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Le Massif, Quebec, Canada

Le Massif is one of eastern Canada’s great secrets, but not for long.

Le Massif Ski Resort Quebec CanadaPerched on the edge of the St. Lawrence River, Le Massif is a must-visit ski resort. Once accessible only via school bus, Le Massif has transformed itself into one of eastern Canada’s most eco-friendly resorts. With the addition of a second high-speed quad in 2001, Le Massif became the site of Canada’s national training center for downhill and Super G. And the changes keep coming. The new owner, the entrepreneur who started Cirque du Soleil, replaced of a double chair with a high-speed quad, six intermediate and advanced trails, widened glades and increased snowmaking capacity. Now it has 6 lifts, including 3 high-speed quads and a gondola.

The spectacular summit lodge is built to take advantage of the endless views up and down the St. Lawrence. From the moment you step out of your car at the summit area, you are struck with the awesome views and the resort’s natural beauty. It’s calm, quiet, peaceful. And the trails appear to just plunge 2,500 feet directly down into the ice-choked St. Lawrence, referred to as the sea, given its 10-mile width here. As you descend La Petite-Riviere, a classic first-run trail, a fishing trawler or cargo ship might pass silently right beneath you. Little wonder that Le Massif and its surroundings are within a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Le Massif’s owner has honored this beauty by developing the area in harmony with nature. The lifts are, for the most part, hidden in the trees and the trails follow the natural fall lines of the three connected mountains.

Le Massif Ski Resort Quebec CanadaLe Massif has Canada’s highest vertical drop east of the Canadian Rockies. Because of its riverfront location, it receives abundant snowfall. Legend has it that when the area’s mascot owl, Le Grand Duc, circles, the area will receive at least 30 centimeters of snow within 48 hours.

When you visit, don’t pack a lunch. The cafeteria food here is among the best and the most reasonably priced we’ve seen: on a recent visit, we had escargot over angel-hair pasta and Charlevoix sausage with fresh local cheeses, and samplings of Charlevoix-region gourmet products are worth every cent. Added in 2005 were the mid-mountain Camp Buse, a tent-style structure on a wooden deck that serves “meals in a bread bowl,” and Camp Boule, a crepe house atop the Camp Boule high-speed chair. Two pubs, one at the summit, the other at the base, serve a good selection of beers and wines.

Be forewarned, that the farther east you head from nearby Quebec City, the less English you hear. A little bit of patience and a little bit of preparation in learning some French phrases goes a long way when trying to speak with locals at some of the inns and restaurants where little English is spoken. But don’t let that deter you. The Charlevoix Region will likely steal your heart.