Winter in Quebec Insider’s Guide

From skating to cross-country skiing, downhill to snowshoeing, La Belle Province has it all

Winter in Quebec Insider’s Guide

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winter in quebec
Quebec in winter is charming in the cities and fun in the countryside. Here's the enchanting Quebec City.

Québec’s topography and snowfall make winter in Quebec a perfect time to visit for an active holiday. Québec is in Canada’s largest province and a Quebec winter ticks all the boxes for a white winter wonderland vacation.

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There’s a huge range of activities from skiing to skijoring and everything in between in Quebec in winter. 

In some places, like the region around Québec City, the snowfall is more than 400cm annually. 

If you’re spending winter in Canada, Quebec has plenty to offer. For example, did you know:

  • Le Massif downhill skiing area in Charlevoix has the highest vertical drop east of the Rocky Mountains
  • Quebec City hosts one of the world’s biggest winter festivals 
  • Quebec has the best sugar shacks in Canada
  • Quebec has an extensive network of Economuseum to stay warm in while you discover old traditions. 

Of course, Québec’s vast territory includes fantastic cross-country skiing, dogsledding, cross-country skating and snowshoeing terrain, too.

Tip? Bundle up – grab a toque, mitts, and ensure you have cosy boots as well as winter pants and jacket

Here are more things to do in Quebec in winter to whet your appetite for la belle province (the beautiful province) so you’ll come out and play in my home!

Winter in Quebec – Quebec City area

1- Take the ski train to Le Massif

quebec in winter
Winter in Quebec offers lots of options, including skiing at Le Massif.

Mention Charlevoix to a Québecker and the response is usually a wistful sigh because of the region’s spectacular natural beauty (matched with delicious flavour trails).

Extending east of Québec City, it’s fabulous for us outdoorsy types because of its mountains, lakes, and rivers.

Take Le Massif, a mountain with an annual snowfall of 645 cm, where 70% of the skiable terrain features snowmaking facilities.

Skiers are forgiven if they feel they’re flying over the mountain into the ultramarine waters of the St. Lawrence River (St. Laurent en français) because the dramatic elevation creates a startling trick of the eye.

Even getting to Le Massif is one sweet trip because a “ski train” whisks you from Québec City east, along the shores of the St. Lawrence River, to drop you off at the base of the slopes.

Easy peasy.

Tip? Catch the train after your ski holiday to venture a bit further east to stay at Hôtel La Ferme in the artsy village of Baie St. Paul.

The triptych Le Massif project (mountain resort, train and hotel) are the brainchild of former Cirque du Soleil founder Daniel Gauthier, so you can rest assured each element of the Le Massif experience is world-class delightful.

2- Party at the Quebec City Winter Carnival

quebec winter
The Quebec Winter Carnival is a fabulous event to put on your Quebec winter list.

Bonhomme is the jovial snowman mascot of Carnival.

This city’s red-toqued (hatted) mascot who sports not only a broad smile but also one of Québec’s famous ceinture fléchées.

These colourful, hand-woven “cummerbunds” were worn by coureurs-des-bois, those early trappers and explorers who explored Canada’s hinterland during the fur trade era.

And yes, they make an authentic souvenir of Québec.

What are my top recommendations for Carnival activities? Take in the night-time canoe race through the streets of the UNESCO World Heritage City, where teams of canoeists carry their canoes to the St. Lawrence River along cobblestone streets.

Cheer them on – and the next day, watch the teams compete as they race from the Québec side of the river to Lévis (city on the opposite embankment) and back again.

As they paddle, they have to jump out, haul their canoe over ice floes, jump back in, and so on.

It’s crazy!

It’s awesome!

Other events dear to my heart include horse skijoring and other snowy competitions, cross-country skiing, and tubing on the historic Plains of Abraham.

quebec in winter
Tubing in Quebec City is fun for the family.

Oh, and let’s not forget tobogganing down a historic track built for the purpose in the late 1800s, behind Québec City’s landmark “castle,” the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac.

3- Sleep in the Quebec Ice Hotel

montreal winter

Sip a cocktail then sleep overnight at Hôtel de Glace, Quebec’s Ice Hotel.

You’ll be amazed at how everything in the hotel, from barstools to beds, are made from ice. 

