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Mont Garceau : April 12, 2014


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This morning, I packed these items in my bag.

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I wasn't going to the beach, however. My destination on this beautiful March April 12th was Mont Garceau and their annual pond crossing event, obviously! Upon seeing the weather today, it was an easy decision to make. A perfectly blue sky, the warm spring sun, unbelievable coverage, and a plethora of events combined to make a fantastic day. Upon my arrival at 8:15, the sky was still overcast, but the temperature was already a promising +1. Despite their posted opening hour of 8:30, the hill didn't open until well after 9:00 because of ongoing grooming operations. This was no problem, however: spring is the only time of year when the best skiing is not right at opening.

For almost the middle of April, the hill was extremely crowded. In fact, I have never seen a local hill (other than Mont Tremblant or Mont Saint Sauveur, perhaps) so busy at this time of the season. The parking lot was almost full, and due to the unexpected crowds, the second chairlift opened around 11:00 to relieve the line that had formed at the main lift. All in all, it was almost as busy as my last visit during the Quebec school break, and everybody there was as equally enthusiastic as I to enjoy the great weather and snow. A message to all the hills that have closed already for "lack of people": You shouldn't have! Based on what I saw today, people are still excited to ski and enjoy springtime, and there was a 10-15 person-long line at the ticket booth for most of the morning. Unbelievable!

As were the crowds, the conditions and snow coverage were more reminiscent of a day in early March than the second weekend in April. Upon opening, the trails were hard-packed and groomed, not yet soft but not completely icy. The snow quickly softened, however, and by lunchtime, with a temperature of +7, the snow had fully transformed. Despite the temperature and the hill's south-east orientation, the snow had the ideal "spring snow" consistency: soft and slightly heavy without being overly mushy, watery, or thick. The coverage, on the other hand, was superb for this time of year. I have never seen such amazing quantities of snow in southern Quebec, on a south facing mountain, and this time in the season. Mont Garceau was offering 100% of their terrain today, and coverage everywhere was better than early-March or even late-February coverage some years. All of the artificial snow trails had complete coverage, with a shocking base depth of many feet in some places. Even more surprising, all of the natural snow trails and glades were fully skiable, and little caution had to be taken. Aside from a few rocks sticking out and some errant sticks that fell from windstorms, the snow coverage was uniform and complete.

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I discovered the depth of the snow the hard way in the Sous-Bois after I hit a patch of very soft, loosely packed snow and fell. My 50" pole sunk all the way to the handle!

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Great coverage in the Sous-Bois. This glade is notorious for needing lots of snow, so to have it open this late in the season is extremely enjoyable.

Mont Garceau is known for it's spectacular views on the region, and today was no exception. The still-frozen lakes, as well as the now -closed La Réserve were clearly visible, and even the north side of Mont Tremblant was visible in the distance.

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The view is always nice from the summit of Mont Garceau.

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I enjoyed skiing on the Rapide today, which was closed on my last visit for training. This trail, while only going down half of the mountain, offers a constant and quite steep pitch and many rolls. Note the parking lot: at almost 3:30, it was still quite full!

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The Casse-Gueule. Both chairs were almost full for most of the day.

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The Grand-Duc.

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The Fouine: This trail was more enjoyable in the afternoon once it became exposed to the sun and softened up.

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The Trottoir. This natural snow trail that formally housed a Poma lift was completely covered except for the famous cliffs at the top.

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The Togo.

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Les Cimes: Due to its distance from the other trails, this run was always very quiet, and offered great conditions all day. Notice La Réserve on the left.

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The Boulevard. On the right is Flanc, a bowl-type trail reminiscent of the bowls found in the West.

Today, we celebrated spring at Mont Garceau. The annual pond-crossing event took place for most of the day at the bottom right next to the chalet, and a DJ and announcer helped create a fantastic ambiance. A barbecue and the outdoor bar set up on the terrasse made a great place to eat lunch and enjoy the rays, and there was even a ski demo tent set up for those interested in trying skis.

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Today was a great day for this event. Many kids spent the entire day at the pond-skimming. Definitely a great idea, and it was free as well!

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This man was brave enough to cross the pond on only one ski. He almost made it!

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This woman was not so young. Impressive!

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Splash!!!

It's sad and hard to believe, but today was probably the last day of the season at Mont Garceau. They officially close tomorrow, but with the rain that is forecasted, they might not open. An opening next weekend has not been scheduled and is currently unlikely to happen, so today was probably the end for Mont Garceau. It was a great day to end a good season, and I was happy to be there to enjoy it. I will definitely be back next year!

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Jake

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