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Mont Lyall. Photo: Phil Émond

Self-Guided Backcountry Skiing at Val d’Irène and FQME Sites

Set off on an adventure in the “white zone” at Val-d’Irène or on one of the FQME sites to experience all the joys of self-guided backcountry skiing in Gaspésie!

Skieurs au sommet du Parc régional de Val-d'Irène
Parc régional de Val-d’Irène. Photo: Michel Laverdière

“White zone” in Parc régional de Val-d’Irène

A gateway to the Chic-Choc Mountains, Parc régional de Val-d’Irène, which is renowned for its ski resort offering 100% natural snow, has developed an unmarked, unsecured and unpatrolled area of unpacked snow reserved for backcountry skiing. This “white zone” (Zone Blanche), which features vertical drops of 170 metres, is ideal for those who want to try backcountry skiing for the first time. However, you still need to be an expert skier to venture there, since this area features steep slopes (up to 35 degrees).

There are two ways to access the white zone. First, you can take the ski lift and then go down part of trail #1 (La Familiale) before skinning up to access the white zone on the southeast slope. You can also get there from the main lodge with snowshoes or  by skinning. Since the area is at risk for avalanches, be sure to check with the patrol service before setting off for a day of backcountry skiing. You should also be aware of the rules for enjoying the white zone.

FQME sites

Below are five sites affiliated with the FQME, an organization that promotes rock climbing and backcountry skiing in the province of Québec. These sites are accessible to FQME annual members or to those who have paid a one-day membership fee at a self-registration station at the entrance to an access trail. These memberships provide accident, disability and liability insurance, which protects skiers and prevents site landowners from being held liable in the event of an accident.

PLEASE NOTE: Although FQME sites are not necessarily difficult, they are not ideal for first-time backcountry skiers. You are completely on your own on the site and there may not be a building to warm up in.

Skieur de montagne au mont Lyall dans la réserve faunique des Chic-Chocs en Gaspésie
Mont Lyall. Photo: Phil Émond

Mont Lyall, expert level

Located 45 minutes by car from Sainte-Anne-des-Monts and 55 minutes from Murdochville, Mont Lyall is right on the edge of the Réserve faunique des Chic-Chocs. It offers a 330-metre vertical drop and a smooth descent thanks to the design of the slopes. It takes about 60 minutes (2.5 km) to reach the summit by skinning or a little more on snowshoes.

Mont Porphyre, Murdochville
Mont du Porphyre. Photo: Éric Marchand

Mont du Porphyre (Murdochville), beginner to expert levels

Mont du Porphyre offers vertical drops of 150 metres to 240 metres, with slopes varying from 20 to 40 degrees and magnificent panoramic views. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, you will love the 8 glades and 2 snowfields on this mountain. If you decide to  skin up the mountain using climbing skins, leave your car in the parking lot on Route 138, near the boundary stone at Km 38. Note also that Chic-Chac can take you up the mountain on a snowmobile or snowcat (guide services included).

Mont Pesaq
Photo: Mont Pesaq

Mont Pesaq (Gaspé), beginner to expert levels

Located 10 minutes from downtown Gaspé, Mont Pesaq (which means “it is snowing” in the Mi’gmaq language) is a powder paradise featuring wooded snowfields. Ten lines are currently available on this mountain with vertical drops of 200 metres (summit: 260 metres) and slopes up to 50 degrees—not to mention jumps for the more daring! There are also more accessible areas with slopes of 20 degrees.

From Gaspé, drive for 7 km towards Saint-Majorique, then turn left and drive another 4 km, then turn left again after a metal fence to get to the parking lot. Follow the signs for “Mont Pesaq” on the access trail (for 500 metres) to the foot of the mountain.

Vue aérienne du mont Maria
Maria site. Photo: FQME

Maria site, beginner to expert levels

Located in the mountains in Maria, in the Chaleur Bay region, this site (which was the FQME’s first) offers a vertical drop of 180 metres. The slopes are in an old sugar bush and give you the opportunity you to ski among beautiful mature maples. The access trail begins along Route Deschênes.

A first summit awaits you after a 20-minute approach by skinning. You will find a prospector’s tent here where you can warm up. You can also reach a second peak by continuing for about 30 more minutes on the trail. There is no topographic map of the area yet, but the access trails are well defined.

Montagne Saint-Pierre (La Rédemption), beginner to expert levels

Located in La Rédemption, in the regional county municipality of La Mitis, Montagne Saint-Pierre should not be confused with Mont Saint-Pierre, which is in Haute-Gaspésie. Offering a vertical drop of approximately 140 metres, Montagne Saint-Pierre features five glades for backcountry skiing on its northern side. You can skin up the mountain using climbing skins. The approach (3 km) is challenging.

Skieurs dans les Chic-Chocs en Gaspésie
Photo: Phil Émond

Important Note

Before setting off on your backcountry skiing adventure, make sure you are aware of avalanche conditions. (Scroll down the page and click on “English version.”) It is recommended to enjoy this high-adrenaline activity in a group with the proper gear and safety knowledge.

Would you like to enjoy an unforgettable self-guided backcountry skiing experience at Val d’Irène or one of the FQME sites in Gaspésie? Be in the loop! Plan your winter getaway at today. #gaspesiewinter

This blog post was inspired by the Zone.Ski and FQME websites (in French only), which provide information about the mountains mentioned above.

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