My lifelong skiing adventure began at the age of 2 when my parents strapped a pair of plastic skis onto my winter boots. I clomped a very short distance of perhaps 25 feet on the old railway in the Laurentian mountains,  but my father said I was bound to become a passionate skier. Apparently, he was right! I began downhill skiing in the more "traditional" way a few years later, at the ever-picturesque Vallée Bleue, situated in Val-David, in the Laurentians. It was here, moving slowly down the winding trails surrounded by pine trees, that I learned basic techniques and developed a love for the sport. Nowadays, I enjoy skiing almost every weekend from November to April. Being outside, enjoying fresh snow, the thrill of carving down a nicely groomed trail or silently exploring a new glade: there is nothing I would rather do. I believe skiing is a great sport that helps pass the otherwise dreary winter months, and I anxiously await the arrival of winter every year!

Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc is the second highest ski resort in the Laurentians. Situated about 75 minutes north of Montreal in Saint-Faustin-Lac-Carré, QC, they offer a remarkable amount of variety. Catering from beginner to expert, and from young to young-at-heart, everyone is bound to find something that appeals. 42 trails are spread across 3 mountain faces, and are served by 7 lifts, consisting of 5 chairlifts and 2 magic carpets.

Situated in the Laurentian "snowbelt", Mont Blanc receives, on average, 300 cm of snow each year. To ensure optimal conditions at all times, snowmaking covers 85% of skiable terrain, and state-of-the-art grooming machines ensure consistency, regardless of the weather or temperature.

The Mountain and the Ski Trails

The Mont Blanc side is the main side of the hill, and houses the large, multi-function chalet. Offering the widest range of variety, this side features everything from the Yodel, an easy trail that winds its way around the side of the mountain, to the Géant, a wide giant-slalom trail with a good pitch, perfect for high-speed carving. This side also offers glades of different levels such as the Max and the Foret Magique, as well as steep, narrow trails like the Couloir. The main magic carpet area, serving the ski school as well as the general public, is located here.

Mont Faustin, the second and central side of the hill, is loved for its long, wide, cruising-type trails. Pitches are generally consistent, and the beginner trails, namely the Suisse and the Panda, are perfectly suited for learning the fundamentals. Trails like the Lynx and the Renard are steeper, and offer consistent pitches allowing for uninterrupted turns. On this side, skiers will find a trio of the hardest terrain on offer: the Tigre, Cougar, and Sous-Bois. Mont Faustin allow houses the "SnoZone" snow park, and there is a secondary magic carpet and learning area at the base. In the afternoon, this side has great sun exposure.

Moving over to the third peak, Mont Blanc Nord is a retreat for advanced skiers. It offers only intermediate and advanced terrain, and is the perfect place for high-speed carving or mogul skiing. There is a variety of trails on this side, ranging from wide cruisers (Chateau, Guy McCann) to moguls (Beaujolais), and glades (Chianti). After a big snowstorm, the hill leaves many trails on Mont Blanc Nord ungroomed, and there are multiple trails with no snowmaking, which is great for people who prefer more natural conditions. This side also offers beautiful views of the Tremblant region, perfect for a family photo shoot.

Unique Features

Located at the bottom of the Mont Blanc side, the main chalet features many services setting it apart from other ski hills. The beautifully-renovated cafeteria is large and has an endless list of meal options, and the indoor pool, hot tub, and spa is a great way to end the day. "Jungle Magique", a large indoor play center, is a much larger version of something you'd find at McDonalds, and offers hours of fun for kids. There is also a large bar, which often has live entertainment for après-ski on Saturdays.

At the top of Mont Faustin lies everybody's favourite hang-out spot, the sugar shack! Opening in February, it's a great place to hang out, enjoy the fire and your tire-sur-neige, and soak up the atmosphere.

Unique to Mont Blanc is their many different lodging options. In the main building at the bottom of the Mont Blanc side, visitors will find the Auberge. Featuring hotel-style rooms, guests have access to the pool area and Jungle Magique, and enjoy a complimentary hot breakfast in the morning. Situated on the Mont Faustin side, the Village Mont Blanc consists of modern ski-in, ski-out condos housed in many buildings. Owned by individual investors, they are available either for nightly stays, longer-term arrangements, or for purchase. These condos are considered the more luxurious option, and guests have access to all of Mont Blanc's services, plus an outdoor pool and hot tub in the summer, as well as a private beach and lake.

Why visit Mont Blanc?

Bigger than most places in the Laurentians, and with three distinct mountain sides, Mont Blanc has a resort feel without the crowds and the cost of Tremblant. They also offer great variety: there is something for everybody, regardless of age, interests, or ability. Lastly, Mont Blanc presents the perfect environment and facilities for families. The ski school and giant play park ensure that kids are educated and entertained, and the friendly, laid-back atmosphere appeals to families of all ages. Where Mont Blanc differs, however, is that their vast and varied terrain ensures that parents won't get bored!

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April 29-30, 2017 and Recap of the 2016-2017 Ski Season

It's hard to believe ski season is all but over here in Quebec. It seems like yesterday we wrote the first column for this blog, hoping we would have a snowy winter as forecasted. In the end, this past winter was not what every skier dreams of, but it was certainly one of the better ones in recent history. The season started out promising, with plenty of cold weather for snowmaking and substantial snowfall over the Christmas holidays. We were spared dangerously cold temperatures in January, but we experienced a bit too much freezing rain and not enough snow. February was record-breaking warm, and we had almost two weeks of temperatures consistently above freezing, with plenty of rain. This was great for commuters and daily activities, but a pretty big bummer for the ski industry. March Break was one of the worst we've ever experienced, with many days of rain and low skier turnout.

Just as we thought we had seen the last of winter, we had one of the biggest snow storms in years. Ironically enough, it occurred on March 15, the day when you can legally install your all-season tires in Quebec. Local institutions like McGill University in Montreal were forced to close down for the first time in 20 years, motorists were stranded on Highway 13 overnight, and in the end, over 40 cm of snow fell. At some ski hills in the Eastern Townships, there was over 80 cm of snowfall, and Mont Sutton received well over 100 cm. Needless to say, there were some great powder days afterwards, ones that made up for the misery of the February tropical weather. The whole episode will definitely be remembered for a long time.

This season also brought about big news for the Quebec ski industry, namely the selling of Intrawest Resorts, the parent company of Tremblant, to an American conglomerate. It should be interesting to see how this affects its operations on a day-to-day basis, as well as future development.

As we reach the end of April, the number of ski hills open has dwindled rapidly. Here in Quebec, only Sommet Saint-Sauveur and Mont Sainte-Anne are left, with a few small regional destinations in the far north. Down in New England, there are six hills open for business, but four of them are closing this weekend, with a few dragging out operations to Monday, to reach the mystical May 1 date. Next weekend, only Sommet Saint-Sauveur, Jay Peak, and Killington will be open, with the possibility of Mont Comi. It's now or never, folks! The weather this weekend looks great, and it looks like it will be warmer tomorrow and cooler on Sunday. Conditions will obviously be prime spring skiing, with plenty of corn snow, bordering on slush depending on sun exposure and altitude. It's the time of year to bring out some softer skis, and avoid anything too fancy in case there is debris on the snow.

With bittersweet feelings, this post marks our last for the 2016-2017 ski season. Our openings list will continue to be updated on a weekly basis, and once the season officially ends, don't forget to check back for some updates this summer as well as our Instagram page. 

Next season, SlopeEdge will continue to expand, both in the regions we cover and the content we post, and we look forward to welcoming you back next Fall. 

