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Family Travel Ink
Winter/ Snow: Mont-Sainte-Anne— Quebec's Family-Friendly Resort
Picture this. You and the kids arrive at the ski lift on a red-painted horse-drawn sleigh. Once at the top of the mountain, you’re greeted by a friendly Saint Bernard dog with a thermos and a ski ticket around her neck. Back at the chalet cafeteria, you wander into the tiny museum to point out small children’s skis with leather straps or 100-year-old snowshoes. You might be at an Old World European ski resort— perhaps the Austrian Alps or Switzerland.
But no, the boiled maple syrup thrown onto the snow to be twirled up on a stick, the signs for poutine in the chalet cafeteria, and the prices for lift tickets tell you that you are indeed on this side of the pond. In fact, you are at Mont-Sainte-Anne Resort just a half hour east of Quebec City, home to Pingo the Penguin mascot, Maggie the Saint Bernard, and hundreds of enthusiastic ski instructors who are ready to introduce your kids to the fun of skiing or snowboarding at this family-friendly resort.
Many ski-happy families have experienced Tremblant and Whistler, Lake Louise and Sun Peaks. But Mont-Sainte-Anne, and its sister resort Stoneham (just 20 minutes north of the city), remain somewhat undiscovered by winter-loving parents. That’s bound to change. Purchased two years ago by Charlie Locke of the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies fame (which counts Lake Louise, Nakiska and Fernie among its members), the two properties are gearing up to become year-round playgrounds that give Intrawest the kind of nudges known only too well by our first-borns.
For parents, the resort is anchored by the award-winning Planet Glide Children’s Center which offers a one-stop shop. You can drop off babies at the nursery in the Daycare Centre (from six months); high chairs and cribs allow for baby feeding and sleeping while you take a few runs. Kids three and up register here for lessons, rent equipment, or simply enjoy the crafts, puppet shows and hot meals. Snowboarders (restricted to sevens and up) and ski camps take to the hills with their instructors but return to the Center after lessons for snacks and games. Always a popular guest is Pingo, the large colourful roaming penguin whose main occupation seems to be hugging kids.
But the beauty of Mont-Sainte-Anne, aside from the Quebeçois ambiance and the closeness to Quebec City (certainly one of the most beautiful cities in the world) is the reliability and quality of the snow. Although Family Weeks offered at Christmas and during March Break offer all the hoopla of magic shows, face painting, animal balloons, scavenger hunts, movies, and fondue dinners on top of the mountain, you’re here to have fun with the white stuff. This year already, over nine feet (280 cm) has fallen. An average 13-ft. snowfall meant that last April, we were having lunch outdoors between snowy runs.
If you’re a cross-country family, no problem. Mont-Sainte-Anne has been rated tops in the country for its trails—over 223 km of them interspersed by heated huts and even a sleepover Inn. You’ll also find new paths for snowshoeing, dog-sledding trails (alongside the golf course), paragliding off the top of the mountain, and the sweet treat of maple taffy at the Sugar Shack midway down La Pichard trail (named after François Pichard who broke the mountain’s first trails in 1943 and still acts as curator at the fascinating on-site museum). Add 56 runs (about one quarter beginner and intermediate), the third highest vertical in eastern Canada after Le Massif and Tremblant and the highest vertical drop night skiing, a heated 8-person quad chair that zips you up to 2050 ft., a new terrain park for skiers and snowboarders, a top-rated kid’s ski program, World Cup races featuring such superstars as local Super G gal Melanie Turgeon, and you’ve got potential for an exciting family vacation. As they say in Quebec, “Bon Ski!”
RATES: Kids six and under ski free every day. Two J-bar tows and a Magic Carpet (like an airport moving sidewalk) are always free too. One-day lift tickets are $25.20 for up to 13 years, $34.80 for up to 22, and $42.60 for adults. Combination tickets bring these prices even lower. Daycare costs $8 per hour or $30 per day. Youth Camp for ages four to seven (four half-days for $150) and Adventure Camp for kids eight to 14 (four half-days for $135) offer fun and new skiing skills. Full four-day programs cost $220 for Youth (lift tickets included) and $205 for Adventure (lunch included) respectively. For details, call the resort at 418-827-4561 or visit www.mont-sainte-anne.com. For snow conditions and activities, call 1-888-827-4579.
LODGING: Over 60 choices of accommodation are available including on-site condos such as the Chalets Mont Ste-Anne with three floors for family living and the cozy Château Mont Sainte-Anne with kitchenettes and school-break activities. Call 1-800-463-1568 for details.
NOTE: The Quebec City area can be frigid, so bring layers of warm clothing.. Also, bring a French dictionary. It will give your kids a chance to practice their French lessons. And don’t leave without visiting Quebec City at least once. It’s a magical place for kids and adults.
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