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Small is beautiful
Tuesday March 13, 2012 - Email this article to a friend

It has just four main lifts, a single restaurant, its pistes are narrow with little variety of terrain and when PlanetSKI visited the snow was icy and hard-packed. Yet we had one of our most interesting day's skiing of the winter. How come?

The resort in question is Le Massif near Quebec City in eastern Canada though it is somewhat mis-named.

Judged through European eyes, where many resorts are big or linked to large ski areas, it should perhaps be called Le Petite.

At first sight that is.

But what it perhaps lacks in size it certainly makes up for in other areas. We hesitate to use the word unique, but it is certainly in a class of its own.

Its slopes go down to the foot of the St Lawrence River with some truly spectacular views.

It is hard to know whether to look at the slope in front to make sure you know what is ahead, or raise one's view to take in the vistas.

The latter usually won with ocean-going ships seemingly within touching distance.

Ship ahoyShip ahoy













ln the ice flowsln the ice flows













The slopes are cut through the trees and are narrow but there is some interesting skiing with decent moguls and good high-speed cruising runs.

It may be small by alpine standards bit it is the biggest resort in the area.

When there is powder the tree skiing is some of the best in the area with 34 acres available.

From its four main lifts it manages to pack in 48 different runs over 376 acres of skiing and the longest route down, in its 770m of vertical descent, is 4.8km. The average snowfall is 6.3m each season.

The slopes of Le MassifThe slopes of Le Massif













The ski area is also upside down.

Take me to the riverTake me to the river













In Le Massif when people arrive in the base station of the resort instead of taking the lift up they put on their skis and head down - the main resort buildings and car park are at the top of the lifts.

Unless they arrive on the train.

Ski liftSki lift













A new train service from Quebec snakes round the banks of the mighty St Lawrence River offering views of ice flows, ships and even passing beluga whales if you are lucky. 

It is certainly one of the most interesting ways we have arrived in a ski resort.

Not a bad viewNot a bad view













The resort is owned by Daniel Gauthier who was one of the founders of Le Cirque du Soleil.  He sold out a while back to his partner for many millions of dollars and invested part of his fortune in Le Massif.

Indeed he skis in the resort most weekends with his family and friends and many people don't even know who he is as he gets in the lift line just like anyone else.

If you get the chance to ski in Le Massif you will see an island just off the shore and wonder about it.

1km into the river is Le Isle aux Coudres which is home to about 1,500 people. It used to specialise in ship repair and building and was a base for some of the ice breakers that were used to keep a channel open to shipping for the city of Quebec in the long winter months.

Now it relies on tourism, peat moss production and apples for cider-making.

lsle aux Coudreslsle aux Coudres












The best place for a view of Isle aux Coudres and across the St Lawrence is from the very top of the resort where there is a downhill course. You can only reach the start gate via a steep staircase but it is worth the effort if you get permission do it.

The views really do take your breath away, and it is not just from the steep climb.

The PlanetSKI content editor, James Cove has skied in over 30 different resorts this winter from Rosa Khatour in Russia to Heavenly in California. "I have been to many resorts for the first time, but Le Massif in eastern Canada is undoubtedly one of the most memorable," he said.

View from the topView from the top













Quite a viewQuite a view













For an earlier blog on night skiing in the resort of Stoneham see this story. 

We liked it all in Canada except for the price of beer (along with its accompanying and compulsory 15% service charge) and one hotel trying to charge for access to WiFi.

For the spirit of the mountains

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