Everyone who loves winter says the same thing: you have to enjoy winter sports to fully appreciate the season, rather than counting the days until spring.
But for those who live in the city, do you absolutely need a car to make the most of winter sports? Is it too expensive to get the equipment and to access these activities, especially for a family?
The good news: Whether within or outside the city limits, public transit and ridesharing can get city-dwellers where the winter sport action is, in a way that reduces their environmental footprint.
In the city:
In most Quebec cities, you can take public transit within the urban core to access city skating rinks and toboggan hills, which are often located near schools. More and more cities also provide mechanically groomed cross country ski trails, many of them accessible without a car. An increasing number of local organizations provide on site equipment rentals at low cost or free of charge, with no need to reserve in advance. Stores like Sports aux puces rent out second hand equipment.
Winter festivals are great opportunities for the whole family to get out and enjoy winter. There is the Carnaval de Québec, the Bal des Neiges in the Gatineau region and Montreal’s Fête des Neiges. In addition to offering tubing and skating, these festivals often provide the chance to get to know less well known winter sports.
In Montreal, there is no cost to access nature parks, which offer a host of activities, including cross country skiing, snowshoeing, tubing and even fat-biking! An inexpensive shuttle service takes downtown residents to Cap-Saint-Jacques, Bois-de-Liesse and Pointe-aux-Prairies nature parks. Once there, you can rent any equipment you need.
Montreal’s large parks, such as Mont Royal, Parc Maisonneuve and Parc Angrignon, which are easily accessible by metro or bus, also offer a variety of activities, including mechanically groomed cross country ski trails.
At Pente à Neige, a mere five-minute walk from the Angrignon metro station, Montrealers can even learn to downhill ski or snowboard!
For those interested in renting equipment for the entire winter season, many stores offer seasonal rentals for skis, snowboards and skates. The Poubelle du ski is a great spot for Montrealers, especially those with kids who quickly outgrow their equipment and need replacements each winter.
Outside the city
To enjoy winter activities outside of the city without a car, there are shuttle services to several SÉPAQ national parks. Equipment rentals are available in these parks, and you can even spend the night in a chalet, a winter tent or even a yurt!
Several companies also offer daylong getaways for outdoor enthusiasts. The concept is great: an early morning ride on a comfortable tour bus to grab a few extra winks or enjoy chatting with your new friends for the day. Same thing on the way back after a beautiful day outside. Among these companies are Boutiques Courir in Montreal and Longueuil, as well as Randonnée Aventure and Détour Nature, which offer snowshoeing and cross country ski trips to some of the province’s most beautiful locations.
A number of ski hills also offer a shuttle service for residents of major urban centres. These include Mont-Saint-Bruno, Bromont, Tremblant and Mont Sainte-Anne. For an even greater change of scenery, the Massif de Charlevoix even offers a special train service to take Quebec City residents there and back. Express Tours offers daylong bus trips to ski hills for just a few dollars more than the cost of your lift ticket.
If you need more flexibility, you can always carpool with fellow outdoor enthusiasts, taking advantage of special services offered by rideshare companies like Amigo Express.
And many members of sports clubs (such as those for cross country skiing) share rides on weekends to get out of the city and enjoy their respective sports. These clubs often use Facebook to organize such outings. Facebook is also a good place to find people interested in sharing a ride to a particular location.
At a time when climate change is threatening our winters, let’s appreciate the fact that we live in a country with four different seasons and enjoy the splendours of winter. All the while leaving the smallest possible environmental footprint.