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April 14-17, 2017

Skyline @ Camp Fortune - Photo by Locknar

It's hard to believe it's already Easter. It seems like yesterday we were gearing up for the ski season, and now here we are, with Spring in full swing. If anyone is in doubt, remember how it was 26 degrees on Monday? Easter is late this year, and this has benefits for skiers. Many ski hills try to stay open until Easter, because people are more likely to go skiing over the long weekend. On the flip side, many hills shut down as soon as the holiday is over, even if there is snow to last another week. Indeed, this appears to be the case this year. There will be 28 ski hills open at least some point this weekend, but by next weekend, this number will fall to about a dozen, with only 4 in proximity to an urban area. For a list of ski hills still open, don't forget to check our recently-updated openings list. Of course, there are still many ski resorts open in New England, and starting next weekend, stay tuned to our openings list for coverage of these mountains.

Fortunately, for all the hills who have stayed open until now, the weather looks good for this weekend. Tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday look great, both sunny with highs in the teens both days. It looks like rain will move in on Saturday evening into Sunday, and as a result, many hills are packing it in on Saturday. For places staying open right through, Easter Monday looks like a mix of sun and cloud, and a bit cooler. Based on webcams and recent pictures, most open ski hills still have complete coverage on artificial snow trails, and there's a good chance natural snow trails will be accessible depending on location, orientation, etc... The massive late-season snowfall we had back in March certainly helped! For the whole weekend, expect spring conditions, and don't forget to pack your sunscreen!

Of course, if you haven't yet heard, the big news this week is the acquisition of Intrawest by Aspen Skiing Co. and investment firm KSL Capital Partners. For industry experts,this does not come as a surprise, since there have been big rumours swirling around since January, and even as far back as last year, when Whistler-Blackcomb was sold to an American company. Intrawest owns Mont Tremblant, as well as Blue Mountain in Ontario. Approved for US $1.5 billion, the deal is expected to go through in the third quarter of this year.

It will be very interesting to see how the acquisition affects Tremblant, both in terms of day-to-day operations and long-term development and strategy. Looking back to 2004, the South Side pedestrian village had long been completed, and Intrawest unveiled their 10 year development plan. This included extensive development on the Versant Soleil, particularly another pedestrian village with 700 hotel rooms and 1000 condo-hotel units. There was even talk of a third pedestrian village, or a significant expansion to that of the South Side. As we now know, the recession of 2008-2009 ground these plans to a halt, and they never really took off again. Today, Versant Soleil remains relatively undeveloped, with a small number of condo-townhouses, an under-performing casino, and the under-used gondola link. It will be interesting to see how the acquisition will affect the stalled development on this side, as well as what changes it will bring to other places on the mountain. Currently, development plans seem more oriented to the old village, which is being revitalized with an entirely-renovated town center, new green spaces near the water, and a brand-new, $15 million indoor aquatic centre. Tremblant closes out their ski season this Monday, April 17.

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​Spring Skiing: How to Make the Best out of the Best Time of the Season

Mont Garceau

Ah, spring skiing! Many of the fondest memories are made at this magical time of the season. After a long winter of flat light, hand warmers, too many sweaters, and drives home in the dark, the first signs of spring are finally peaking through. The days are longer, the sun is higher and stronger, and it's finally time to shed all those layers.Outside, the atmosphere ramps up as music fills the air, and the irresistible smells of barbecue and drinks fill outdoor patios to capacity. The dreaded winter ice on the trails finally begins to disappear, and is replaced by soft, spring snow. What more could you want?

Alas, not everyone likes spring skiing. Everyone likes the warm sun and rising temperatures, but there are many aspects that seem to cause complaints. Spring skiing can indeed be a matter of taste, but the tips below will help maximize your spring skiing experience, and ensure that you enjoy your time out on the slopes.

1. Ski at the time of day that has your preferred conditions. During spring skiing season, conditions tend to be hard and icy. The groomer passes the evening before when the temperature is still warm, and the grooming sets and freezes overnight. Similarly, ungroomed trails and glades freeze up in the wee hours. As the day progresses, the sun and warming temperature softens the base into "corn" snow, which is much softer, heavier, and tends to form small moguls on trails.

If you prefer hard and fast conditions, plan on skiing in the morning. Many people find heavy spring snow and moguls difficult to ski, so in this case it's best to ski earlier and spend the later hours of the ski day sitting outdoors and soaking up the spring atmosphere.

Similarly, for people who do not like hard-packed icy conditions, it's best to wait until later to head out. The base tends to transform generally around mid-morning to lunchtime, so if you like the soft, squishy snow, you'll have the most fun later in the day.

2. If you have different pairs of skis, make your choice wisely.Those who have skied on different types of skis know that they make all the difference. Slalom or racing skis are great when conditions are groomed and hard, but become a burden if you have to use them in moguls or heavy snow. Similarly, all-mountain or twin-tip skis are great for powder, uneven terrain, or mounds of snow, but lack precision and the strength necessary to ski well on hard snow.

If you have all-mountain skis or something similar, these are the best option for spring skiing days. These types of skis are less stiff and easier to move around, which makes turning around moguls and going over small lumps of snow much easier. Slalom, GS, or racing skis are difficult to turn on-the-fly, and their strength makes it easier to drive them into piles of snow, causing you to get stuck. Not only is this unpleasant when skiing, it's also dangerous.

If you're able to bring two different pairs of skis to the hill, this is the best scenario - carving skis for the morning until the temperature warms up, and all-mountain skis when the snow softens.

3. Bring different layers of clothing. One of the biggest challenges of spring skiing is knowing what to wear. There's nothing worse than being cold in the morning because you wore your spring jacket, or sweating bullets in the afternoon because you have only a heavy fleece balaclava to wear under your helmet. Even if you think you know what the temperature will be, make sure to pack plenty of different layers. Sometimes, depending on wind and sun, the temperature can feel different than what's on the thermometer. Bring a few different sweaters of different thicknesses, so you can wear a thicker one in the morning and change in the afternoon. If you're bringing your spring jacket, make sure you have your winter one as well, or plenty of extra sweaters to wear underneath if it's colder than expected.

There's nothing worse than frozen or sweaty hands, so bring different pairs of gloves - your regular winter ones for the morning, with lighter-weight gloves or liners for the afternoon. Bonus points if your gloves have built-in liners; that way, there's no need to remember to bring different pairs. Also, have different types of balaclavas on hand - fleece ones tend to be warmer and cover more area, whereas cotton or neoprene ones are lighter and have less material. A skullcap is also a good option if you don't think you'll need any face or neck covering. Sunglasses are good to have if you don't want to wear your goggles.

4. Bring extra things to change into and some towels/rags. When skiing in the spring, everything tends to get very wet. Ice drips off the chairlifts, the chair seats are wet, and snow sloshes up onto your lower legs while skiing. At the end of the day, having to wear these wet ski clothes home can be uncomfortable, and even more so if the moisture soaked through to your underlayer. If this bothers you and you have a long ride home, bring some dry clothes or a different jacket to wear.

Skiing, and especially spring skiing, can be messy. Skis and boots are covered in water and wet snow, and unpaved ski hill parking lots can be wet, slushy, and muddy. Having towels to put in the trunk of your car prevents your gear from leaking everywhere, and some old newspapers to put in the foot wells prevents mud and slush from making a mess. Rags are also useful to clean things off before putting them in the car. It's actually good to keep these things on hand for the entire season.

4. Stay safe! As the temperature warms and the sun feels nice on our faces, it's very tempting to leave that helmet behind and ski bare-headed. Don't do this! Not wearing a helmet greatly increases the risk of head trauma after a fall or collision, and the risk of injury is actually higher during spring skiing because the surface is more difficult to ski and less predictable. Especially during early-spring skiing, people are not accustomed to these types of surfaces, and unfamiliarity breeds increased risk and potential danger. The reward of warmth on your head is not worth it if you end up in the hospital or worse. If you must, take a break to absorb some rays, or remove your helmet for the ride up the chairlift.

