Pre-Season Riding in Quebec’s Laurentians…
Related: Early Season Riding Destinations
Each fall I get inquiries from eager riders wanting to know where to go Christmas snowmobiling. Typically, they have only a few days available. So, they have limited travel time. They also want sure snow, and there’s the rub…
For most eastern North America trail riding destinations, the days between Christmas and New Years are a bit of a crapshoot. Strangely, some of winter’s most reliable snow destinations aren’t usually ready to roll between Christmas and New Year’s. Except of course, for those occasional years when Mother Nature gifts earlier snow and cold than normal.
Christmas Snowmobiling Quandry
So, the dilemma is whether to wait until there’s snow to pick a Christmas snowmobiling destination. Or to book your Christmas holiday snowmobiling destination in the Fall, based on a previous track record for decent snow.
In either case, you need to keep your fingers crossed. Wait too long and there may be no rooms available. Commit too early and there may be no snow when the holidays come. Decisions, decisions…
Good Bets In Quebec
The good news is that, for those close enough to trailer there, some parts of Quebec have proved themselves worthy of consideration for booking early. These best bet destinations for reliable Christmas holiday snowmobiling year after year include three regions. They are the Chic-Chocs Region of Gaspèsie; the Mont Valin area of Saguenay Lac-St-Jean; and the Laurentians of the Lanaudière Region.
All three of these prime snowmobiling destinations share the northerly latitude and heightened elevation necessary to produce and keep early snow. So, well there are no absolute guarantees with weather, each of them has a good track record of consistently delivering decent Christmas snowmobiling.
However, both Gaspèsie and Saguenay are positioned in Eastern Quebec, beyond Quebec City. So, depending on where your home base is, either of them can be a bit of a haul for your first ride of the season. Alternatively, the Lanaudière Region‘s westerly location is only two hours north of Montreal. So, it’s closer to Ontario, New York, Vermont and even New Hampshire.
But keep your expectations in line. While this region boasts 4,800 kilometres (2,900 mi) of snowmobile trails in season, they’re not all open for Christmas snowmobiling. In fact, the best early season trail riding I’ve found there is typically concentrated in the heart of the Laurentian Mountains.
Snowmobiling Sweet Spot
Mostly, it’s centred between Sainte-Émélie-de-L’Énergie and Saint-Michel-des-Saints. This area (within pink outline above) is the bulls-eye if your target is reliable Christmas snowmobiling. Move much farther north and the early snow line can dissipate as the terrain plateaus. Similarly, staging farther south puts you out of the mountains proper and often below the early snow line.
So, there’s a definite sweet spot for early reliable Christmas snowmobiling in Lanaudière. Within it, there are plenty of trail options, although likely not the larger loops and greater distances available by mid-winter. Riding east and west is usually decent too. However, once again, don’t stray too far south. And be prepared for smaller loops or riding out and back on the same trail. FYI, area services and amenities are open early too!
But beggars can’t be choosers. And never getting skunked is why I’m part of a group that has visited this area of Lanaudière many times for Christmas snowmobiling. But fair warning: it’s a popular area and accommodations book up early and quickly (see Lodging Options).
Different Headspace for Christmas Holidays
Because our trail riding expectations are not the same as in mid-season, our group approaches Christmas snowmobiling in Lanaudière differently. We treat our early visit there as a good opportunity to break in new sleds and gear, and to double check existing equipment and machines.
Also, we’re not there to set new distance or pace records. Instead, our goal is simply to enjoy the onset of winter and have as much fun as possible with people we cherish. So, in the spirit of the holiday season, we also make our Christmas snowmobiling a family friendly getaway. Everyone is encouraged to bring spouses, offspring and friends. This can make for a large group, but there’s something for everyone to do. This includes introducing newbies to snowmobiling and instilling a lifelong love of sledding with younger generations.
We usually have breakfast and dinner together. But we often break into smaller groups on any given day to pursue various interests. These include some shorter, slower family rides, as well as some longer loops for the more avid. In addition to sledding, we’ve enjoyed ice skating, tubing and dog sled rides. And of course, indoor pools and hot tubs. Best of all, we’re all together for a special New Year’s dinner and party to top it all off.
So maybe you just want to get a jump on the season. Or perhaps your preference is to kick it off with a family-oriented winter adventure. Either way, you should book a Christmas snowmobiling getaway in the Lanaudière Region of Quebec right away. There’s no better or more memorable way to spend the holidays. And maybe we’ll even see one another on the trails!
- Auberge du Vieux Moulin (Sainte-Émélie-de-L’Énergie)
- Hôtel Central (Saint-Michel-des-Saints)
- Auberge Le Cabanon (Saint-Zénon)
- Pourvoirie Auberge La Barrière (Sainte-Émélie-de-L’Énergie)
- Auberge La Glacière (Saint-Zénon)
- Pourvoirie Domaine Bazinet (Sainte-Émélie-de-L’Énergie)
- Auberge du Lac Taureau (Saint-Michel-des-Saints)
- Pourvoirie Pignon Rouge Mokocan (Saint-Michel-des-Saints)
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The tips and advice in this blog are the opinions of the author, may not work in every situation and are intended only for the convenience and interest of the reader, who has the personal responsibility to confirm the validity, accuracy and relevancy of this information prior to putting it to their own use.