Quebec: The Ultimate Snowmobile Experience
Published on November 12, 2015 in News & Updates, Snowmobile Travel
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Quebec: The Ultimate Snowmobile Experience

By Dan Gould

Did you know that some of the finest snowmobiling in the world is only a few hours away? If you get up at your usual work-a-day time, hop in the truck around 6:30-7am, your skis will be on Quebec trail’s shortly after lunch. That’s a quicker trip than many other popular spots in the Northeast.

And these aren’t just any trails, these are the ones you dream about all year long. Wide, endless sight lines, sweeping corners, beautiful vistas, and groomed to perfection.

If you haven’t been to Quebec, you haven’t fully experienced snowmobiling, and if you haven’t stayed at the Manoir du lac William you are missing the ultimate snowmobile vacation.

VIDEO: SNOWMOBILING CHAUDIERE APPALACHES, QUÉBEC

We arrived in St-Ferdinand, Quebec, at lunchtime, and the Manoir du lac William (The Manor on Lake William) was buzzing with activity. There were about 25 family members skating on the ice, some playing hockey, others gliding down the mile-long path, meticulously cleared along the shoreline. Several airplanes waited on the temporary tarmac as their pilots enjoyed a hot meal inside. Yes, there was a plowed airfield on the lake.

What about snowmobiles? Sure, there were snowmobiles everywhere, but I was completely taken by everything else going on. In past sled trips we’ve stayed at the typical roadside no-tell-motels. Clearly the Manoir is not a typical snowmobile destination.

Inside we were greeted by the owner, Franco Lessard, and his staff. Everyone spoke English but with an enticing French accent that made you think you had just winged over the Atlantic. They showed us to our rooms near the indoor pool, which was surrounded by an expansive glass wall overlooking the grounds.

My room had two queen size beds, one of which folded out of the way against the wall, allowing extra space to change into my snowmobile gear. There was a beautiful whirlpool bath and a spacious bathroom, too. The view from the patio window was spectacular. Steam from the Nordic spa below lofted over the snow, with picturesque Lake William and the Appalachians behind. I kept reminding myself that somehow I would survive this.

There are riders that feel the need to saddle their sled at first light and rack up 200 miles before lunch. That is easily done, but not by me. I enjoy a relaxed pace while vacationing. We arrived at the breakfast buffet by 7:30, enjoying eggs, bacon, French toast and fruit, while the Zamboni operator applied a crystalline surface to the outdoor rink. Yeah, they have their own Zamboni and they drive it on the lake! Okay, we all know hockey is big in Quebec, but this is taking it to the extreme. It looks to be some sort of training ground for the next Ray Bourque or Mario Lemieux, somebody better contact the Bruins’ scouting staff.

Heated Garage

Around 9am we fetched our sleds from the heated garage. That’s right, no cleaning the snow off, no wresting with covers, and they start so easy. A gent named Martin manned the secured garage and was there in the morning when we arrived and again in the evening when we tucked them to bed. He got a well-deserved tip at the end of the week.

Planning a day’s trip often revolves around where to have lunch. (More about that later.) With that decided, we ride and ride and ride. The average trip was between 125-150 miles and that wasn’t at a crazy pace. We stopped, took in the sights, stretched the legs, you know, regular stuff. The trails are so good, remarkable actually, that you can ride for hours on end without fatigue.

Quebec snowmobile trip

There are over 20,000 miles of trails in Quebec, none of which I’m familiar with. That really didn’t matter as the snowmobile maps supplied by Quebec Tourism have color-coded loops, suggested travel routes, along with the approximate mileage. Pure genius. That, and the fact the signage is on par with street signs, make navigation simple and allow an extra sense of comfort.

Terrain and conditions varied, not only day to day, but hour to hour. One particular ride presented just about every type of weather imaginable, heavy snow squalls, best described as mini blizzards, followed by bright, warm, sun. At one point the wind was carrying light snow across an expansive farm field in dramatic fashion. Riding through the dancing snow dust and ramping over artfully carved drifts was everything one could want in a snowmobile adventure.

Blue skies ruled the bulk of the week, even on those mornings when a fresh layer of snow welcomed our sleds. The groomed trails took us through winding tree lined S-curves, leading to wide-open power lines and fields where the turbocharged Cat 1100 would take chase to imaginary mice. In the woods, at the bottom of a ravine, we crossed an impressive suspension bridge, somewhere between the towns of Laurier-Stanton and Val-Alain, north of where we were staying. It deserved a few photos, so I obliged.

We never got cold but there are several warming huts that the local clubs maintain throughout the area, many with wood stoves. We pitted at one in Saint Patrice with a heated bathroom. Hallelujah!

Snowmobile trails CHAUDIERE APPALACHES , ST-FERDINAND, QUÉBEC

Riding south one day we stopped for lunch in a converted train depot in Richmond, just as a conductor hooked a line of trains. Now, I’m not a foodie but I have to say that I’ve never experienced trail food like that in Quebec. We stopped at several small lunch spots during the week and everything was absolutely fresh and delicious, not the yucky frozen and fried stuff that is commonly shoveled to snowmobilers. They take dining serious in these parts, everything from a simple sandwich to broiled tenderloin is a work of art.

The trails led us through rolling hills and fields dotted with farm silos. A friendly farmer waved as we trekked across his property. A smiling gas station attendant, a French-speaking woman, greeted us and quickly filled our fuel tanks. This was a small town and she was one of the few people we met during our trip who didn’t speak English. Regardless of the language gap, the exchange was easy and convenient. It also reminds me that I really should learn some basic French, simply as a courtesy.

I don’t know why, but I’m fascinated with old buildings, vehicles, rock walls and farm machinery along the trail. Maybe it’s the juxtaposition against the white snow or the wonder of who and why it’s in the middle of nowhere. There were plenty of found artifacts during our travels, in particular, a gorgeous old sugarhouse and a long abandoned farmer’s home in a field, both weathered to perfection.

gourmet meals at the Manoir du lac William

You know what else is great about a snowmobile trip? You don’t have to cook dinner. Even if I did, I could never match the amazing gourmet meals that awaited us every night at the Manoir. The choices were many, everything from beef and lamb to seafood, all cooked and served in the French culinary tradition.

A five-course dinner was the perfect way to kick back and socialize after a day under the helmet. The discussion moved from my getting lost, ever so briefly, after a missed intersection, to dialing out some of the sled’s understeer with a tweak to the shocks. The food was amazing, the staff outstanding and the desserts… Que c’est délicieux!

I was so preoccupied with snowmobiling (and eating) during the week that I never did get around to the health spa or sauna. Next time, for sure, and believe me, there will be another visit, and several more after that.

Stay and Play at the Manoir du lac William:
It’s cheaper than you think

Manoir du lac William balconies

The Manoir du lac William is one of the best values on snow. Rates start at $125.00 per-person, double occupancy, which includes a generous breakfast buffet and the mammoth five-course dinner.

Considering the favorable exchange rate is in excess of 25% means it only costs about $100 for the hotel room and the majority of your meals! Do the math.

You also get to park your sled in a heated garage and have access to the Nordic spa, Jacuzzi, indoor pool, sauna and all the other fun stuff. If your significant other prefers to hang at the Manoir one day, there’s plenty for her to do while the guys go for a long rip across Canada. Perfect.

Manoir du lac William, 3180, Principale, St-Ferdinand, Québec G0N 1N0. Phone: 418-428-9188, Toll-free: 1-800-428-9188, http://www.manoirdulac.com.


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