As mentioned before, during spring skiing the surface and snow are unpredictable. Depending on the sun and temperature, the base can change from soft and corny, to hard and icy, all on the same trail! It's important to ski more slowly and cautiously than usual, especially if you're not used to this type of skiing. Even if you're comfortable with spring skiing, it pays to be more careful, since your skis can easily get stuck in heavy wet snow, causing you to lose momentum or pitch forward. It's best to sit further back on your skis rather than upright as you would on hard groomed trails in mid-winter, because this will give you more stability.

5. Wear sunscreen! Many people underestimate the strength of the sun when skiing in the spring. Everyone likes tomatoes, but it's not fun when you go home looking like one. Make sure to put sunscreen on your face if you're skiing in the spring and it's sunny. The sun in March is as strong as the sun in September, meaning it's easy enough to get a nasty burn. Also, the sun reflects off the surface of the snow, which makes it even stronger - it's like using aluminum foil to tan in the old days.

6. If you have equipment to buy, now's the time. Ski stores are looking to clear out their inventory at this time of year, making for great sales on everything from clothing to skis and boots. Sure, you might buy something and not be able to use it next year, but you'll benefit from prices that are up to 50% reduced from normal. For things like skis, the design usually doesn't change much from year to year, so buying the current model now rather than next year's model in the Fall isn't a big deal, and you'll enjoy big savings.

Overall, spring skiing is one of the best times of year to ski; the temperature is more comfortable, there is usually plenty of snow, and the sun energizes and warms after a long winter.There are some pitfalls, however, which can leave you feeling uncomfortable if you aren't well prepared. By planning in advance and bringing the correct equipment and clothes, this can largely be avoided. As always, but especially during spring when we're inclined to ski more and later into the day, it's important to respect your limits and know when it's time to stop. Keeping these ideas in mind, there's no reason this time of year shouldn't be your favourite!

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April 1-2, 2017

Photo Credits : Mont Sutton

Wow, it's already April. Seems like yesterday it was November and we were gearing up for the season's beginning. Winter has officially been over for more than a week, but don't be fooled: the past few weeks have been great for skiing, and there are still some good days ahead. As I write this, it's snowing with moderate intensity outside, enough to cover the streets. An early April Fool's joke, maybe? Either way, the season is not quite over.

Tomorrow's ski conditions, depending on tonight's temperature and snowfall, might be powdery. As temperatures rise above zero, however, things will get sticky and wet. If you're planning an outing, make sure to bring a different jacket for the ride home, in case your regular one is soaked through. For those who prefer more "traditional" spring skiing days (who doesn't), Sunday looks to be a better choice. Temperatures will rise well above freezing, with plenty of sunshine. Coverage is still complete on man-made snow trails, and even on natural trails and glades there should still be plenty of snow, depending on orientation and location. In fact, many ski hills like Mont Sutton, Mont Blanc, and Sommet Saint-Sauveur are operating with most or all of their terrain open.

As spring comes to ski hills, so does the party atmosphere and many exciting events. This Saturday at Tremblant is the pond crossing, and as always in spring, there is live music and entertainment. In the Eastern Townships, Mont Sutton is also hosting their annual pond crossing tomorrow, with a barbeque, door prizes, animation, and a beach party at the bar. Similarly, officials at Mont Garceau are holding their annual spring race, which is open to all and has many prizes to win. At Ski Edelweiss, there is also a pond crossing, and a retro day where you can see all your favorite neon one-piece snowsuits, wool hats, and rainbow-reflective sunglasses make a reappearance on the slopes.

While nice weather and a festive spring ambience are good news, there is also sad news once we reach April: the closing of hills. This Sunday, April 2, is the last day for many ski resorts such as Sommet Olympia, Morin Heights, Gabriel, and Edelweiss, Mont Blanc, Mont Grand Fonds, and probably others. Here in Quebec, there is usually enough snow for ski hills to stay open until late April, but the same thing happens every year. As soon as the snow melts in the city, people assume that ski season is over and head on to other activities. As a result, ski hills don't have enough customers to justify opening, and end their season early! Ski season is in fact still alive and well, so be sure to head out! If you check the weather and choose your day wisely, it will definitely be one of the nicest ski days of the year! For more information, don't forget to check our most recently published article, which provides great tips for spring skiing!

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March 18-19, 2017

This week: snow, snow and more snow! That's all there is to report. The above seasonal weather we experienced for much of February left a lot of skiers wringing their hands - is winter already over? Is this what our future winters hold in store for us? If the arctic temperatures of last weekend didn't convince you that winter is still here, then Tuesday and Wednesday's snow storm certainly eliminated lingering doubts! This week's blizzard was one of the biggest we've had in many years, has been compared to the famous snowstorm of 1971, and will be remembered in the years to come. In Montreal, hundreds of people were stuck all night on Highway 13, and institutions like McGill University were closed, which hasn't happened in almost 20 years.

Total snowfall in Montreal reached 45 cm, and in the South Shore, between 60 and 70 cm fell. Snowfall was even higher in the Eastern Townships at places like Mont Sutton, which received well over 100 cm of snow! Incredible! The Laurentians received a bit less snowfall, around 25 to 30 cm, and in the Ottawa region, 20 to 25 cm. Needless to say, there will be plenty of fresh snow no matter where you choose to ski this weekend.

Temperatures have remained well below freezing, so the snow will still be soft and fresh, with great conditions on both groomed and natural-snow trails. With sunny skies and temperatures near 0 for both Saturday and Sunday, this weekend is shaping up to be one of the best of the season. You won't quite get to experience spring skiing in the next few days, but the abundance of fresh snow and March sun will make for a great few days. Many ski schools' lessons are still in session and hills will be busy, so make sure to arrive early, and don't forget the sunscreen! The sun is strong at this time of year, and reflections off the snow can give you serious sunburn.

Are you looking for an interesting activity to complement your ski day? Or maybe you'd like to increase your knowledge of ski history? Most people don't know, but there is a ski museum in Saint-Sauveur. Despite being around since the 1980s, the museum only opened their first permanent exhibition in 2012. Visitors learn about how skiing evolved from being a mode of transportation to a recreational and competitive sport, and its effects on the economic, social, and political development of the Laurentians. Open 7 days a week and located right in the village of Saint-Sauveur, admission is free although a small donation is recommended. There is also a ski museum at Mont Sainte-Anne near Quebec City, at the base of the mountain in the pedestrian village. The museum features tons of old skis displayed by time period, so you're able to see how skis evolved from solid wood and straight edges, to fibreglass and parabolic edges like we know today. There is also many old photos and documentation, allowing you to immerse yourself in the history of the mountain. Entry is free, and since it's right at the bottom of the hill, you don't even need to plan a separate outing.

In conclusion, this weekend should be a great one, both in terms of snow and weather: 30+ cm of new snow, blue skies, temperatures near zero - what more could you want? The weather looks good for the foreseeable future as well: no new snow, but temperatures will remain below zero for the most part, and nights will be cold. The snow will last for awhile!

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March 4-5, 2017

Well, I think we can all agree that the past few weeks won't go down in history as the best February we've had. The earlier part of the month was promising, with close to 50 cm of snow falling in a single week. The weather turned abruptly, however, with over 10 days of above-freezing weather and a multiple days of rain. While I'm sure most of us appreciated the dry streets and not having to wear boots or a heavy parka outside, this weather wasn't a treat for ski hills. In my neighbourhood, we went from 4-foot-tall snow banks to patches of bare grass in a matter of a week. So where does this leave skiing?