Check the latest prices at Hotel de Glace here

4- Dogsled at Mont Sainte Anne

quebec in winter

Meanwhile, a half-hour’s drive north of the city find Mont Sainte Anne where you can fat bike, x-country and downhill ski, board, paraglide, skate, view a ski museum, go ice canyoning – and then relax in a spa.

Dog sledding is also available here so give it a go.

Actually, Mont Sainte Anne is where I learned to “mush” – drive dogs behind a sled – and it was so much fun I’ve done it often, since.  

What I particularly like is that these animals are born and bred to run: they are wildly expressive and so if you’re like me, you’ll be laughing out loud (often) at their antics.

They leap about on spring-like legs, all the while barking and howling.

Their happy dance is infectious: I mean, how can’t you grin from ear to ear just like them, seeing them strain at their harnesses in their eagerness to run through the deep, snowy and forested trails?

5- Ski at Stoneham

Stoneham Mountain Resort is another ski resort north of Québec City.

I’ll be honest with you: I’ve not yet been but it is a classic Québec destination about which I’ve heard great things, with its 593 m elevation and a vertical drop of 345 m.

Plus, there are lots of options for staying overnight.

Hot tip: investigate purchasing a three-mountain pass: the St. Lawrence’s Summits Multi-ski Area Lift Ticket covers Québec City and Charlevoix’s Monte-Sainte-Anne, Stoneham Mountain Resort, and Le Massif de Charlevoix.

Winter in Quebec – Montreal area

6- Have fun at Montréal en Lumiere 

winter quebec
Visiting Quebec in winter? Make sure to drop into Montreal during festival time.

Multicultural Montréal serves up a wonderful array of winter festivals, where my favourite is Montréal en Lumière (Montréal Lights).

Artists compete to light up the snowy night with twinkling illuminations.

As well, hop on a Ferris wheel, ride the ice slide and watch live shows on outdoor stages. Visiting the festival will be a Montreal winter experience you’ll never forget. 

And as an artist, I love Nuit Blanche, where the city springs alive with artistic performances and exhibitions.

Also read, things to do in Montreal in spring

7- Snowshoe at Mont-Royal

winter in quebec
Winter in Quebec is so much fun and there’s plenty to do outdoors, such as snowshoeing.

There are many other snowy, outdoorsy activities too.

For instance, Mont-Royal towers over the city and it’s a great place to snowshoe or cross-country ski.

And just around the corner, you’ll find a tiny Aussie pie shop that is frequented by Hugh Jackman, whenever he’s in town.

8- Ski at Mont Tremblant

Mont Tremblant is not “just” a great ski resort, it’s a village tucked into the Laurentian Mountains north of the city.

Eric took downhill ski lessons here when parabolic skis were the hot new gear and had a blast.

So what I’m advising now is when you rent here or anywhere, it’s good fun to try out the latest trending equipment.

And why not take a class from an expert, to set you and your family on your way?

Tremblant is fun because of its 96 trails on four different slopes and its website boasts they possess one of North America’s superlative snowmaking systems with more than 1,000 snow guns.

Go boarding, downhill skiing and après-ski, enjoy life in the village. Here too you can arrange all sorts of other activities and as a horsewoman, riding through the snow is fabulous…

Mont Tremblant accommodation suggestions:

  • Stay at luxurious Fairmont Tremblant right in the village.
  • We’ve also stayed at nearby Château Beauvallon, which offers a daily shuttle to the ski hill. We recommend this lodging because of its ambiance and sometimes being a step away from the bustle of the village can be attractive.

9- Jump into the Devil River at La Scandinave

I cannot close Mont Tremblant without mentioning an absolutely fantastic spa: Le Scandinave.

After a ski, indulging in the Swedish system of hot and cold baths, saunas and pools is just so relaxing.

Also, it’s stunning in winter (particularly at night) because of the swirling steam of outdoor tubs and pools which are framed by trees draped in snow.

The final huzzah?

After getting up your nerve in a steamy hot tub outside, dash down some stone steps and leap into Rivière du Diable (Devil River).

A hole is cut in the ice, and you “simply” jump in. And?

Jump right out and dash up the stairs to the tub again!

When I did this, I heard a tinkling noise as I scampered up the stairs: it was ice dropping from my legs onto the stones.

