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Mont Vallières-de-Saint-Réal. Photo : Phil Emond

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 not 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 (skinning) or via snowcat (catskiing) or helicopter (heliskiing). Once at the top, you can enjoy racing or carving your way back down on loose snow!

Skieur dans les Chic-Chocs
Photo: Jeff Bartlett

When and where to go backcountry skiing

Gaspésie offers a long skiing season and 26 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:

Skieuses du White Lips au mont York à Murdochville
Mont York, Chic-Chac. Photo: Phil Émond
Skieur hors-piste au mont Lyall dans la réserve faunique des Chic-Chocs
Mont Lyall. Photo: Phil Émond

Safety precautions

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.
Skieur dans les Chic-Chocs
Photo: Jeff Bartlett

On site:

  • 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.
Photo: Ski Chic-Chocs

Maps of backcountry areas in Gaspésie

To find out where you can enjoy backcountry skiing or snowboarding in Gaspésie, see the maps produced by FQME, Estski and Zone ski (in French only).

Want to discover the joys of backcountry skiing or snowboarding in the powder snow of Gaspésie? Be in the loop and plan your trip at!

Given the current situation, before you travel, please be sure to book your accommodations and check with tourism companies to find out how they are operating. Rest assured that local companies are following the recommended public health guidelines.

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