After Wednesday's torrential rains, temperatures plummeted to well below freezing.The past few nights have been very cold, and tomorrow, Saturday, the temperature is expected to reach a high of -11. Sunday should be a bit warmer, but you won't be looking for your spring jacket - it will be -5. Fortunately, it will be sunny, which should provide a bit of warmth.

It goes without saying, don't expect powder on your favourite mogul or glade trail this weekend - the best conditions will be on groomed runs. Temperatures fell on Wednesday night, meaning ski hills will have groomed the trails at least 3 times by the weekend. This is enough for a lot of the ice and granular blocks to have been broken up, and conditions should be at least acceptable. The snow will be very firm though, and is likely to get icy quickly, so start early to enjoy the best conditions of the day.

Also, if you ski frequently and haven't had your equipment tuned since the beginning of the season, this weekend would be the perfect time. For optimal performance, experts recommend having your skis sharpened and waxed every 10-12 uses, and doing so will allow your skis to cut into the snow better and slide easier.

In an unprecedented move, Ski Bromont and Mont Sutton are restarting snowmaking operations! Snowmaking in March is very rare, since Hydro-Quebec's price structure make this type of operation extremely expensive. The last time in recent memory ski hills made snow in March was back in 2012, after the famous week where it was +20 every day. By making new snow,hills will ensure sufficient snow coverage until the end of the season, and also a new layer of snow will help refresh conditions and make the base softer.

This coming week is Spring Break for schools on the island of Montreal, and next week is Ontario Spring Break. Are you trying to decide where to go skiing one day? Don't forget to read our latest article to find out about some great March Break deals!

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March Break deals in Quebec

March; this month is synonymous with sun, warmth, longer days, and everyone's favourite, March break! March break is a popular time for families or friends to go skiing, whether it be as part of their regular winter routine, or as the only time in the season they hit the slopes. And for good reason! Usually temperatures are warmer than in January and February, there is enough snow to have all terrain open, and the longer days mean the sun is still shining brightly at 4:00 pm and the drive home isn't in the pitch dark. Everyone likes a deal, so whether you're looking for a change from your regular hill, or choosing a destination for your annual ski day, look no further! For the Ottawa-Gatineau, Laurentians, and Eastern Townships regions, we've highlighted the best March break deals, making your choice easier.

Ottawa-Gatineau Region

Sommet Edelweiss

Available now, Sommet Edelweiss is selling their spring pass for 59$, which allows for unlimited skiing until the end of the season. Considering there is probably another 4-6 weeks left of the season, this is a great deal! You only have to ski twice to justify the purchase, and this pass is in fact valid during the school break. The learning hill is also free for children aged 6 and under, which is perfect for kids just learning to ski who won't stay out for long.

Sommet Edelweiss is located in Wakefield, Quebec, about 40 minutes from Ottawa. It's vertical drop of 656 feet is one of the largest in the region, and 3 quad chairlifts ensure you'll never wait much in line. There are 20 trails on a single mountain side, which makes it easy to reunite with family or friends if people choose to ski down different trails. There is also a tubing center, which is perfect for children or as an another activity after a bit of skiing.

Camp Fortune

For the month of March, Camp Fortune is offering a special online deal on packs of 3 tickets. For 79$ for adults, you can buy a pack of 3 day tickets that can be used ANYTIME in March. For students the price is 59$, while for children it costs 39$. This represents a savings of 30-35% compared to regular prices, as long as you use all 3 tickets by the end of March. On the other hand, it's a motivator to get out and ski! As a great option for families, there is a pack of one-day tickets for 2 adults and 2 children, available for 100$.

Situated in Chelsea, Quebec, Camp Fortune is only 15 minutes from downtown Ottawa, making it ideal for a short trip, night skiing after a day or work, or if you simply don't feel like a long drive. With 7 lifts and 4 distinct sides, the ski area is vast and feels large, even though the maximum vertical drop is 590 feet. The variety offered on the different mountain sides ensures that everyone will find something that suits their abilities and preferences.


Ski Chantecler

Do you like a great deal? Even better, how about something free? For the weekdays during March break at Ski Chantecler, a child ticket is free upon purchase of an adult ticket. This represents a savings of 32$! There are also exciting events such as a campfire and marshmallows every day, and bouncy castles from March 2-6. If you're looking to try night skiing, it's 12$ every night for every age category, from now until March 5.

Located in Sainte-Adele, 50 minutes from Montreal, Ski Chantecler's mountain has 656 feet of vertical drop, and features 22 trails ranging in difficulty from easy to expert. 2 quad chairlifts ensure waiting is kept to a minimum, and a huge learning area with magic carpet ensures those first days on the slopes are safe and productive. Ski Chantecler is a great option in the Saint-Sauveur valley if you prefer something a little more quiet and laid-back.

Vallee Bleue

During March break weeks, Vallee Bleue maintains their weekday ticket prices, which are significantly cheaper than their weekend rates. Unlike normal weeks though, they operate both chairlifts giving access to all trails, which is great added value for customers. Adults pay 20$ tax incl. instead of 37$, and children cost 16$ instead of 27$.

Situated in Val-David, an hour north of Montreal, Vallee Bleue is a perfect destination for those with young kids or who are learning to ski. Featuring 3 lifts, 20 trails, 365 vertical feet, the family-run mountain feels less commercial than other ski hills in the Laurentians. It offers a unique cachet due to their narrow and sinuous trails, which weave through a dense evergreen forest.

Ski Belle Neige

For both weeks of Quebec March break, Belle Neige is offering a different promotion every day of the week. On Mondays, ski tickets cost only 20$ (compared to 28-42$), while on Tuesdays and Thursdays, free tickets are given to the first 50 children. Wednesdays are 2 for 1, while on Fridays, season's pass holders from other ski hills receive 50% off.

Also located in Val David, Belle Neige offers just over 500 vertical feet, 4 lifts, and 20 trails. It's renowned ski school and family atmosphere make learning safe and fun, and it's southern exposure allows skiers to take full advantage of the warm spring sunshine. The "Sentiers des Toutous", renowned for the thousands of teddy bears strung from the trees, is a huge hit among children.

Eastern Townships

Owl's Head

All season long, skiing at Owl's Head on Tuesdays and Wednesdays is only 25$ for adults and 20$ for children and students, tax included. Many hills have similar weekday offers, but unlike most, Owl's Head doesn't cancel this offer during Spring Break weeks!

This deal is probably the best you'll find anywhere in Quebec in terms of price and size of the mountain. With over 1,700 vertical feet, 52 trails, 8 lifts including 3 high-speed quads, and beautiful views of Lake Memphramagog, you won't easily get bored here. Located in Mansonville, Owl's Head is roughly 1.5 hours away from Montreal. While installations are not the most up-to-date, it feels a lot less commercial than other ski hills in the region. If this is what you're looking for, you'll enjoy the laid-back ambiance and unpretentious feeling.

Ski Bromont

For the rest of the season, Ski Bromont is offering tickets for 40$ for adults, and 18$ for kids. This marks a significant savings compared to regular prices, which are 68$ and 37$, respectively. The only catch? These tickets are only valid as of 12 pm. Let's be real though: kids love sleeping in on March break, and since the hill has night skiing, you'll have plenty of time to enjoy yourself on the slopes. During March break, there will also be fun and free activities for kids like face-painting, night time movie screenings next to the fire, and bouncy castles.

Situated an hour outside of Montreal in the Eastern Townships, Ski Bromont has 7 mountain sides, making your possibilities almost endless. They have one of the largest and most advanced snowmaking systems in Quebec, and their strategy of grooming trails many times each day ensures that groomed-trail conditions are always at their best. This strategy holds a significant advantage this year, as temperatures will drop below freezing after a long spell of warm weather and rain.


