Under the late winter sunshine, we top out at a high point named for its elevation in meters, 780, and we peel our climbing skins. We can spot the mighty St. Lawrence River shimmering on the horizon, as well as the summits of nearby Parc Nacional de la Gaspesie, our objective in a few days. Yet, our eyes wander toward a striking peak much closer, one striped with several prominent chutes.
“A few of those lines have yet to be skied,” shared local guide Yann Barriault during our first afternoon at the Chic Chocs Mountain Lodge. “Perhaps this next storm will hold off for another day, and you guys can ski it.”
After spending a good part of the last eighteen hours traveling by car to the Lodge from Vermont—a 12-hour trip that culminated with a 40km snowcat ride from the nearby village of Cap Chat—my wife, Emily Johnson and our good friend, Brennan Severance, were simply content to be here. As far as we could see, a wilderness of forests, mountains and alpine summits stretched before us, enticing us with a lifetime of backcountry skiing potential. Birdsong and the gentle roar of a distant stream filled the air. And below us, through the trees, sat the thoughtfully constructed Lodge, our luxurious home for a few days.
The 1950s Bombardier snowcat used to take Brian and Emily 40 km from the small village off to the Chic Chocs Mountain Lodge. - Brian Mohr/EmberPhoto
Having explored many of the rustic backcountry huts in the nearby Parc Nacional de la Gaspesie in the past, a good visit to the Lodge was well overdue. Tucked away at the northern terminus of the Appalachian Mountains, along Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula, the Lodge sits in the heart of the region’s Monts Chic Chocs. Home to the continent’s southernmost herd of wild caribou, as well as an abundance of moose, black bear and even a few wolves, these mountains are increasingly popular with skiers and winter hikers seeking solitude, scenery, and fresh snow. And the Lodge has it all.
The first of its kind in eastern North America, the 18-room, fully staffed Chic Chocs Mountain Lodge offers guests first-class access to the Chic Chocs backcountry. It sits just below treeline at 615m, just a stone’s throw from the beautiful 1000m summits of Mont Matawees and Mont Coleman, both beautiful skiing objectives.
The Chic Chocs Mountain Lodge - Brian Mohr/EmberPHoto
“There is a great variety of skiing… and some incredible descents close to the Lodge,” shared Gilbert Rioux while out skiing with him in the region a year earlier. Rioux managed the development of the Lodge through its opening in 2005. A fellow powder hound and dedicated Chic Chocs skier, Rioux’s eyes light up when he talks about the skiing near the Lodge. “The forest is more open here than in many other areas of the Chic Chocs… so the tree skiing is also very good.”
We push off and enjoy one last run back to the Lodge, following Yann’s lead, and we catch up with head guide, Jean-Francois Dube, as well as the rest of the Lodge’s friendly staff. Jean-Francois is curious about our plans to continue, self-supported, to some backcountry huts within the nearby national park near Mont Logan—huts we had visited in the past. After a few more days at the huts, we would ski out to a distant trailhead to which we had shuttled our car before arriving to the Lodge. Had he not already made other plans, Jean-Francois would join us. “That’s a really beautiful tour! And it’s really remote terrain that very few ever get to ski,” he said. “The skiing is really fantastic out there.”
Yann shows us around the Lodge for a few minutes, while Jean-Francois reports that both the sauna and outdoor jacuzzi would soon be ready for us. A few guests from Quebec City relax by the fireplace, sipping red wine, while the kitchen staff stays busy filling the air with the delicious scent of a great meal in the works. The Lodge is a spacious structure, with a large central fireplace and panoramic windows wrapping the main dining and common rooms. Perched on a ridge in the landscape, the Lodge offers expansive views. Custom wood, stone and metal work add a rustic touch to the elegant space. A fine selection of wines and spirits, and even an espresso machine, are easily accessed. At meals, guests gather around one prominent table, family style. Continue Reading...