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Mont Rigaud : February 1, 2014


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Today, I when I left home to go skiing, I had three intentions: to teach a friend to ski, to revisit a ski hill to which I haven’t been in many years, and to enjoy a day on the slopes close to home. Where did I go? Mont Rigaud, of course! Situated in the small town of Rigaud, about an hour from downtown Montreal and 30 minutes from home, Mont Rigaud bills themselves as the “Ski Nursery of Quebec”. Upon arriving and seeing their infrastructure, it would be hard to argue with this claim. They offer a 400-foot vertical drop, nine gently sloped yet still interesting trails for most levels, three user-friendly lifts, a modern chalet offering all ski services, and impeccable snowmaking and grooming. Furthermore, a quick glance around reveals that almost everyone present is there to take lessons with Mont Rigaud’s large and reputable ski school, or simply to benefit from their learning-friendly environment

Upon my arrival just after 9:00, the sun was shining, but the clouds soon took over, and the rest of the day was had with overcast skies. After a quick stop at the ticket booth and the very efficient rental center, we were ready to go! We started out on the magic carpet and the learner’s hill, situated at the bottom directly in front of the main chalet. The most recent of the three lifts, the magic carpet offers an easier ride and a shorter learning area compared to the clunky, wood-and-metal T-bar situated to its right.

After three successful runs down the magic carpet, we rode the T-bar a few times, which goes about two-thirds of the way up the mountain and provides access to the hill’s two beginner trails, the “O’Keefe” and the “Humpty Dumpty”. Using this lift avoids the line that, by this time, had formed at the quad chair. Furthermore, this old-style wooden surface lift is a blast-from-the-past and offers a hint of what skiing was like half a century ago, before fast and comfortable chairlifts were the norm.

We did about 6 or 7 runs off the T-bar, mainly on the O’Keefe but also on the neighbouring Humpty Dumpty. The latter is one of the most popular runs at Mont Rigaud, and this held true in the couple of times we were on it. A large, constant-slope boulevard-type run, it was heavily populated by group lessons. My friend and I both preferred the O’Keefe for its scenery and tranquility. There was, throughout the day, consistently less people on this trail, and, compared to the Humpty Dumpty, offers more interesting terrain such as little rolls and valleys. It is also has more curves and a few trees in the middle of the trail, which offer interesting challenges for beginner skiers.

After my friend felt comfortable on the T-bar, we took the quad chairlift to the top of the mountain, where we skied the same two beginner runs, but in their entirety. Despite its small 400 vertical feet, the summit of Mont Rigaud offers stunning views on the surrounding plains. After eating lunch in the rather crowded cafeteria, my friend wanted a break, so I was able to benefit by exploring the more advanced terrain of the ski hill. I started out on the “Express”, which is the main advanced trail. It is wide, and when I skied it over lunch hour, there were few people, so I was able to practice some moderate-speed carving. Despite its black diamond, advanced rating, it probably represents an intermediate or perhaps even a beginner trail at other ski hills in the Montreal region. I also explored the aptly named “Falaise”, another advanced run that offers some interesting topography and a scenic descent alongside a large cliff. Despite its small size, Mont Rigaud offers a respectable and well-maintained snow park, fully equipped with a large gamut of rails, boxes, jumps, and more. While my friend was on the O’Keefe, I detoured onto the “Qui-Sait-Tout”, an advanced trail, which has a few short yet remarkably steep pitches.

At around 2:30 in the afternoon my friend was tired so we decided to end the day. It was very enjoyable, and given the relatively warm temperature in the afternoon of -3◦C, it was quite busy. Despite this, however, the line at the chairlift was never more than five or seven minutes, and access to the T-bar was instantaneous in the morning, with a one or two minute wait in the afternoon. Upon my departure, it had begun snowing increasingly heavily, which created a nice powdery surface on which to ski but also reduced visibility. The thaw of a few weeks ago is long gone at Mont Rigaud, and today, snow conditions were great: Perfectly groomed packed powder on a firm base in the morning, with only a few ice patches appearing in the afternoon on the steeper pitches. Mont Rigaud is open seven days a week from 9 A.M to 9 P.M, and offers night skiing on seven of their nine trails. In terms of upcoming events, Mont Rigaud is hosting Empire Games in their snow park on February 15th, and on March 8th, the Canadian Cancer Society “Skiez Pour La Vie” 12-hour ski marathon.

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