And lastly, some general tips:

- If you have a season's pass at any ski hill in Quebec, you receive 25-50% off when you visit almost any other hill. This benefit isn't advertised widely, and is easy to miss. If you have a pass elsewhere, be sure to show it to the ticket seller and get your discount.

- If you're thinking of getting a season's pass for next season, many hills already have them for sale. You'll save anywhere from 20 to 40% compared to regular price, and as an added bonus, you can usually ski the rest of the remaining season for free! That means if you buy it now, you ski the next 4-6 weeks for FREE!

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February 18-19, 2017

What amazing weather we've had recently! This week's snowfall will definitely be a highlight of the winter. Sunday afternoon into Monday, almost 30 cm fell, and then on Wednesday and Thursday we were gifted another 10+ cm. The Laurentians received slightly less, and places like Quebec City got close to 50 cm. All in all, great snow is to be found wherever you choose to go. In Montreal this year we hadn't yet had a good old-fashioned blizzard; most forecasted snowfalls ended up being followed by rain, or fell as freezing rain. This snowfall certainly made things feel like winter, and hopefully will remind people about our favourite winter pastime, and get them out onto the slopes.

For those who skied this week, the drive to the ski hill was difficult, but conditions were unforgettable - tons of fresh powder and not-so-cold temperatures. If you're stuck skiing only on weekends, try to start early tomorrow morning. Temperatures look like they will soar to above-freezing tomorrow afternoon, with the chance of rain showers, and this will ruin all the fresh snow we were granted. Sunday looks warm as well, with possibly some rain showers but also some sun. Temperatures look warm into next week, so expect hard and icy conditions in the morning, with spring conditions in the afternoon. It will inevitably get colder again, so once that happens, expect hard-packed conditions for a few days until the groomers pass enough times, or until we receive more snow.

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the mountain guides at Mont Sainte-Anne. What, you might be asking yourself? While popular at western ski resorts and in the United States, this concept has never really caught on in Eastern Canada. Mountain guides at Mont Sainte-Anne are positioned at the bottom and top of the mountain, and are available to answer questions, provide guidance, or simply give information about the skiing and services. Furthermore, they give tours of the mountain, tailored specifically to a particular skill level or preference (such as moguls). What a great way to find an amazing hidden trail you might not have found otherwise! These mountain guides are volunteers, and their services are offered free of charge to all visitors. While most ski hills in Eastern Canada aren't big enough to justify such a service, having a group of volunteers to act as intermediaries between the ski hill and customers is a great initiative. It benefits paying customers, and also the hill's management, because these volunteers act as ambassadors, while providing information and augmenting the customer experience. It would be great if this idea came to fruition at other ski resorts.

Planning your summer vacation yet? Trying to think of an interesting and memorable itinerary, or not sure where to go? This is just in - Mammoth Mountain in California ends their ski season on July 4. Yes, July 4, 2017! After 35 feet of snow this season to date, they're confident they can be open until the Fourth of July. Skiing in July, that would be an unforgettable experience!

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February 4-5, 2017

Wow! What a great week! Temperatures remained cold throughout, and there was a fresh dusting of snow most days. There was certainly no blizzard, but these small accumulations added up to 15 or 20 cm at many ski hills in the Laurentians. This means skiing will be fantastic this weekend: conditions on groomed trails should be soft, and if you're into moguls or glade-skiing you should have no trouble finding some soft snow or even some untouched powder (!) to have fun in.

The weather looks great too: a little chilly tomorrow morning, but warming up to between -4 and -8 depending on location, with hopefully some sunshine. Sunday looks even warmer, but with some clouds. As always, warm weather and fresh snow means crowds at your favourite ski hill. It's pretty much unavoidable, but there are always some ways to avoid the masses as much as possible.

1. Consider skiing at a less-known, out-of-the-way ski hill. For example, in the Laurentians, Sommet Morin Heights, 10 minutes down the road from its well-known, easily-accessed sister hill Sommet Saint-Sauveur, might be a bit less busy.

2. Arrive early: get a parking place close to the chalet, ski great conditions in the early morning, enjoy instant lift access before the lessons start... What's not to like?

3. Time your lunch break carefully. As any skier knows, the busiest time in the ski chalet is between 12 and 1 pm - No tables, long line in the cafeteria, crowded walkways, etc... By eating lunch either earlier or later, you'll get a table with enough seats and comfortable space to move around.

In terms of interesting ski news, this week Station touristique Stoneham near Quebec City announced their latest offering. Essentially, large cameras are placed on certain slopes, and these cameras take a continuous video of the trail and skiers who are passing by. Skiers can ski near these cameras, and then after downloading an app on their phone, they are able to see this video. What a great idea! Who doesn't want to see footage of them skiing? This avoids people having to film each other as they ski down, and provides for some interesting discussion at the end of the day. It can even help technique-lovers perfect their form. It would be great if this offering came to other ski hills!

This weekend looks like it will be great, and next week looks to be even greater. Weather forecasters are calling for 20-30 cm of snow, expected to fall between Tuesday and Wednesday. It's the blizzard we've been wanting for awhile. There is a small chance of some freezing rain in the city and Eastern Townships, but hopefully we'll get lucky and it will fall only as snow.

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January 21-22, 2017

In the middle of January, we generally find ourselves worried about the cold when planning a ski outing. Are the hand and foot warmers packed? Do we have enough layers? This year, however, we're dealing with the opposite problem. For almost a week now, temperatures have been way above seasonal, and above freezing almost every day. This warm spell looks like it will continue well into next week, with seasonal temperatures only reappearing next weekend.

What does this mean for ski conditions?

In short, don't expect powder at your backyard ski hill, but don't stay home in fear that the slopes will be awful. In the Montreal/Laurentians region, it snowed a few days ago. In lower altitudes, this snow was washed away shortly afterward when the temperature rose above 0 and it rained. At higher altitudes, however, this precipitation seemed to fall only as snow, and these areas may have been spared the warm temperatures. If you're able, consider skiing at a place like Mont Tremblant or Mont Sutton, where conditions have the highest chances of being undamaged by the warm weather. Also, a trip to New England always holds interesting surprises, since many mountains are in their own micro-climate, which causes different weather than what you might find even 15 minutes away.

If you have plans to be somewhere else this weekend, expect almost spring-like conditions. The weather looks decent for tomorrow and Sunday, with temperatures around the freezing point and even a bit of sunshine for Sunday. This is beneficial because surfaces won't become hard-packed, dense and icy, as they would have if the temperature had dropped much lower. Rather, expect the snow to be loose frozen granular with a hard base, with maybe a bit of softness on top depending on temperatures.

Lastly, even though the temperature may seem warm, it definitely won't be a spring weekend. The air will be damp, which will make things seem colder, and winds can make chairlift rides quite chilly. You may not need 6 layers under your ski jacket, but don't plan on skiing in a shirt and spring jacket. Also, there is a chance of freezing rain in many regions tomorrow, so make sure to drive safely if you're travelling on the highway. For the upcoming week, we're crossing our fingers that temperatures stay below 0, because if they do, it looks like there could be nice amounts of snowfall from Monday to Wednesday.

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January 14-15, 2017

Calabogie Peaks

This week marked the return back to work and school for most people. After a few hectic weeks of celebrations, get-togethers, vacations, and skiing (hopefully!), it's nice to get back into our normal routines. It's also a nice time to reflect on the holiday season of our local ski hills. The Christmas vacation period has always been an important time of year for ski hill operators, as they experience some of their busiest days of the entire year. It's also one of the most uncertain times of the year, because operators rely on natural snowfall and cold temperatures to get the season started, and ensure as much terrain as possible is open for the crowds. This year was, fortunately, markedly different from last Christmas. Cold temperatures throughout December allowed hills to open the majority of their terrain in time, and natural snowfall made conditions nice and ensured that people got into the mood of skiing. Last week was memorable in many regions, such as the Laurentians, where over 40 cm of snow fell in a few days.