Really…

Oh and the last vignette I want to give you about Le Scandinave in winter?

Fuzzy white-tailed deer peering at us in the hot tub, from the adjacent snowdrifts.

I mean, how Canadian can you get?

Winter in Quebec – La Mauricie National Park

The Mauricie region (lying between Montréal and Québec City, being near Trois Rivières) offers intriguing snow play opportunities, such as snow tagging, as well as fat biking through La Mauricie National Park’s snow-draped trails.

10- Stay in an oTENTik at La Mauricie National Park

quebec in winter

Travelling west from Québec City, find the Mauricie region (200km northeast of Montréal), where La Mauricie National Park’s 544 square km wilderness beckons.

Stay overnight in a Parks Canada oTENTik, a hybrid between a canvas tent and cabin.

They are permanent installations in several national parks, where staff have cut firewood, enabling you to have a cosy wood fire in the wood stove – as well as a campfire outside.

Although this park is popular for its more than 80km of cross-country ski trails and eight snowshoeing trails, two new activities are great snow play draws.

11- Try Snowtagging

quebec in winter

Snowtagging is a popular challenge where you snowshoe (or hike with boots and crampons, which is what I did) to a remote lake, then “draw” art on its snowy surface using your snowshoes.

quebec winter

Yes, you have to backpack in your snowshoes – as well as follow a pre-designed picture drawn on a laminated sheet, which not only depicts the artwork (say of a spider, or perhaps a bicycle) but also the compass coordinates.

Park staff supply the compass, and so by interpreting the coordinates and carefully stamping the snow down with your snowshoes, you create the picture on the lake’s snowy surface.

Afterwards, ascend a cliff and gaze upon your artwork.

Cool!

12- Fatbiking

quebec winter

Another fun snowy activity is fat biking along narrow, circuitous trails through the forest. Awesome!

13- Get pampered at the GEOS Spa 

quebec winter

Sprawling alongside Mastigouche Wildlife Reserve and a beautiful lake, in the park itself, is the luxurious Hôtel Sacacomie.

As do all great resorts, Sacacomie offers many recreational activities such as dogsledding, cross-country skiing, ice skating, snowmobile on Bombardier machines (all equipment provided) and pampering at the GEOS Spa. 

14- Ice Driving at Sacacomie

quebec winter

Ice Driving Canada offers their unique activity in Canada right here at Sacacomie.

Won’t your adrenaline race while you do wild laps driving a Porsche Boxster around an icy circuit?

15- Take a guided snowshoe walk

quebec winter

The polar opposite is the tranquillity you’ll discover while enjoying a guided snowshoe walk with a trapper guide.

Included in this package is a fresh trout snack cooked over a campfire.

You’ll learn about the ways of the forest and its denizens in winter – a great learning experience for the entire family.

16- Skate along the Enchanted Forest

quebec city winter

Before leaving Mauricie, skate along a 12km pathway where you’ll glide through trees along Domaine de la forêt perdue (The Enchanted Forest).

Take binoculars to better see wild deer (if you’re lucky) and resident birds like Downy, Hairy or Pileated woodpeckers.

Another great activity with children, particularly as there are animals here you can feed such as llamas.

Winter in Quebec – Outaouais

The Outaouais (West Québec) region sprawling west of Montréal to Temiskaming is Québec’s “hidden gem,” attracting adventurers who enjoy off-the-beaten-path snowshoeing, dogsledding and more.

North of Ottawa (Canada’s capital city) and its twin city of Gatineau, in Québec, is a sprawling (30,504 sq km) region of lakes, rivers, waterfalls, parks and forests known as l’Outaouais (Ooo-tay-ways).

I live here, in an area called the Pontiac, so what I’m offering you is an insider’s peek into my favourite wintery pastimes right here at home.

17- Snowshoe Les Routes des Zingues

quebec city winter
Route des Zingues

Snowshoe narrow, rocky trails along Les Routes des Zingues north of the village of Duhamel.

Be sure to pack a picnic in your day pack because there are many splendid lookouts over lakes Gagnon and Preston and if you find a sheltered, sunny spot picnicking can be cosy in the sunshine.

18- Build a campfire on a frozen lake

quebec city winter

Build a little campfire on a snow-clad lake, pull out your packed-in campfire pot and lunch, melt some snow in the crackling fire, and pour in some powdered soup.

