We set off the next morning amid heavy snow squalls with Yann, and Julie LeBlanc, a former guide at the Lodge who now helps to coordinate the workings of the Haute Gaspesie Avalanche Center in nearby St.Anne des Monts. The Avalanche Center is an important resource for the Lodge and for skiers and visitors to the Gaspe’s mountains, by issuing regular avalanche reports and offering workshops and training for the public. At the moment, our snow pack is stable, but that will likely change in the days ahead with abundant snowfall forecasted. However, the greatly varied terrain in the Chic Chocs makes it relatively easy to find safe skiing, no matter what the conditions. We make sure each of our avalanche beacons are functioning, and we ski a beautiful run through a birch forest to the scenic waterfall, Chute Helene, nestled within a steep drainage. Several inches of fresh snow cushion a firm base—perfect conditions for exploring.
Emily Johnson explores new terrain around the Chic Chocs Mountain Lodge. - Brian Mohr/EmberPhoto
Yann heads back to the Lodge to guide another group that spent the morning relaxing. Having hiked with snowshoes the day before, the group opts for skis today, relying on the Lodge’s own fleet of alpine touring gear. Meanwhile, we enjoy another run with Julie as she shares with us the natural history of these 600 million year old mountains, as well as her first-hand experience with the route into the national park. “Watch out for moose! They are everywhere out there,” she warned, lightly. “Well, at least their tracks are. You’ll probably see some caribou, too.”
Over a five course dinner that night—salmon with a ginger granite, mashed roots… even homemade ice cream—we discuss our plan to set off the next morning into the national park and Mont Logan. It’s a tour that the Lodge and its guides have been talking about officially promoting, but for which they have yet to drum up much demand. “We’re definitely open to working with groups wanting to do something different,” Jean-Francois said. “I’m excited for the future out here.”
And so are we. More fresh snow and patchy sunshine greets us the next morning. We take the chef up on his offer to pack us lunch, and we check in with Jean-Francois, who has offered to show us a nice run from the Lodge along the start of our route, before seeing us off. From the warm comfort of the Lodge, we soak up one last view from the common room, taking in the route to Mont Logan as best we can. With some luck, we’ll be able to enjoy a couple of runs along the way and still make it to our backcountry hut, Refuge la Chouette, by dark.
Emily Johnson drops in on Day 5 of the trip. - Brian Mohr/EmberPhoto
We say farewell to Jann, Julie and the other staff and guests, and head for the snow. Jean Francois is excited for us, and as we enjoy fresh tracks together in the forest, I wonder if he might surprise us and decide to come along. Not quite, but I’m sure he thought about it.
“Give us a ring on the radio when you get there. And best of luck,” he offered.
Within minutes, Jean-Francois is out of sight. Emily and Brennan break trail ahead as passing snow showers shroud the peaks and ridgelines above the long route before us. We reflect on how the Lodge provided us a refreshing dose of solitude, relaxation and first-class comfort in the heart of the Gaspe wilderness—the perfect kick off to our ongoing adventure in these mountains—and we look forward to getting back there again.
Brian Mohr, in partnership with his wife, Emily Johnson, documents skiing and mountain adventure for publications and outdoor brands around the world. They also publish the Northeast skiing website, AdventureSkier.com. Contact: EmberPhoto.com