The month of January usually marks the coldest time of the year, but this week was sadly an exception. We do like warm temperatures in winter, but this week was a little too warm for our liking. Yesterday and on Wednesday, the temperature shot up well above freezing, and it rained for the better part of these two days. Some of this rain fell as snow in places outside of Montreal, but the rain eventually made its way there as well.

Tonight, the temperature plummets to almost -20, which will no doubt make for some... "interesting" conditions, this weekend. It's certainly not optimal, but in my books, a not-great day skiing is better than a day with no skiing at all. Don't leave in the morning this weekend expecting powder all day, but know that, as always, there are ways to make the best of a situation like this. Here are a few tips:

1. If you're thinking of getting your skis tuned, now's the time! Sharp edges will allow you to dig your skis into the hard icy base, rather than skidding around.

2. Conditions will become scraped out and icy very quickly, especially on Saturday which is normally the busier ski day. If possible, plan to start as early as you can, to benefit from the fresh grooming.

3. Most people ski down the middle of the trail, scraping the snow away in their path. This means that the centre of the trail is usually icy, with all the loose scraped snow off to the sides. If you're advanced enough to remain in control at the edges of a trail, ski there! The base won't be scraped away as much, and there'll be a bit of loose snow to ski around in.

4. This one is obvious - don't venture off the groomed trails. Mogul runs and glades which aren't machine-maintained will basically be a hard crust of ice until the next significant snowfall.

Speaking of next significant snowfall, this coming week doesn't look the most promising. After a few cold days, it looks like we're in for another warm spell, with mixed precipitation that could likely end up as rain. Hopefully, outside of the city, this will fall as snow. After a great Christmas season, it's sad to see the weather turning on us, but we can only hope and make the best of what we have. The ski season is too short!

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December 24-25, 2016

SlopeEdge Chalet

As everyone remembers, last December was one of the worst in history - above-freezing temperatures and rain for most of the month prevented any sort of snowmaking, and this bad weather culminated on Christmas Eve, with highs close to +15. Fortunately, this is not the case this year, and ski hills are off to a great start due to good weather. Some very cold days have allowed for plenty of snowmaking, and natural snowfall improves the terrain and makes the scenery prettier, too. Overall, we're off to one of the best starts in recent history! 

If you're looking to ski in solitude, think about heading out the next few days, or waiting a week or so. The weather will be warm, and the slopes will be pretty empty due to Christmas. From personal experience, there are four very busy days at ski hills over the holidays: December 27, 28, 29, and 30. Before, people are busy with Christmas and shopping, and afterwards, people start thinking about New Year celebration, and then, school and work. The weather for these classic four days looks promising. A mess of ice pellets and freezing rain for Boxing Day Monday in the city looks worrisome, but hopefully outside of the city this precipitation will fall as snow. The following days are a bit far away, but expect seasonal temperatures, with perhaps some light snow on Thursday the 29th. 

Where should you ski? No ski hill would be a truly bad choice this season, but there are some things to consider. Distance you want to travel is certainly a factor - places like Le Massif de Charlevoix, Mont Sainte-Anne, and hills in New England are sure to please with plenty of natural snow, but are 2+ hours away, so a bit far for a day trip. Options closer to the city are more convenient, but may be busier with day trippers. Consider skiing at a smaller, less-known hill, since these places are often less busier than bigger more well-known places. The runs may be shorter, but conditions are often better and the lift lines shorter. 

Also, if you're looking to replace or add to your stock of ski equipment, Monday is Boxing Day, so you're sure to find a good deal. If you don't want to shop on Boxing Day, sales often continue throughout the week, and then in January deals continue as stores slowly begin to liquidate their winter stock (!). 

From the team here at SlopeEdge, Merry Christmas to all!

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December 10-11, 2016

Photo from Tremblant facebook page

It's looking like winter is here, and here to stay! Natural snow has dusted most of southern Quebec this week, and ski hills have been making snow in order to open their doors for the 2016-2017 season. We experienced a bit of warm weather this week, but now the temperatures appear to be below freezing for good. This will allow ski hills to open as many trails as possible, as we head into the all-important Christmas season.

Most of Quebec's larger, more well-known ski hills are already open for the season: Mont Tremblant, Sommet Saint-Sauveur, Mont Sainte-Anne, and others opened last week, or have been open for longer. This weekend marks the opening of many smaller local ski hills. In the Montreal region, many hills such as Mont Rigaud, Bromont, and the other members of Les Sommets are planning to open. Ski Saint-Bruno also opened on Wednesday, offering their traditional 1$ admission, with proceeds going to charity.

The Quebec City region is currently the best place to ski in Quebec, with centres like Mont Sainte-Anne and Le Massif de Charlevoix having received close to two feet of natural snow in the past few weeks, with more coming by the day. If that's too far for you and you plan to skiing in the Montreal or Ottawa regions, expect typical December conditions. The base will be hard artificial snow, and the surface might be frozen granular, or light loose snow on the surface depending on the weather. Conditions are likely to become icy as the day progresses, so make sure your equipment is tuned and you are skiing within your abilities.

We are continuing to recruit contributors for the upcoming season, and, as always, we look forward to receiving your content to share. Be safe!

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November 26-27, 2016

It's finally here! The 2016-2017 ski season in the East has arrived! A very warm and sunny fall proved nice for extending patio season, and allowed everybody to enjoy their summer activities well into October. On this flip side, it wasn't the best for ski hills, who were forced to postpone their early-season snowmaking due to warmer-than-average nights. Up until this past week, skiing in the East was limited basically a few mountains in New England, all several hours away.

Montreal and Ottawa had their first snowfall of the season on Sunday night, just in time for Sommet Saint-Sauveur's opening this past Tuesday, November 22nd. This opening is one of the latest in recent years, but better late than never! Following their tradition of opening on American Thanksgiving, Mont Tremblant opened this past Thursday, the 24th. This weekend, skiing is still somewhat limited, as snowmaking grinds to a halt with warm weather moving in. Apart from Mont Tremblant and Sommet Saint-Sauveur, the only other opening in Quebec appears to be Camp Fortune, opening tomorrow, the 26th.

Next weekend many major ski hills are planning to open, including Bromont, Mont Sainte-Anne, and Mont Blanc. We may also get some surprises from some smaller ski hills that haven't announced any date in particular yet, and we're not ruling out a surprise opening from Ski Saint-Bruno in the near future. With temperatures this weekend rising above the freezing point, conditions this weekend may become a bit soft on the surface, with a hard man-made base below. Note that the open hills may not all have beginner terrain accessible, nor will the conditions be ideal for early learners. Happy skiing!

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How To Ski Without Breaking the Bank - Part 1 : Lift Tickets

Skiing has long been regarded, along with hockey and golf, as one of the most expensive sports. Lift tickets, equipment, and travel to faraway destinations: all of these costs add up and make skiing a strain on one's wallet. Increasingly, however, there are many ways to save serious money without giving up very much. By spending a few extra minutes or making a few tiny sacrifices, you can have the same skiing experience for significantly less coin. Since the majority of costs associated with skiing are lift tickets and equipment, this two-part series will focus on these expenses. Part 1 will explore and provide tips on how to save money on lift tickets, while Part 2 will focus on how to your money in your wallet which purchasing equipment.

Today, with omnipresent technology and ski centers turning towards the Internet, it is possible to save money on lift tickets in manners that have not existed before. Furthermore, with today's demographics and changing climate, ski centers must increasingly find ways to augment the industry's stagnant numbers. For the customer, this means there are new deals that have never before been available in vast abundance. The following are some money-saving techniques that can be used by (almost) anybody at most ski centers in the Montreal region and beyond.

