Beginner’s Guide to Backcountry Skiing in Gaspésie
Boasting record snowfalls and home to the impressive Chic-Choc Mountains, Gaspésie is a must for backcountry ski enthusiasts.
Here is what you need to know about this increasingly popular sport.
What is backcountry skiing?
Backcountry skiing, which is also called off-piste, off-trail, out-of-area or wilderness skiing and encompasses alpine touring, ski mountaineering and ski touring, involves skiing on downhill or telemark skis in designated areas that are neither groomed nor patrolled. (You can also go backcountry snowboarding.)To practise this sport, you must generally climb to the top of a mountain on snowshoes or on skis with climbing skins or via snowcat (catskiing) or helicopter (heliskiing). Once at the top, you can enjoy racing or carving your way back down on loose snow!
When and where to go backcountry skiing
Gaspésie offers a long skiing season and 17 summits where you can go backcountry skiing or snowboarding. The season begins as soon as there is enough snow—usually around late December—and can last until May on the highest peaks.
The region is famous for exceptional snow conditions, pristine snow corridors, vertical drops of up to 550 m and slopes as steep as 45 degrees. Backcountry skiing and snowboarding can be enjoyed in various locations:
- In hybrid ski resorts, which offer both downhill and backcountry skiing (such as Parc régional de Val-d’Irène).
- In national parks or wildlife reserves (such as Matane and Chic-Chocs wildlife reserves or parc national de la Gaspésie), which offer several sites where you can enjoy backcountry skiing. These locations are accessible on your own or with guides from companies such as Chic-Chac or Ski Chic-Chocs.
- In communities that have areas designated for backcountry skiing, in collaboration with the Fédération québécoise de la montagne et de l’escalade (for example, in Maria or Gaspé).
To ensure your own safety, before you set off on your backcountry adventure, you need to make sure you are well prepared and have the right gear.
- Take a backcountry skiing or snowboarding course offered by a qualified person. You can also go on a guided backcountry tour (with Chic-Chac or Ski Chic-Chocs, for example).
- Make sure you are in good physical and mental health.
- Choose a backcountry site that is within your technical abilities. Find out about the particulars of the mountain you have chosen and plan your itinerary on a map.
- Make sure your gear is in good condition, including your safety gear (insulated jacket, lighter, extra layers, multitool, communication device, tarp, etc.). Make sure you also pack avalanche safety gear (avalanche transceiver, probe and snow shovel).
- Check the weather forecast to make sure conditions are suitable. From December 1 to April 30, Avalanche Québec publishes an avalanche forecast bulletin, which you can subscribe to and which will help you plan your trip.
- Find out about regulations in effect and pay the relevant access fees.
- Please be respectful of the natural environment! Observe wildlife from a distance and avoid disturbing the animals you encounter. Make sure you don’t damage vegetation and practise Leave No Trace principles by packing out your garbage, etc.
- Be courteous to others on the trails and in facilities and help anyone in need.
Want to discover the joys of backcountry skiing or snowboarding in the powder snow of Gaspésie like Mylaine and friends? Plan your trip at tourisme-gaspesie.com!
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