Two Mondays, two special days. Last Monday was Thanksgiving Day, and in Montreal, we were treated to a beautiful 26 degrees and plenty of sunshine. Today, federal election day (I hope everyone managed to vote!). Oh yeah, Mont Saint Sauveur opened as well. That's right, after 2 short nights of temperatures a hair below freezing, the 2015-2016 ski season has started in Eastern Canada. Mont Saint Sauveur has worked their magic once again, defying the odds and offering top-to-bottom, full-coverage skiing on October 19. When I saw the cold temperatures, I knew Mont Saint Sauveur would be opening within a day or two. After a few years of schedule conflicts or not enough notice to make it in time, I was finally able to ski on opening day. I already had my gear collected, so that when I learned of the 12:00 opening, around 11:15, I was ready. Arrival: 12:15. There were at least 150 cars in the parking lot. "What?", I thought. I understood why there were so many cars when I saw this sign on the door.
The main concourse of the chalet was a polling station for local residents. It sure was weird to be sharing a space with people voting, and more than one person made a comment or seemed extremely surprised about the activity unrolling outside. I guess if you're not a skier, the concept of skiing and snow when the trees still have leaves seems foreign.
Sadly, I wasn't ready in time for the classic photo at the bottom before the chairlift is loaded, but I was nevertheless ready to go by 12:30. Obviously, there was only one trail open (Cote 70 Ouest), and obviously, the conditions won't go down in the books as the best. But hey, it's October! What will go down in the books, for me at least, is the date. October 19 is by far the earliest I've skied, and it's the second earliest opening date for the hill, superseded only by an opening date of October 18 in 2009. What about the conditions? I was pleasantly surprised. The coverage, although a little bumpy, was almost the full width of the trail, and there was enough depth to prevent sticks and grass from coming through. Only some leaves falling from the trees littered the surface. It's not every day you ski with leaves on the trees! Given the temperature of around 5-6 degrees, the snow was spring-like in its consistency, meaning it was soft and heavy, but not too granular or slushy like we are accustomed to when skiing in May. I was very grateful the temperature was above freezing, since this ensured there was no corn snow or ice, which tends to be common early in the season with entirely artificial snow. It was not a day to ski fast or seriously, but rather just one to slowly get back into shape for the upcoming season, and simply enjoy the fact that skiing is available so early in the Fall.
From 12:30 until I finished skiing around 2:30, there was a peak of around 100 people, which means there was plenty of space to move on the trail. The sun, which was out in full force when I started, had given way to cloud cover by the time I finished, but this didn't dull the mood, since everybody was happy to back on the snow. The cost wasn't too bad either, at 28$ + tax. This seemingly random price, which seems to be drawn from a hat and changes every year, could have been worse, especially considering that this snow will earn the resort one or two days of revenue at the most. Rain this evening and temperatures consistently above freezing for the next 2 weeks, even at night, will melt away all the snow and prevent more from being made. It looks like skiing in October will be a (very) short affair this year, since this warm weather will put a hiatus on the season for the next little while. Wait a few weeks though, and skiing will undoubtedly be back in full force. No worries there!
The grass was green and the trees had leaves, but there was indeed skiing!
Lazy river, voting, or skiing? There was, no doubt, a strange mix of activities going on today. The artificial snow sticking to the leaves made for some interesting scenery.
This morning, while mowing the lawn, picking weeds, and vacuuming the pool, I had a vision. A quick double-check online, some equipment in the car, and one hour later...
No, I was not at Mont Saint Sauveur for the water park. I was there to ski! Yes, that's right, on this 18th of May, the ski season at Mont Saint Sauveur is still alive, offering die-hard skiers one last chance to hit the slopes before the inevitable arrival of summer. They were supposed to close for the season last weekend, but given this long weekend's exceptional weather and their still significant snow base, they are open once again for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. The trail selection, given the time of year, was obviously quite small, and was in fact limited to only the Cote 70 Ouest. This may be the only run open, but there is still an impressive amount of snow left.
It was a great day to ski. It was not particularly warm (about 10°C upon my arrival at 10:00), but the blue sky and warm sun made it enjoyable and by my departure at 12:30, it had warmed up to a comfortable 14°. Given the time of year, it was not particularly busy at the hill - there were probably around 80 to 100 people throughout the duration of my visit. The snow conditions were very variable, both in coverage and width, as well as texture. Some parts of the trail were right down to the last layer of snow, and essentially had no base left. Similarly, there were some very narrow passageways, especially at the top of the mountain near the lift exit.
You know it's late in the season when the lazy river and wading pool appear in the front of the chalet. Mont Saint Sauveur is also in the process of refinishing the facade of the chalet. Will it stay this natural wood colour? Who knows, it was originally this way when the building was built in the 1970s.
Besides the snow on the hill, Winter is clearly gone from the region. An unfrozen lake, trees budding, green grass - Spring is definitely in the air!
Commendably, however, most of the trail was open at full-width or close to it. There were also some sections of the trail with a very large base depth. In the middle of the trail, the snow was at least 6 or 7 feet deep! Concerning the texture, it was not fantastic, but expected for mid-May. Skiers were treated to a firm, icy base with lots of loose slushy snow on top. By the time I left at 12:30, bumps were starting to form on the last pitch, which increased the challenge. Nevertheless, it was enjoyable to ski this late in the season, especially considering I had not skied in 5 weeks. This was definitely my last outing of the season, and if you're still interested in going, time is running out very fast!