Season Passes: "How can season passes possibly save me money?", one may ask. "They cost 500$ or more!" For the frequent skier who skis at the same mountain, however, they make perfect sense. On average, it takes 10-15 days of skiing to make a season's pass viable compared to purchasing daily lift tickets. If you ski less frequently or only on specific days, many ski hills offer different types of passes at a lower cost: weekday-only passes (Monday to Friday), evening-only passes (3 PM to closing, for example), 50% ticket cards (a pass where day tickets are 50% off), variable discount cards (a different discount every day, usually varying from 10% to 50%), 1 day out 7 passes (a pass valid every Monday, or every Tuesday, etc…), and many more!

Buying Season Passes Early: Most ski hills allow customers to purchase their season passes early, usually in August or September, and obtain a sizeable discount. Some even allow clients to buy them at the end of the prior season for the next. For someone who knows ahead of time they will be skiing, why not pursue this option? Then, during the traditionally expensive holiday season, there will be one less cost.

Maneige Provincial Pass: For the extremely avid skier, Maneige, which is an organization operating in tandem with the ASSQ, sells a provincial ski pass which can be used an unlimited amount of times at over 65 ski hills in Quebec. For roughly 1500$, it offers very good value for skiers who enjoy skiing over 30 times per season at different resorts. For students in Grade 4 and 5, as a way to encourage young people to pursue physical activity, Maneige offers a snow pass booklet for a very, very low cost, which includes free lift tickets to ski hills all over the province, discounted food, free equipment rentals, ski lessons, etc…

RFID Cards: For the past few years, Mont Saint Sauveur and its sister ski hills (Mont Avila, Mont Gabriel, Morin Heights, Mont Olympia) have used electromagnetic cards which fit in your pocket as lift tickets. When one first visits a mountain, they must purchase one of these cards, which is then valid for 5 years. If you visit one of these mountains, instead of misplacing or discarding of the RFID card, put in a safe place (ski jacket pocket, wallet, glove box, etc…). Then, the next time you visit, you instantly save 5$ by re-using the same card.

Purchasing Tickets Online: With the advent of the Internet, many ski centers now offer skiers the option of purchasing tickets online. There are two main benefits to doing this: not having to wait in the ticket line, and, more importantly, saving money! Many hills who offer tickets online offer considerable discounts, which are often a percentage of the ticket cost (10% or 15%, for example), or a fixed amount (4$ or 6$, for instance).

Liftopia: Liftopia is a discount ski ticket website based in California. They sell discount lift tickets for future days of skiing, and offer discounts anywhere from 5% to 65% depending on how far in advance the ticket is purchased. They do not offer discounted tickets for all mountains, and, rather, have rotating offers for discounted tickets. The benefit to this system is that tickets can be heavily discounted (up to 65% off), but, on the negative side, they are not available for all ski resorts and must be purchased far in advance in order to benefit from large discounts.

Costco: For those who have a membership card, Costco sells a wide variety of ski tickets in-store and online. In-store, their selection varies wildly, and they usually offer discounts or tickets for one or two resorts at any given time. Their online store offers a wider selection. Their offers range from discounted tickets (25% to 30%, usually) that can be used at any time during the season, to E-cards or gift cards, which can then be used to buy tickets (a 100$ gift card for 75$, for example).

Weekly Offers: Today, the vast majority of ski hills in the Montreal region offer highly discounted tickets on certain days of the week or at certain times. If you are willing or able to ski at an unconventional time, there are great discounts to be had. Many hills, for example, offer a men's day or women's day on a weekday every week where ski tickets cost a fixed price of 20$, for example, for the specified gender. Some hills that have night skiing often offer an evening ticket (3 or 4 PM to closing, for instance) for a very low rate (12$, 14$, etc…) on Sunday or Monday evenings, which are traditionally very quiet times for ski centers.

CAA Member's Discount: One discount few people are aware of is the CAA member's discount. Many hills in the region offer discounts of a significant value (anywhere from 10% to 20%) for members of the Canadian Automobile Association. This discount is not widely advertised, so if you have a membership, check beforehand to see if your destination offers a discount. There is a good chance they do!

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How To Ski Without Breaking the Bank - Part 2 : Equipment

Since its widespread emergence in eastern Canada in the 1950s and 1960s, skiing has been considered one of the most expensive sports for Canadians to pursue. Today, however, faced with climate, population, and recreational changes, the ski industry is increasingly adapting to 21st century realities, and making skiing more affordable for the customer. This series, which focuses on the two main costs of skiing, lift tickets and equipment, discussed new (and not so new) ways to save your hard-earned cash when purchasing lift tickets in Part 1. In Part 2, it will explore methods to save money when buying equipment, and obtaining high-end equipment at lower-end prices.

Despite the happiness of those involved in the ski industry 40 or 50 years ago, the mood for skiers looking to purchase equipment was not very happy. Those desiring high-end equipment were required, for the most part, to possess a "high-end" wallet and shell out big bucks. Apart from Boxing Day and intermittent sales, there were few ways to save if you truly wanted high-performance or name brand equipment. Today, however, with rising fixed costs and decreasing disposable income for many Canadian families, the retail ski industry has had to adapt in order to provide customers the same gear they have always been accustomed to, but at lower prices. Furthermore, people today desire high-end equipment without wanting to pay dearly for it. The following are some money-saving techniques to get the equipment you have always wanted at low prices.

Buying Last Year's Equipment: Come fall, many small, independent ski stores have gear that is leftover from the prior season. This leftover gear is a pain to shop owners, because it takes the spotlight off their new merchandise and hogs valuable space in the store. As a result, they desperately want to get rid of it, and frequently are willing to dispose of it at or near their initial cost. For shoppers, this translates into brand-new, never-used gear at 40%-50% off, or even more! Unless you are fixated on getting the newest gear, explore this option in great depth, because often, the only changes to equipment from year-to-year are colours, trim, etc… In order to get the best selection of last year's equipment, consider shopping after the season has finished (April/May) or well before it has started (September or October) – That is when the stock will be the best!

Buying Demo Skis: Most ski shops located at or near ski hills offer demo skis, which are available to customers to try before purchasing their own equipment. Similarly, most manufacturers maintain a fleet of demo skis for when they tour ski hills for demo days. In order to stay in tune with the newest equipment, these demos are used for at most one season, but often even less. Manufacturers and stores then liquidate these skis at unbelievable prices to frugal customers, often at 50%, 60%, or even 70% off regular prices! For those worried about having used or damaged skis, keep in mind: most demo skis are used for three or four runs, and the skis aren't used more than a few dozen times. This is equivalent to a few full days of usage, so if you can accept a few cosmetic surface scratches, you can get virtually brand-new skis for a huge discount. Be sure, however, to inspect closely the base of each ski, for scratches or nicks too large to be fixed by a tune-up. If demo skis interest you, consider shopping pre- or post-season to benefit from the widest selection.

Shopping from Online Retailers: Today, like almost anything else, ski equipment can be purchased online. While this option is clearly not for everybody, it is a great way to save money for those comfortable shopping on the Internet. Granted, since you cannot actually see, feel, or try the equipment, it is only a viable option if you know exactly what you want. For daring shoppers, however, this can work if you go to a store, decide what you would like to buy and in which size, and then return home and purchase your gear online. A quick browse of various online stores, such as, and reveals discounts from 20%, all the way to 80% off. Online retailers also offer frequent promotions, so unless you have to, do not buy right away. If you wait a few weeks, a promotion might allow you to save even more money. Possible pitfalls when shopping this way, however, include not being able to receive your equipment right away, not getting exactly what you need or want, and shipping inconveniences.

