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Parc national de la Gaspésie. Photo: Roger St-Laurent, photographe

5 Things to Do Before You Go Backcountry Skiing

Do you dream of powder skiing in the vast mountains of Gaspésie? Here are 5 things we recommend you do before you embark on such an adventure!

Brush up on your skiing techniques

If the last time you put on your skis was for a school trip over a decade ago, you might want to go downhill skiing before you try backcountry skiing! To make sure you enjoy your backcountry skiing experience to the fullest and avoid unnecessary risks, you should be able to ski all the slopes of a downhill ski resort regardless of conditions (ice, powder, etc.) before you go backcountry skiing for the first time. Make sure you are also comfortable downhill skiing in the trees.

You should also be able to sustain moderate and constant physical effort for at least three hours, especially if you plan to skin up the mountains. By the way, many ski resorts in Gaspésie have areas that are reserved for backcountry skiing where you can test your gear and skinning skills.

Réserve faunique de Matane
Réserve faunique de Matane. Photo: Jeff Bartlett

Get the right kind of insurance

Backcountry skiing is usually done in isolated areas, which means evacuation costs could be very expensive if you needed to be rescued. For peace of mind and to avoid any unpleasant surprises, make sure that your insurance policy covers this activity. Since insurers usually consider backcountry skiing an extreme sport, you may have to pay an additional premium.

The FQME, an organization that promotes backcountry skiing in Québec, offers low-cost insurance to Québec residents. For more information, visit fqme.qc.ca/adherer (in French only; you can also email them at communaute@fqme.qc.ca or call 514-252-3004).

Check weather and avalanche forecasts before setting out

Did you know that there is a real risk of avalanches in Gaspésie? This is why Avalanche Québec, the only avalanche centre in Eastern Canada, is located in this region. In order to prepare for your outing, be sure to consult the “Conditions Chic-Chocs” on the Avalanche Québec website (scroll down and click on the “English version” tabs); you can also check the forecasts on the Ski Haute-Gaspésie app (available from the App Store or Google Play.

Skieur dans la réserve faunique de Matane
Réserve faunique de Matane. Photo: Jeff Bartlett

Avoid unnecessary risks by planning your trip carefully

Since backcountry skiing is usually done in isolated areas, access to first aid is difficult. In addition, cell coverage is not reliable once you are in the mountains in Gaspésie. Backcountry skiing can also be dangerous if you do not have enough experience as a skier, are not prepared, or do not have the appropriate gear. On the other hand, Gaspésie offers a wide range of ski areas and experiences so you can choose an appropriate location according to your skill level. You can also go skiing with a certified guide. You should always postpone your outing if conditions are not favourable.

Mont Lyall
Mont Lyall. Photo: Phil Émond

As you can see, it is important to take the time to plan your backcountry ski trip carefully to ensure you have the best possible experience. Here are some of the tools that can help you do so:

  • Our Backcountry Skiing page lists local ski areas as well as companies providing the services of certified guides. Our site also offers listings for accommodations, restaurants and other winter activities to complete your stay.
  • The Ski Haute-Gaspésie app created by Avalanche Québec (available from the App Store or Google Play) contains information about the main ski areas in the Chic-Choc Mountains (including sector maps, avalanche terrain ratings and the locations of huts and parking areas). You can access maps in offline mode as well as weather and avalanche forecasts.
  • Conditions Chic-Chocs,” available on the Avalanche Québec website, includes snow and weather reports, alpine weather forecasts and avalanche bulletins for the Chic-Chocs.
  • Parc national de la Gaspésie has qualified staff who can answer all your questions about the mountains in the park and in the Réserve faunique des Chic-Chocs. In addition, the park’s Mountain School now offers ski gear rentals, guide services and assistance. Do not hesitate to contact these resources directly.
Skieurs dans les Chic-Chocs en Gaspésie
Photo: Phil Émond

Respect nature and skiing facilities

The altitude of the Chic-Chocs affects the climate in these mountains, creating an environment that is home to a variety of species that are unique in Québec and even in the world. The tundra on the peaks is an ideal environment for arctic-alpine plants and is the natural habitat of the only herd of woodland caribou found south of the St. Lawrence.

Please keep your distance from these animals so as to disturb them as little as possible and preserve the surrounding forest environment. For more information, read the Sépaq recommendations regarding encounters with woodland caribou.

Ski dans le parc national de la Gaspésie
Ski dans le parc national de la Gaspésie. Photo: Roger Saint-Laurent

Make sure you also pay access fees and treat sites and facilities with respect. Many sites are maintained by volunteers and require hours of hard work, often in remote and difficult-to-access locations. For the sake of these people who have contributed so much to the development of backcountry skiing in Gaspésie, please treat skiing facilities with care!

To help you prepare your trip, we also recommend that you read the following blog post:

Are you ready for a backcountry skiing adventure in the mountains of Gaspésie? Be in the loop! Plan your trip at tourisme-gaspesie.com today. #gaspesiewinter

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