Mmmm!

Stay overnight at Auberge and Spa Couleurs de France in Duhamel.

19- Go snowshoeing in the moonlight

quebec city winter

From here you can rent snowmobiles (and a guide), go dogsledding, or simply head out on snowshoes across the lake.

Tip? Snowshoeing or even winter hiking is awe-inspiring at night, under the canopy of stars, with the lights of the lodge twinkling through the trees.

Then relax in the on-site spa, have cocktails before dinner, then enjoy a well-deserved meal.

20- Explore Gatineau Park

West of Duhamel and north of Gatineau, find Gatineau Park.

First, I suggest you orient yourself at the small museum in the Visitor Centre, located in the artsy village of Chelsea.

Art aficionados will want to visit La Fab, open Fridays through Sundays, to check out this village’s fabulous art scene.

In Gatineau Park, more than 60km of snowshoe trails, 200km of cross-country ski trails beckon you to explore undulating, forested hills and fabulous lookouts over the Ottawa Valley.

You can stay overnight in the Park if you reserve ahead. Accommodations include four-season tents, yurts, and cabins.

The brave can also try winter camping in the Lac Philippe area – but you must ensure you are fully prepared for this truly Canadian winter experience.

Park staff can assist with information about gearing up.

21- Fullmoon skiing in Bristol

montreal winter

Further west of Gatineau Park, other experiences await, including the gentle cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails found at Ski Pontiac, in Bristol.

Community-minded entrepreneurs Connie Renaud and Shirley Russell founded this enterprise where they arrange special activities, too.

For example, their annual full-moon skiing and snowshoeing event is fabulous, where participants can dine at nearby Cidrerie Coronation Hall Cider Mills.

That family run business offers a super-friendly atmosphere to tuck into real homemade meals where hot apple cider will taste absolutely fabulous after dinner, at the bonfire.

22- Learn to drive a dog sled

Anyone who’s investigated Canadian winter activities will know about dog sledding and near the village of Otter Lake, at Escapade Eskimo.

This region of Outaouais is known as the Pontiac, where many operations are family-run.

Here, Caroline Desrosiers and her husband Sylvain Drapeau are your hosts, and they love all things doggy.

Their animals are healthy, friendly and beautiful athletes, and here at Escapade Eskimo they’re breeding Siberian Huskies.

If you’re lucky, you may just find some puppies – cuteness personified, I think!

When my photographer husband Eric Fletcher and I went dog sledding here, we took turns mushing – that’s standing on the sled’s back rails, and encouraging the dogs to run – or slow down or stop, mind you!

Let me disabuse you of any thought this is restful.

As a musher, I ran up hills, pushing the sled and shouting “Va! Va!” (On! On!) to encourage the doggies – as did Eric when he took over.

Another terrific dogsledding outfit in Pontiac is Timberland.

Proprietor Denis Rozon is an intriguing counterpoint to Escapade Eskimo because his dogs (which he breeds, too) are “Euro dogs” not Siberian Huskies.

This now-recognized breed is a mix of German Pointers, Greyhounds, and Alaskan Husky and boy can they run!

Although not in winter, in November, annually, Rozon hosts the internationally renowned Bristol Dryland Canadian Championship Dog Race.

This event attracts teams from all over the world.

So, want to play in the snow?

Then check out Canada’s belle province, and receive our lovely welcome, “Bonjour!” (good day!) wherever you go.

Most of us speak English and if not?

Smiling and learning how to say “bonjour” will open any door.

Katharine and Eric Fletcher are keen outdoors enthusiasts who are based at Spiritwood, their farm north of Quyon, in the Outaouais region of the province of Québec.

Winter in Canada

Planning a trip to Canada in winter? Read these posts for ideas:

Guide to the best ski resorts in Canada

3 Alberta ski resorts

Skiing in British Columbia

Winter in Quebec Insider’s Guide

Winter in Quebec Insider’s Guide

2 COMMENTS

  1. There is an awful lot of information in this article – it’s extremely detailed and useful for anyone planning a winter trip to Quebec. I very much like the description of skiing at Le Massif and thinking that you are entering the St Lawrence River. I also like the sound of snow tagging – it’s very original. I’d never heard of it before. And the carnival sounds wonderful especially the night time canoe race.

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