Shopping from Classified Websites (Kijiji, Craigslist, eBay, etc…): If you are an infrequent skier or simply cannot justify spending hundreds of dollars on skis or boots, consider browsing various classified websites such as Kijiji or Craigslist. Especially during the winter season, they feature many owner-posted advertisements for equipment ranging from barely used to well worn. A quick browse at the time of writing revealed many sets of ski boots for both men and women for sale in the 40$-60$ range, and pre-owned but definitely still usable skis for as little as 80$ to 100$. With this type of shopping, significant caution must be taken concerning the condition of the equipment and its usability. If your find turns out to be in good condition, as most probably are, you can enjoy your equipment for years to come, as well as the peace of mind knowing you bought it for little money.

One of the most popular age groups for which to purchase cheap ski equipment is children. This is with good reason: children outgrow their skis and boots quickly, and it is very costly to replace their equipment every year. As a result, there are many options available to parents looking to score great gear on the cheap.

Stores with Ski Swaps: Many independent ski stores offer large pre-owned ski and boot collections, and carry especially large stock for children. While not usually high-performance, the equipment is generally very inexpensive (100$-200$ for skis, 50$-100$ for boots) compared to purchasing new. These stores generally get their stock from customers, who sell their equipment back to the store after having used it for a year or two. For parents who must purchase equipment for their kids every year, this system works perfectly: buy a set of skis and boots for a low price, use them for a year, then bring them back to the store and give back the equipment for a credit on new equipment. Furthermore, if one has multiple children, the equipment can be passed down from child to child, making the equipment last even longer! For the majority of children who just ski casually, this is one of the best (and cheapest!) ways to acquire equipment.

Seasonal Equipment Leases: Many ski shops offer seasonal equipment leases for children. Usually comprising of skis, boots, and poles, these packages are perfect for parents who want a no-fuss, no-hassle solution to acquiring ski equipment: Simply use the equipment and then return it at the end of the season. Ranging from 120$-150$ for used equipment to roughly 200$ for new equipment, this method is worth one's while if their child skis as little as 5 or 6 times per year (considering a 20$-30$ daily equipment rental cost). While maybe not as cheap as buying second-hand equipment, a seasonal lease is great for parents who do not want to experience the hassle of shopping with children or maintaining equipment.

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5 Must-Have Items When Skiing or Snowboarding

Are you brand new to alpine sports, having just purchased your skis and poles, boots, or a snowboard, and wondering what else you need? Or maybe you already know how to ski, but are finding your outings less than enjoyable, and feel like you are missing some small but crucial equipment? Ski equipment is not limited to just your snowsuit, your head wear, and what goes onto your feet. There are many other small pieces of gear that can greatly improve your comfort, warmth, and general happiness. With this in mind, listed below are five must-have items that every skier should have in their arsenal of equipment. All of these items are extremely affordable and readily-available, and despite all seeming small and frivolous, they work to bring your day from good to fantastic, all with little fuss.

#1 - A warm, high-quality balaclava:

Have you ever skied on a cold day and found yourself fidgeting with a skull cap, a neck warmer, and a face mask all at the same time? If your answer is yes, a warm and comfortable balaclava is the answer. These streamlined, all-in-one pieces cover everything from your neck upwards, eliminating the heft of many different pieces and those annoying little uncovered spaces between garments. The best balaclavas have fleece for your head and neck, and neoprene-type (think of scuba gear) material for your face, which doesn't absorb the moisture from your breath.

My recommendations: Seirus Ultra Clava, 35$ or Turtle Fur Tactical Beast Hood Balaclava, 49$

#2 - Hand and toe warmers:

Hand and toe warmers should be a staple for every skier, since they are small and easy to fit into any bag, or even your jacket. While they unfortunately don't make a cold snap disappear, these single-use warmers provide heat to your hands or toes all day, and can transform an unbearable outing into a pleasant one. Beware though: many inexpensive or store-brand warmers are not very effective, so paying an extra dollar or so for a high-quality set from a well-known brand is definitely worth it!

My recommendations: Hot Shots or Hot Hands/Toasti Toes; prices vary depending on if they are purchased individually or in a bulk pack. Estimate 2-3$ if purchased one-by-one, less if bought in a large pack.

#3 - Ski socks:

A good, high-quality pair of ski socks is a must for any skier. Different from regular athletic socks, they are usually made of wool or synthetic fibres, and help keep your feet warm and dry. Unlike cotton, which absorbs sweat, gets wet, and then freezes your feet, ski socks help keep away moisture and insulate your feet from the harsh elements. Surprisingly, the thickest socks are not always the best choice, since they tend to not be breathable, and allow your feet to sweat. Socks of different weights, however, are available, and can be interchanged depending on the temperature. The best socks are costly, but well worth the investment.

My recommendations: Smartwool PhD Ski Socks , 24$ or Icebreaker Skier+ Socks, 26$; both available for men and women.

#4 - Thermal base layer:

One of the most important items of clothing when skiing or snowboarding is the one that is right on your skin. A good base layer maintains correct body temperature, and helps keep away moisture, thereby preventing cold. Furthermore, base layers should have the ability to dry, and should not be too bulky or uncomfortable With this in mind, the best choice for a base layer is one made out of merino wool or synthetic material such as polyester (never cotton!). Wool and synthetics have different properties as materials, so consider these carefully before you make your choice. A base layer should always be tight-fitting, which helps insulate the body from the cold, and traps warm air next to the skin.

My recommendations: L. L. Bean Cresta Wool Ultralight 150 Base Layer (or similar), 59$ or Under Armour Base 4.0 Crew Long Underwear Top (or similar), 85$; both available for men and women.

#5 - A ski/snowboard lock:

There is no worse feeling than coming out of the chalet and realising that your costly equipment has be accidentally taken or stolen right out of the racks. With a ski lock, you can protect your investment from thieves as well as confused guests, who might mistake your stuff for theirs. Furthermore, it gives you peace of mind, as you do not have to worry about the safety of your equipment. Keep in mind, however, that almost all lockable ski racks in North America are manufactured by Ski Key, which only work with their own lock, so it is wise to buy a lock of this brand only.

My recommendation: Ski Key Ski & Snowboard Lock, 25$

Do you have any personal preferences for the items listed above? Or are there any other small things that you consider essential when it comes to skiing or snowboarding? Let us know in the comments section below, we would love to hear from you!

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The 2016-17 North American ski season has begun!

Arapahoe Basin - Colorado (Photo from Facebook)

And it's official! The 2016-2017 North American ski season started today, October 21, at Arapahoe Basin in Colorado. As soon as Canadian Thanksgiving passes, we know it's just a matter of time before skiing starts. As usual, the West is ahead of the East, and never more so than this year. While people in the West are skiing, we are in the middle of a torrential 2-day rainstorm. Last year, the season started on October 18 in the US, and October 19 in Quebec. This year on these days though, we were enjoying highly unusual temperatures of over +20! Fortunately, this coming week, it appears the tide will be turning for us. There's a chance of wet snow on Sunday in Montreal (!), and it's very possible that temperatures will drop below freezing at night this coming week. One or two freezing nights, and the race is on for which ski hill will open first.

With recent advances in snowmaking technology and the promise of cold temperatures, there's a good chance we'll be skiing in the East before the end of the month. In past years, it's been a fierce competition between Killington and Sunday River in New England, with Mont Saint-Sauveur trailing by a day or so in Quebec.

Speaking of Mont Saint-Sauveur, hot off the press is the rebranding of MSSI to Les Sommets. Mont Saint-Sauveur will become Sommet Saint-Sauveur, and the other ski hills under the umbrella will become Sommet Olympia, Sommet Edelweiss, etc... What will the future hold? Meanwhile, will we be skiing before the end of October? Stay tuned.

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