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The View From The Refuge Saint-Anselme

Mont Sainte Anne for Incredible Nordic Skiing

Mont Sainte Anne in Quebec is best known as a downhill ski resort but I’d recommend visiting for the phenomenal cross-country skiing on 200+ kilometres of trails. Mont Sainte Anne, one of the mountains in the Laurentian mountain chain, is located about 40 kilometres northeast of Quebec City in the town of Beaupré. 

The cross-country ski area at Mont Sainte Anne (Ski de fond in French) is just seven kilometres up the road from the downhill area in the village of Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges. Those kilometres make a difference. From the downhill resort, it’s a climb all the way to the parking lot – so when it might be raining at lower elevations, it could very well be snowing at the Nordic Center.

Huge snowbanks on the way into the Mont Ste-Anne cross country ski area
Huge snowbanks on the way into the Mont Ste-Anne cross country ski area

With an annual snowfall of over 400 centimeters (13 feet) per year you can almost always count on the snow. On our recent trip to the east, Mont Sainte Anne had the best snow of the four places we skied at – and that’s saying something as they all had good snow this year. (Others included Algonquin Park, Gatineau Park and the Mont Tremblant area in the Laurentians.)

Moose tracks are everywhere
Moose tracks are everywhere

Why is Mont Sainte Anne a delight to cross-country ski?

The sheer choice of trails is fantastic. They bill themselves as the resort with the largest number of cross country ski trails in Canada. There are over 200 km of trails if you do them as loops. Of that 191 km are available to skate skiers.

There is plenty to choose from across all levels of difficulty. John and I generally head for the most difficult trails as we like a workout and the solitude that these trails usually provide.

Pierre Vézina, the manager of the area who’s been working at the resort for decades, tells me that the black (most difficult) trails were specifically designed for the first major international race to be held in Canada – The World Junior Nordic Championships in 1979.

We chose to ski trail #24, a black trail that took us way up into the hills. The trail was drop dead beautiful, the ski tracks were as expertly groomed as any I have skied and we had the pleasure of following a moose.

We didn’t see the moose but the moose tracks were in those of a skate skier who was ahead of us. We were told that moose are very commonly seen – and they don’t like to move so be prepared to turn around if that is the case.

Trails are expertly track-set and groomed
Trails are expertly track-set and groomed
The amount of snow at Mont Ste Anne was amazing - and conditions were superb
The amount of snow at Mont Ste Anne was amazing – and conditions were superb
Even in the dead of winter there's some colour to the landscape
Even in the dead of winter there’s some colour to the landscape

Refuge St-Anselme

Our lunch stop was at the Refuge St-Anselme, one of five sprinkled around the park. Views over to the north side of the Mont Ste Anne ski resort were excellent.

From this warming hut it’s almost all downhill to the parking lot so once you’ve made it here rest assured that the rest of the skiing is easy. However, the downhill stretches might be very cold because of the wind-chill.

The view from the Refuge Saint-Anselme
The view from the Refuge Saint-Anselme
My husband warming his frozen toes - truly a Quebec Original
My husband warming his frozen toes – truly a Quebec Original
The warming huts aren't quite as fancy as the ones in Gatineau Park but still very nice
The warming huts aren’t quite as fancy as the ones in Gatineau Park but still very nice
A view to the back side of the Mont Ste -Anne downhill ski resort
A view to the back side of the Mont Ste -Anne downhill ski resort

Day 2 cross-country skiing at Mont Sainte Anne 

Skiing alongside Riviere Jean Larose
Skiing alongside Riviere Jean Larose

We chose to explore the 11.5 kilometre trail running on either side of the Rivière Jean Larose. Although the trail was beautiful, it didn’t afford the big vistas that we had come to love the day before.

There is a manned tollgate to make sure you've paid for your skiing
There is a manned tollgate to make sure you’ve paid for your skiing

Where to stay near Mont Sainte-Anne

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We spent the night at the base of Mont Ste-Anne at the very lovely and newly renovated Château Mont Saint-Anne. From our dinner table we could watch the night skiers coming down the hill. The thought of some night time downhill skiing crossed my mind but I quickly banished that thought when I considered the temperature –  about -18 C, too cold for me.

But the hotel is as ideally situated for downhill skiing as you could ask for.

Useful information

The Nordic area at Mont Sainte Anne is open from 9 AM until 4 PM, except on weekends when it opens at 8:30 AM. The season is a long one so if you’re a local a season’s pass could make sense. The trails usually open sometime in November and close after the first weekend in April.

Onsite there is a place to rent and buy skis, boots and clothing. You can also get your skis tuned up here. In the same building, located adjacent to the parking lot, you can purchase food and drinks and warm your feet by a toasty fire.

The one downside to skiing at Mont Sainte Anne is the price. Tickets for an adult for the day are $26 and youth tickets are $20. If you buy consecutive day tickets the price declines.

Despite the price I’d ski here again – because of the snow, the variety of trails and the expert grooming. And next time I hope to see a moose.

For more information on the cross-country skiing visit their website.

Further reading on winter activities in Quebec

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Mont Sainte Anne, Quebec cross-country skiing

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. I manned toll gate for cross country skiing – that’s a first for me, Leigh! I was weekend downhill racer when I was young in NASTAR. But, had a nasty accident and that was all she wrote on that. The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve come to dislike the cold. It’s some ironic whining on my part since I have the best winter weather gear money can buy from my snowmobile and backpacking days. Regardless, your posts are a wonderful outdoor escape for me and do always give me the itch to get out there and do new things with Phoenix. Thank you! 🙂

    1. @Mike As it is starting to warm in Calgary I am very thankful to see the ice & snow disappearing. But since I live in a northern climate I figure I really do need to embrace it to enjoy it – and with such great clothing on the market these days, it is so much easier to do.
      You definitely were an adrenalin junkie in your former life!!
      Torrie our dog loves the snow – but -15C is about your comfort limit.

  2. Brings back memories, I’m from Quebec City 🙂 Although I don’t miss the long winter months, I miss, from time to time, both downhill skiing and cross country skiing. There are so many places for these activities around Quebec!

    1. @Melanie Although Calgary – where I live now – has a reputation for being cold and nasty in the winter we do get enough Chinooks with some really warm days to make winter tolerable. I had forgotten just how MUCH snow the Quebec City area got – until I saw the size of the snowbanks; they have a long ways to go still before any grass will be peeking out.

  3. What pristinely beautiful country. When we lived in the Adirondacks hours south of Quebec many years ago- my husband used to go cross-country skiing right our our back door.

  4. Really great to see another blogger into Nordic skiing. This area looks amazing although the price would deter me. I don’t mind paying a nominal fee for cross-country skiing, but $26.00 is pretty steep for one day. I just skied in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula this last weekend. It is a Nordic lovers dream with over 250 inches of snow.

    1. @Ted The skiing was sublime here but it was by far the most expensive place I have skied at. In Algonquin Park it was $15 per car and in the Laurentians where I skied it was $15 pp. We did meet one local couple who said they loved the place but price was a deterrent and they only visited 1-2 times per year.
      I’d love to ski the Upper Michigan Peninsula one winter.

  5. Looks great, of course. 🙂
    But is it an enclosed area – with opening hours and entrance fees, I mean? Can’t you just strap on the skis and hit the forest trails whenever you want?

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