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In March 1952, seven graduating students from the seminary’s senior philosophy class, including Jules Bélanger (3rd from the right), went on a cross-country skiing trip during a day off. Credit: Musée de la Gaspésie, Roger Anctil Collection

Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing in Gaspésie, from Yesterday to Today

Since cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are very accessible winter activities, they have been popular in Gaspésie for decades. First used as means of transportation to travel across areas of deep snow, cross-country skis and snowshoes are now mainly used for recreational activities on the many trails in Gaspésie..

Walking on snow without sinking

Developed initially by First Nations peoples, snowshoes were quickly adopted by settlers in the New France era. Traditionally made with natural materials (wood and rawhide), snowshoes came in different shapes and lengths, depending on their use and the weight they supported. Practical in the middle of the winter, snowshoes were used by trappers, foresters and even by the army, who could lead attacks without sinking into the snow.

Snowshoeing was popular as a recreational activity as early as the 1840s, when many amateur snowshoeing clubs were formed. In addition, several major snowshoeing competitions were organized around that time. First taking place over short distances, they were replaced, in the 20th century, by endurance events. Amateur snowshoeing clubs, which were renowned for ending their competitions with lively banquets, died out in the late 1950s as ski resorts became more popular.

In the 1970s, a technological revolution led to a renaissance in snowshoeing. Plastic and aluminum were introduced into the manufacturing of snowshoes, which modified their shape, size and weight. The addition of crampons provided snowshoes with much better traction. These improvements and the accessibility of this sport (affordable, easy to transport, lots of areas to explore) contributed to the increased popularity of snowshoeing.

Originally from Scandinavia, cross-country skiing was introduced in Canada in the 1890s. Oddly enough, most skiers only used one pole at the time! The skis were made of unlaminated wood and had large bindings. They were also excessively long (2.5 to 4 metres), wide (80 mm) and heavy (several kg each)! In 1915, a Norwegian invented steel bindings and more efficient skis, which were used with two poles.

Cross-country skiing became popular as a recreational activity in 1927. The Canadian Pacific Railway introduced train trips to the Laurentians, where an extensive network of trails was created. By the 1930s, similar developments were found throughout North America. Ski lifts were invented around this time, and skis and bindings were adapted for downhill skiing. Many abandoned cross-country skiing in favour of this new sport. However, by the 1970s, with the high costs of downhill skiing, slope congestion and a growing interest in fitness, there was a new interest in cross-country skiing.

In the 1980s and 1990s, technological innovations simplified cross-country skiing. Synthetic materials made it possible to manufacture very light and strong skis and poles, while simpler waxing systems made ski preparation much faster.

A group of friends cross-country skiing in the Réserve faunique de Matane during the Winter TDLG. This wildlife reserve is home to several peaks that are about 1000 metres high as well as breathtaking landscapes! Photo: Roger St-Laurent.

A unifying winter event and multiple trails in Gaspésie

In the early 2000s, an amazing event was launched in Gaspésie, which now brings together cross-country skiing and snowshoeing enthusiasts every year: the Winter TDLG. This popular weeklong adventure, which attracts participants from all over the world, has quickly become a must-attend event. The 18th edition, which will take place from February 22 to 29, 2020, will bring together 250 participants. The Winter TDLG is an all-inclusive sports vacation that involves cross-country skiing or snowshoeing through stunning sea and mountain scenery (including the magnificent Chic-Chocs) as well as entertainment, fun and good food! During the event, skiers will travel an average of 30 km a day, while snowshoers will hike 10 km to 15 km a day.

An ideal natural playground for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, Gaspésie now offers many trails dedicated to these sports, much to the delight of enthusiasts of all levels. For example, Parc national de la Gaspésie, the Réserve faunique des Chic-Chocs, Forillon National Park, the Percé UNESCO Global Geopark and the Pin Rouge ski resort (New Richmond) all offer a wide variety of trails for everyone.

Related blog posts:

Top 5 – Snowshoeing and Skiing Trails in Gaspésie

To be in the loop and find out more about snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in Gaspésie, visit tourisme-gaspesie.com and plan your trip today! #gaspesie

Source: Historical information about cross-country skiing was taken from “Cross-Country Skiing” by Patricia G. Bailey and Murray C. Shaw in Canadian Encyclopedia, 2011 (revised in 2015)

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