If you have been following xcottawa.ca from the very beginning, back before we even had this fly domain name, you might remember a trip report I submitted about a trip to the Chic Choc mountains back in May, 2001. (Chic Choc Adventure)
Interestingly enough, the transmission that replaced the one we managed to ruin on that trip, belonging to my parents' 1990 Mercury wagon, has kept the car going to this date. My dad says it will continue to do so for at least another three years. Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets!
In any case, when we planned our trip this year, we thought it was best to leave nothing to chance, so we rented a 15 passenger van. Very well equipped, except in terms of tires, which could be described as being about as bald as the scalp of Yule Brynner. Yes, even the road into the parking lot was too steep for the "quality all-season radials" of a nameless and shameless rental agency. (See photo at left.)
This year, the trip included Craig Storey, Arno Turk, Alicia Berthiaume, Steve Bursey, Joan Post, Edith Post, and finally, me. As with our last trip to the Chic Chocs, we did not let vehicular deficiencies spoil our fun. It is hard not to have fun in the Chic Chocs. Many of you are probably wondering, "where are the Chic Chocs?" Well, they are near the tip of the Gaspé peninsula, but inland. To get there from Ottawa, drive past Quebec city along the south shore of the St. Lawrence, past Rimouski and Riviere du Loup, all the way to St. Anne des Monts, before turning inland and continuing about another 45 minutes. Here you will find the Gite du Mt-Albert, a charming hotel at the centre of the Chic Chocs. (See photo at right.)
The Chic Chocs themselves are quite impressive. Mountains located in the east, but high enough that you might think you were out west somewhere unless somebody told you. Three years ago, we found great conditions in the first week of May. It is not uncommon to find skiable snow even in June, I am told.
The purpose of our trip was certainly not serious training. In fact, it might be described as seriously the opposite. April is that rare month where a racer can take a well-deserved break from real training, and simply enjoy skiing.
Our lodgings were a modest, but well equipped chalet managed by the Gite du Mt- Albert. Each day we would wake up when we felt like it. We would then eat a leisurely breafast and drink endless cups of gourmet coffee ( met standards set forth by resident coffee expert, Arno Turk) until we felt like skiing. For about 5 days we followed this routine, each day bringing new adventures. On one day, our search for a skiable telemark hill wound up being an 8 hour tour through snow and fog, with just enough time to squeeze in about two runs on a beautiful powdery slope.
On another, I did some natural interval training when I discovered at the bottom Mt. Hog's Back that I had lost one of my baskets, probably somewhere near the top. I strapped on my crampons, and trudged through knee-deep snow for about half an hour, all the way back to the top only to come up empty handed. Normally, the summit of Mt. Hog's Back affords one a beautiful view, but on this day there was only fog, snow and wind, so I slipped and slid awkwardly back down to the bottom again, while the rest of our crew went screaming past me having a glorious time on their skis! Someday, somehow, I am sure that I will be rewarded for my efforts.
Perhaps I was rewarded later that I day when I came back to our cabin to find out that someone had the bright idea of chilling our value heavy beer (12 for 12 bucks) in the snow by our porch. This is another great thing about April ski trips. Cold beer can replace protein shakes as the recovery drink of choice! (Careful on the quantity. Tests have shown that excessive recovery drink consumption can lead to co-ed showers in groups of three or more)
After 5 days of fun, relaxation and adventure, we loaded up "Yule Brynner" and drove it back to Ottawa. This time the transmission held firm, and we made it all the way back by about 9pm on Friday. We did not wind up stranded at an all you can eat Poutine Restaurant, and we did not get driven home by a mechanic's wife from Drummondville. XC Ottawa team member Arno Turk did manage, however to "cap-size" in Cap-Seize.
For more info about skiing in the Chic Chocs, go to: www.sepaq.com/ChicChocs