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Mont Garceau - January 15, 2016


Jake

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After my positive experience at Ski Saint-Bruno a few days ago, I was eager to ski today at one of my favourite mountains, Mont Garceau. I had planned to ski here for a few weeks, so the day was on regardless of the weather or last week's rain. Normally, I ski at Mont Garceau later in the season for a few reasons, and I was bit worried being there in mid-January would affect my day today. Fortunately, despite these shortcomings, I still enjoyed the day.

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My visit today also had another purpose: ski demos. I'm looking to replace my slalom skis which are about 5 years old, and Mont Garceau has an amazing boutique with tons of demos that you can try free of charge, as many pairs as you want. We have bought ALL of our equipment here for the past 6-8 years, always receiving unparalleled and personal customer service, knowledgeable staff, top-quality gear, and a good price.  I would like to mention the great work of Joey, who selected and adjusted 6 different pairs of skis today for me to try. I would highly recommend this store for any equipment you need, and if you're interested in the skis I tested or more about the boutique, let me know.

More about the day: it was -23 this morning on the way to the hill, and with the light wind that was blowing? I don't even want to know. Needless to say, it was cold. The chairlift ride at Mont Garceau is very exposed to the wind in some sections, and also happens to be quite long at around 10 minutes. The padding seems to freeze when it gets very cold, so all you feel are the metal bars underneath. Thankfully once I started skiing it didn't seem that cold, and warmed up to -11 by the afternoon. Since Mont Garceau faces south, I enjoy skiing the mountain with its sun exposure in the spring, and today this was lacking since it was very overcast most of the day, with a bit of fog and a lot of flat light.

Another reason I prefer Mont Garceau in the spring is the snow. They have a lot of great trails in the trees, which require a lot of natural snow to be open. This year, natural snow has been lacking, so they are mostly still closed, and will only be at their best later this season. Also, every year they seem to be slow in their snowmaking operations, so there were still many main trails that were not open, such as lower parts of Chiquita and Marcel-Gauthier, and more.

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Casse-Gueule during a rare moment of sunshine.

That being said, the trails that were open provided great conditions overall. It seemed like most of the open terrain underwent snowmaking this week, so combined with the bit of natural snow that fell, the base wasn't too hard and icy. Most trails also had a fair amount of artificial powder on them, which slowed things down a bit but was very fun and soft to ski through. The only exception today was Casse-Gueule I, which was extremely hard and icy even at the beginning of the day. Also, the Togo had a lot of frozen granular, but surprisingly this didn't bother me too much since the snow was soft overall, and I enjoy the pitch and caliber of the trail so much.

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An upper part of the Boulevard. Officially it's a beginner trail but I wouldn't take a beginner there. For an intermediate or advanced skier though, it's an amazing trail with many different types of terrain.

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Togo: A long, continuous pitch certified for FIS racing. 

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Rapide: Another trail with many variable steep pitches. 

Overall, the trails are one of my favourite parts of Mont Garceau: apart from Mont Tremblant, this is definitely the biggest mountain north of Montreal. The trails are long, and the pitches are steep and frequent, and the scenery is beautiful. By the time you reach the bottom, you can definitely feel your legs burning. This mountain also feels a lot more quiet and laid-back than many other ski hills of its size.

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At the top of the mountain on the Route. 

Apart from a handful of locals and a bunch of school groups, Mont Garceau was very quiet today. It seems like a lot of their weekday business come English-speaking school groups from Ontario. Every time I ski there, I see these types of groups, so there must be attractive offers at the ski hill and the region in general for many faraway schools to send their students here.

Mont Garceau recently celebrated their 50th anniversary, and in honour they are in the process of making various upgrades. I really enjoyed the refreshed look of the cafeteria, with its stone walls, new TV, and reclaimed wood. Out on the mountain, I saw some new snowmaking equipment, which was definitely needed in my opinion, and a nice new sign at the bottom by the road. There's no forgetting the new trails added over the past few years, mostly glades and a new snow park. There was a lot, and there still is, a lot of undeveloped potential on the mountain, so I'm thrilled to see these new trails come to life, and I can't wait to ski all of them at some point. Hopefully the weather will cooperate!

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The bottom of the Boulevard.

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North of Montreal, I would say it's most similar to Mont Saint-Sauveur, Mont Blanc, and Val Saint-Come. All 3 of these mountains are less high however, but offer a lot more trails and are more developed in general.

In the Eastern Townships, Bromont probably has around the same vertical (the main side) as Mont Garceau, but is a lot more vast and busy. If you're familiar with Mont Sutton, Garceau has less overall vertical, but in terms of actual skiable vertical, it's probably similar to any one of Sutton's sections. Some of the glades there also remind me of those at Mont Garceau: a lot of spacing between trees, and very long. 

Mont Garceau is much more local and family-run than any of the above-mentioned ski hills. Apart from school trips most of their clientele either lives in the area or has a second home nearby, and the family who owns the mountain is very much involved in the day-to-day operations. The house where they live is physically on the ski trails (visible in my last picture to the left), so they can't get much closer! Overall, it's the kind of place where everyone knows each other, both staff and customers.

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