Quebec? Oui s’il vous plait!

Lest we forget what glorious trails and hospitality await in the land of the neighbors to the north!
Most snowmobilers have a group of friends that get together for one epic trip a year. For me, this is it! The planning starts mid-summer, usually over a few cold ones on someone’s deck, followed by booking somewhere come early fall at one of the local snowmobile shows. Each season takes us to a new location and this year it was to our neighboring province of Quebec. About 260km (160 miles) north of Plattsburgh, NY is the small community of St-Zenon, QC. Our destination!

■ The trip begins
We arrived at our lodging at the Auberge Le Cabanon which must be the most snowmobile-friendly place I have ever visted. After a six-hour drive from the Toronto area, we were promptly checked in and escorted to a secure parking lot for the truck and trailer. Not only that, but there is a locked snowmobile compound right outside the rooms where you can house your sled in a safe area overnight. There are 58 rooms, a restaurant/bar, premium fuel on site as well as a pool and hot tub to wind down in style after a long day of riding.

Not one of us knew what to expect from the stories we heard over the years about how amazing it is to snowmobile in Quebec. Since we were out of our own province, we had to purchase Quebec trail passes for the days we would be on the trails. This can be done online or purchased at the front desk of the hotel, which is what we did. Permits are available as one-day ($60), three-day ($130), seven-day ($215) or annual ($315) in duration, if bought before the early-bird deadline, usually the beginning of December. Prices are in Canadian dollars.

The first day, our group explored the area. This was not a tough task as the signage on the Quebec trails was incredible! You knew well in advance if there was a corner coming up or a dangerous area ahead. We left the hotel on perfectly groomed trails. The snowmobile clubs leave right out of the hotel parking lot and groom six days a week. The groomer was moving for 10-12 hours a day, so it didn’t take us long to realize that we would have tabletop trails every single morning. Our sleds blasted up trail 23 to the 345 which took us past Lac Bouteille and Lac Tremblay at a pretty good pace. The 20-mile run up the 345 had us to the 360 intersection in no time. We did a quick jaunt west to the Taureau Lake Dam before tracking back to the 345 to head north for a 55-mile trek up to Lac-Du-Repos for lunch and fuel. This section of trail offered lots of elevation changes, fast rollers and sweeping turns that kept all of us smiling in our helmets.
After lunch, it was time to blast back south towards the Auberge Le Cabanon on trail 33. The 65-mile run had us pulling into Saint-Michel-des-Saints to top off with fuel and head east on trail 63 for the last 10 miles of the day. The last 40 miles of trail had some stutter-bumps as it was getting late in the day and had seen a bit of traffic. Not a big deal as it was guaranteed that the groomers would be out the entire night to smooth everything back out. We pulled into the parking lot and the sleds were put to rest for the day. Dinner capped off with a soak in the hot tub as tomorrow was going to be a long day.

■ Rise and shine!
Waking up to sunny skies and perfect temps, our six sleds were on the snow by 9, heading east on trail 23 towards Shawinigan. This day had the group circling Reserve faunique Mastigouche Provincial Park and de la Maurice National park. Once again, trails were freshly groomed and didn’t disappoint. The first part of trail 23 took us through a beautiful section of the Provincial Park. To our right was Lac Houde and Lac Sans Bout which would be amazing places to visit with a fishing rod in hand.

We rolled into the Shawinigan area after a 70-mile rip for what would be our first fuel stop of the day. Being in an unfamiliar area, the phrase “need gas, get gas” is always a safe bet when passing a gas station. The group grabbed some snacks as we were expecting to miss lunch and wanted to have something to hold us over until we could get back to the hotel, especially if someone got the group lost - a little foreshadowing.
Continuing along trail 23 had our next turn scheduled for the 360, which would take us north to the town of Trois-Rives. Whoever was leading (ahem!) must have been paying a little too much attention to the scenery and not to the trail signs because it wasn’t long before we were more than a few miles past our turnoff. So, I continued to lead the group up the 23 to the 351 and it turned out not to be a bad choice after all. The section of trail had mountainous elevation changes, tight technical trails in sections and a few spots to get perfect photos. By far this was the best section of trail that we rode that day. Flying past Lac Masketsi had us crossing a set of railroad tracks before catching trail 355 back towards Trois-Rives. Meeting up with trail 360 pointed us west for a 60-mile run across the top of the two parks. For those that want to use a bit of their sled’s horsepower, this would be an excellent time to do so.

Following the Matawin river for most of the stretch was a treat as the sun started to fall towards the treeline. Our last 20-mile section had us riding in darkness and was the lower half of trail 345, the same trail that brought us back to the hotel the previous day. Pulling the snowmobiles into the secured compound left us with one last thing to finish off the day: I donned the prestigious dunce cap for adding 30 miles to our day. Every group should have a Daily Mistake prize for the winner to wear!
■ 10/10 Would recommend!
You never know what to expect when traveling to a new destination. Quebec was an entirely new experience for our group. In the heart of Lanaudiere’s snowmobile trails, the Auberge Le Cabanon has been a popular destination since 1986 and now we understand why. When the groomers fire-up in November and don’t stop until mid-April, this is heaven for any snowmobile enthusiast! Plan your next trip north of the border and experience Quebec! There have already been discussions that it would be worthwhile to purchase a seasonal pass and return on multiple occasions throughout next year’s season – the trails are that good! Tip: If planning a trip in late March don’t forget to track down some homemade Canadian maple syrup while you’re there.

For real time photos and stories, follow the author’s social media pages @CanuckPowersports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
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