Active Travels: Quebec Cross Country Skiing
By Steve Jermanok
Home to 14 downhill ski areas, including the renowned Tremblant, the Laurentian Mountains is Quebec’s foremost winter playground. Once the white stuff starts to fall (an almost daily occurrence in these parts), a lineup of SUVs and minivans make the hour drive north of Montreal. Yet, from 1920 to 1940, the favorite mode of travel in the Laurentians was aboard “Le P’tit Train du Nord,” the snow train. Connecting Saint-Jérôme in the south to Mont-Laurier in the north, the 218 kilometer railway helped spur on tourism at villages along the route.
The last train stormed through the region in 1989. Nine years later, Le P’tit Train du Nord reemerged as a rail trail. The so-called Linear Park is now a beloved biking locale in summer and an excellent cross-country skiing destination in the cold weather months. From Saint- Jérôme to Val-David, a 42 kilometer section of the trail is groomed daily in winter, creating the perfect three-day, two-night inn-to-inn skiing adventure. No snowmobiling is allowed, so you’re guaranteed a peaceful glide through towering forests of pine, snowcapped peaks looming overhead, stepping off for a meal or bed in one of the French-Canadian towns.
The first day, a 14 kilometer run from Saint- Jérôme to Prévost, is relatively flat, requiring little snow to get cruising. Most of the time will be spent in the National Park, Parc Régional de la Rivière-du-Nord. Day Two is an 11 kilometer ski from Prévost to Sainte-Adèle, home to the Mont Rolland Train Station, one of the many restored stations along the route that now serves as tourism office and café. The final day is a slight uphill climb to either Val-Morin (12 km) or Val-David (17 km), depending on how limber those legs are. If you’re still aching for more, simply head to any of the hills you see from Val-David. The Laurentians features 1000-plus kilometers of Nordic skiing.
From Montreal, take Route 15 to Exit 43 and follow Rue de Martigny to the east. Turn south on Labelle Boulevard to Rue Parent, where you’ll find the old train station and parking lot in Saint- Jérôme. Motel de la Rivière in Prévost, Auberge de la Gare B&B in Sainte- Adèle, and Le Chalet Beaumont in Val-David are all good lodging choices. Visit Tourism Laurentides for a map and listing of lodgings, restaurants, ski shuttles, and rentals.
Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.