We eventually tire of skiing though, and are presented with a tough choice between the options available. We can melt away at La Ferme’s thermal spas, ice-skate in the hotel’s courtyard, try Emu liver, a local specialty, at Les Labours, or explore the charming streets of Baie-Saint-Paul on foot. To really indulge, we are told to try traditional raclette at L’Orange Bistro.
Naturally we choose the spa, which is mainly thermal baths set on the verge of a wide open plain leading to the river in the distance. It’s winter, in Quebec, so the walk from indoors to the warm pools is frighteningly cold. With the mantra “safety never takes a holiday” ringing in my head, I calmly scuttle across the stone walkway before lunging into the steamy warm water. It’s so refreshing with the wind blowing on my face and my body immersed in the liquid warmth. However, I can’t keep well enough alone for long, and soon we’re running from the baths to do snow angels in the field and back into the warm water again. My entire body tingles and I feel full of life.
The next day we decide to go “rodeling” – a kind of advanced sledding where winding trails carry you down the 7,303 metre luge that takes you from the very top to the very bottom of Le Massif. The sport is a bit more common on Europe’s slopes, but we’re lucky to have it closer to home. A slight push and we’re coasting down the mountain, shifting our weight left and right to make the turns and braking with our feet when we start going too fast. I find the technique tough to master and welcome our break halfway through for hot chocolate at a cozy little lodge heated by a wood stove. I look out across the snowscape outside and think “Winter, you’re not so bad after all.”
As grand as the project is already, we haven’t seen anything yet. Gauthier plans to add hundreds more lodging rooms in the area, a destination spa and to increase the frequency of train departures.
And we’re sure there will be even more to make this destination truly live up to its name.
IF YOU GO:
1) There are various train packages to choose from. The train only operates on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the winter season – although other options are available.
2) La Ferme has rooms from $59 dorm-style to $245 rustic luxury in high season.
3) Most, but not all people in the region speak English. A French-English dictionary can go a long way.
4) Bring your swimsuit and take advantage of La Ferme’s thermal baths (free to hotel guests).
5) In addition to winter boots, pack comfy indoor shoes to wear around La Ferme.
6) Don’t forget to bring home the classic Quebec cheese Le Migneron de Charlevoix from Maison Maurice Dufour in Baie-Saint-Paul!
Jillian travelled to Le Massif in February 2013; some services were provided by Tourism Quebec, but opinions are her own. Images courtesy of Le Massif.