Quebec Winter Adventures: Skiing in the Eastern Townships and a Visit to Sherbrooke

So I am cheating a little, I am already back in Toronto, writing this little summary of the second half of our trip to Quebec. While we didn’t ski on Wednesday because it was too friggen cold, we did have a beautiful day of sunshine on Thursday, albeit a little on the cool side (about minus 15 Celsius.).

La Cathedrale de Sherbrooke.

Well, it was certainly a perfect day to go skiing on Thursday and we chose to go to Jay Peak in Vermont, just south of the Quebec border. It took us about an hour to drive to Jay Peak from Magog and getting through the US border was very quick. And the US border officials were very friendly and even cracked some jokes with us.

Jay Peak is the largest ski resort in the area. We had skied Mount Orford (1770 feet vertical drop), Owl’s Head (1770 feet vertical drop as well) earlier in the week, but Jay Peak clocks in at 2153 feet in vertical drop. It feels like a real mountain, with the rocky outcrop on the highest peak and an aerial tram (or gondola) that ferries skiers up to the highest point.

But we did notice Jay Peak was a fair bit pricier than the ski resorts in Quebec. We had paid Can$34 for a half day at Orford, Can$15 (!) at Owl’s Head (the Tuesday and Wednesday full-day special, regular half-day rates are Can$26). Jay Peak came in at US$42 for a half day or US$56 for a full day. Good thing was they were willing to accept Canadian dollars at par as long as we paid in cash, but even so the price differential was substantial.

On the other hand, Jay Peak offers by far the highest elevation as well as the largest number of runs with 75 trails. We had a great day at Jay, we truly enjoyed all the blue and single black diamond runs although we are not daring to touch the double black diamond runs yet. It was a fabulous day and we had a gorgeous view over the Appalachian mountains set against a brilliant blue sky.

Friday morning was the second time we saw sun and I decided to drive to Sherbrooke and do a little photo safari. Sherbrooke is a rather picturesque city of about 100,000 people or so and it has a beautiful cathedral, city hall and various other rather amazing architectural jewels. Driving back on Highway 10 I came over a hill and at one point I was able to see all 3 major ski mountains (Mt. Orford, Owl’s Nest and Jay Peak) at the same time, even though the latter two were about 30 or even 50 kilometers away. That panorama was amazing.

Sherbrooke’s City Hall.

Of course the snow drifted back in in the afternoon and rather than to go skiing we decided to play a late afternoon game of tennis at the Centre Sportif de Memphremagog. In the evening we had a beautiful dinner at a great little Italian spot on the main street of Magog: “La Piazetta” where we both had one of the best meals in a long time.

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Architecture in Sherbrooke.

Despite my self-professed bent of adventure, I am admittedly a culinary wuss and on Friday I decided to be daring and order escargot (okay, snails) with garlic, camembert and basil. It was truly one of the must succulently delicious meals I ever had, despite ingesting a slightly chewy rendition of mollusks.

Saturday we got our stuff ready and started the drive home, naturally surrounded by snowfall, as we had experienced most of the week. Funny enough, just after the Quebec/Ontario border the clouds started to clear up and we had a clear blue sky all the way home. It took us 7 hours door to door and 657 kilometers. And it was worth every minute. This was a really nice, relaxing vacation.

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