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Skiers rest in the snow in Gaspé sometime between 1927 and 1945. Winter clothing at the time was a far cry from the technical gear available today: it was made of wool… and women wore skirts! Credit: Musée de la Gaspésie, G. G. Mercier Collection, P92/76

Winter Family Fun in Gaspésie, from Yesterday to Today

A region that experiences heavy snow, Gaspésie has always been an ideal natural playground for winter sports and activities. Local families used to have a great time improvising activities and equipment to make the most of the cold season! Today, a wide range of winter activities are offered in Gaspésie, which attract families from all over the world.

Simple winter fun

In the first half of the 20th century, Gaspesian children, who were often from large families, played outdoors in the winter, enjoying the copious amounts of snow that fell from the sky. At the time, up to 5 metres of precipitation fell on Gaspésie every winter! Compared to Québec City, Gaspé received more precipitation in the 20th century, while temperatures were milder. The children of the Gaspé Peninsula therefore benefited from ideal conditions for making snowmen and sliding along the coasts on wooden toboggans!

The first archival photographs of downhill skiers in the region date back to the 1920s and, in the absence of mechanical lifts, skiers came down the sides of mountains from as high as they were able to climb with the rudimentary equipment and clothing of the time.

Skating and hockey required resourcefulness before the construction of sports facilities. Enthusiasts skated or played hockey on frozen ponds or makeshift ice rinks, weather permitting. Equipment was basic and often cobbled together. For example, hockey goalies sometimes used Eaton catalogues as shin pads!

In the 1960s, Confederation Day celebrations provided several municipalities with access to grants to build arenas or civic centres. These infrastructures facilitated the promotion of hockey and figure skating, among other activities. Downhill ski resorts as well as cross-country skiing and snowmobile trails were also developed.

A family poses by the water in Coin-du-Banc, a great area to go tobogganing, fatbiking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing by the sea. Photo: Roger St-Laurent

Numerous accessible winter activities throughout Gaspésie

Over the years, Gaspésie has seen the development of many facilities, trails and slopes for winter sports. The region now offers a wide variety of activities for the whole family, from young children and teenagers to parents!

Some of the most popular sites for families to visit are the Pin Rouge resort (New Richmond) and Parc régional de Val-d’Irène (Sainte-Irène). In addition to offering downhill skiing and snowboarding, these two resorts also offer snow tubing as well as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails. Pin Rouge also has an illuminated skating rink and offers fatbike rentals (fatbikes have oversized tires designed to ride in the snow). In terms of accommodations, both resorts offer chalets for rent, where families can warm up with hot chocolate after a day of outdoor fun!

A very accessible sport, snowshoeing is also a great activity to enjoy with children. Tip: Start with short distances on relatively flat trails. Several enchanting sites offer snowshoeing trails of varying levels of difficulty, including Parc national de la Gaspésie (Sainte-Anne-des-Monts), the Percé UNESCO Global Geopark (Percé) and the Village Grande Nature Chic-Chocs resort (Saint-Octave-de-l’Avenir). The park offers 13 trails of various levels ranging from 1.7 km to 18 km in the Mont-Albert sector and on the territory of the Réserve faunique des Chic-Chocs. (Snowshoes are also available for rent.) The Geopark offers easy to intermediate trails on Mount Sainte-Anne and Mount Blanc ranging from 400 metres to 2.5 km. This site also has an ice rink. Village Grande Nature Chic-Chocs offers a network of multi-use trails (for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, hiking and fatbiking) as well as accommodations in a lodge or cabins, which are ideal for families. The Base de Plein Air de Bellefeuille outdoor recreational centre (Pabos Mills) offers 15 km of easy snowshoeing trails near its cottages, which can accommodate up to 15 people. Bellefeuille also has an ice rink and a snow slide.

A dogsled ride is another great way to enjoy winter in Gaspésie with your family! In Saint-Ulric, only 15 minutes west of Matane, Aventures Pattes Blanches will take you on an 11-km trail with views of the sea and an up-close view of giant wind turbines. In Saint-Vianney, at Pourvoirie Fournier Plein Air, Maxime Fournier and his pack of Siberian and Alaskan huskies will introduce you to nearly 100 km of trails with spectacular views of Lake Matapédia and the surrounding mountains. Various packages are available, ranging from a one-hour dogsled ride to three days with accommodations. Note that both companies offer special packages for families.

Winter in Gaspésie is also an opportunity to just play in the snow, build an igloo, sit by an outdoor fire or have a snowball fight! And winter fun also includes spending a few days in a cozy cottage playing boardgames with your family, or enjoying the indoor activities offered throughout the peninsula.

In early March, a special program of indoor and outdoor activities is offered in several municipalities in Gaspésie during the March break.

To be in the loop and find out more about winter family activities on offer in Gaspésie, visit tourisme-gaspesie.com and plan your trip today! #gaspesie

Sources:
– From Gaspé au fil du temps [Gaspé Over Time] by Fabien Synnett and Mario Mimeault, with Ginette Roy, 2009.
– According to Les sports hivernaux d’hier à aujourd’hui [Winter Sports from Yesterday to Today] a radio show with Adrianne Gauvin-Sasseville on Radio-Canada Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine, March 27, 2019.
– From Gaspé au fil du temps, op. cit.
– From “La Gaspésie à l’heure du Québec : 1963-2013” [Gaspésie on Québec Time: 1963-2013] by Jean-Marie Fallu in Magazine Gaspésie, July 2013.

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