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(2024 - Winter/Spring Issue)


Québécois icon Gilles Vigneault famously wrote of his home province, “Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver.” (“My country isn’t a country, it’s winter.”) For those who love snowy adventures, that’s a selling point, not a drawback. And if you are one of those snow lovers, the stretch of Québec between Montréal and Ottawa is full of places to have fun when the mercury drops.

You can drive straight from one city to the other in two hours in good weather. But why rush when you can take the scenic route?

Take a Break at Tremblant          

In the Laurentian mountains, north of Montréal, Tremblant resort offers a wide range of hotels, restaurants and activities. Seasoned skiers will find a worthy challenge in Tremblant’s 645-metre vertical drop. The resort also has an excellent ski school, for those who are new to the sport or want to hone their skills.

In the nearby village of Mont Tremblant, D-Tour rents equipment for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking. E-fat bikes make riding through the snow a little easier, while still offering a serious workout.

Apres-Ski and Apres-Bike

After all that exercise, head to Spa Scandinave to unwind. The spa’s steaming hot tubs may be more welcome than the icy plunge pools, but enjoying the entire circuit of hot, cold and relaxation stops is key to unlocking the spa’s restorative effects.

Round out the day with dinner at A Mano Trattoria at Tremblant resort. You can keep things light and fresh with options such as a grilled beetroot and goat cheese salad, or bruschetta with crushed tomatoes and basil. If pasta seems more apropos after a day of fresh air, the spaghetti carbonara is excellent and the servings aren’t enormous.

Alternatively, nearby La Savoie restaurant specializes in tabletop fondues. There, you can cook seafood and vegetables in a spicy broth, but if calories are no object, you can also dip cold cuts and potatoes into a wheel of melted Savoie raclette cheese.

Marvellous Montebello

Halfway between Montréal and Ottawa at Fairmont Le Château Montebello, you can enjoy a relaxing getaway in the world’s largest log cabin. Built in just four months in 1930 as a hunting lodge for rich industrialists, it has been a hotel since 1970.

You can borrow equipment to explore the property’s 42 kilometres of cross-country ski trails and five kilometres of snowshoeing trails, make figure eights on the outdoor skating rink, go snow tubing, or even learn how to curl. Snowmobile and winter four-wheel-drive excursions are also available.

The hotel’s three-story lobby with its massive stone fireplace is one natural winter gathering spot. You can also warm up in the 23-metre indoor heated swimming pool.

More Outaouais Adventures

Montebello lies on the eastern edge of the Outaouais, a Québec region along the north shore of the Ottawa River. A little over an hour’s drive to the west brings you to the charming Outaouais village of Chelsea on the doorstep to Gatineau Park.

Fuel up for a day’s adventures with the Good Morning Bowl, a hearty breakfast of yogurt, granola and berries at Biscotti & cie. Then, a stone’s throw from this cosy café, rent cross-country skis from Nomades du Parc to tackle some of Gatineau Park’s 200 kilometres of ski trails. For the truly intrepid, the outfitter also organizes outdoor winter yoga classes.

On the other side of the village, you can reward yourself with another water therapy circuit at Le Nordik Spa-Nature, the largest spa in North America.

Room to Relax

One of the newest additions to the Chelsea lodging scene is Lofts du Village, which offers studios (for one to two guests) and lofts (for up to four guests). Each huge, light-filled loft has a full kitchen, comfortable platform bed and sleek bathroom stocked with locally made products, such as mint and tea tree shampoo bars from Saponaria Savonnerie in nearby Val-des-Monts, Québec.

And the finishing touch? You can switch on a glowing Asakuki essential oil diffuser, to fill your room with softly coloured light and a relaxing scent. Ahhhh.

Pizza Perfection

The gourmet slices at Roberto Pizza Romana in Chelsea are as far from big-chain pizza as filet mignon is from hamburger. Chef Roberto Catervi and his team pile house-made sourdough crust with unusual (for Canada) combinations, such as potato, truffle and pecorino, or zucchini, basil and mozzarella. You can round out your meal with cannoli, amaretti and other pastries, along with a bottle of Italian wine. It’s all outstanding, which isn’t surprising: Catervi earned a Michelin star in his native Italy.

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