bonjourquebec.com

Québec City Tourism: quebecregion.com

Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu: fairmont.com/richelieu-charlevoix

Best Western
San Antonio
Website Hosted and Designed by The Biz Services Inc.