Québec Winter

December 17, 2018 -
Le coffre aux trésors d'Hôtel Château Laurier Québec

Québec winters can be long, cold, and snowy. To enjoy them in the proper spirit, we find the best approach is to alternate indoor pursuits with outdoor ones such as sliding—a great way to turn an abundance of snow into an abundance of fun! To get you started, we the concierges of Hôtel Château Laurier Québec have prepared the following. 

Slinding down through the ages

The idea of plummeting down snow-clad slopes on a sled or sleigh isn’t exactly new—there are descriptions dating back to the Middle Ages of people doing it in Europe’s northern and mountainous regions, such as the Alps. The most common vehicle seems to have resembled a sled, generally compact and with runners.

Around here, people had developed several types of toboggan ages before the first Europeans arrived. Their long sledges were great for getting around in winter and ideal for hunting trips. The word “toboggan” in fact comes (by way of the French tabaganne) from a word in an Algonquian language—perhaps tobâkun (Mi’kmaq) , udãbãgan (Abenaki), or ‘tapakon (Maliseet)—all meaning “sled” or “vehicle.”

Residents of Kahnawake (just south of Montréal) as depicted by Cornelius Krieghoff, undated . Public domain c. 1850.

The traditional toboggan was made of wood bent back into the shape of a letter c at the front to keep it on top of the snow. A rope was attached for pulling. Sometimes moose hides were attached underneath with the hairs facing down and the grain lined up to make it slide easily across frozen surfaces. They were solid and manoeuvrable enough to handle heavy loads of equipment, merchandise—or even kids!

Encounters between the First Nations and the early European colonials led to the development of new sled types. Snow sliding really took off when an outdoor sports and recreation craze swept Québec in the 19th century.

The Toboggan Party, illuminated composite photograph by William James Topley about 1872–1875. Lady Dufferin’s personal album, Library and Archives Canada.

Special toboggan runs started to be built in the late 19th century to supplement the natural toboggan hills where tobogganers, young and old, had always slid, such as those on the Plains of Abraham. The toboggan run on Dufferin Terrace for instance was built in 1884, predating the nearby Château Frontenac by just under ten years. Older sources claim it was roughly 430 metres long.

Dufferin Terrace Toboggan Run around 1905. In the middle distance is the Château Frontenac, which had opened in 1893. The central tower was completed some two decades after this picture was taken. BAnQ, P600,S6,D1,P410.

Québec City’s hottest sliding spots

There’s no shortage of snow slides and winter sports centres in the city and area.

Dufferin Terrace’s “Glissade 1884” is still going strong, its three runs thrilling over two million visitors each year. The 250-metre rocket ride is one of the more hair-raising ways to appreciate the fine view of the St. Lawrence River, Île d’Orléans, and Lévis. The cost is $3 per person per run or $10 for four, including taxes and a rental toboggan, inner tube, or sled. Slide and hot chocolate combos are also available. Hours for the 2018–2019 season are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, extended to 9 p.m. for the holiday season, from December 26 to 30 and January 2 to 6.

Pointe-aux-Lièvres winter sports site is another great place to enjoy winter in Québec City. It’s nicely located, with a view of the city on one side and the mountains on the other. There’s a wonderful lighted skating trail about a kilometre-and-a-half long, with a variety of conveniences onsite. It’s free to use, and low-cost equipment rentals are also available. Hours for the season, from December 15, 2018, to March 10, 2019, are noon to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. Note that there’s only one sliding hill, and any gear has to be dragged up the old-fashioned way—by leg power.

Pointe-aux-Lièvres sliding hill. Photograph from Ville de Québec.

The highest sliding slopes in the area are in Stoneham-Tewkesbury. The view of the Jacques Cartier River Valley alone is with the trip. The Tewkesbury Snow Slides (Glissades Tewkesbury) have upwards of a dozen tubing runs, with four mechanical lifts to make it through the day without getting too tired. Half-day and full-day rates are available, as well as family packages.

Roughly 20 minutes north of the city centre, Valcartier Vacation Village is the biggest winter park on the continent, no less. There are 35+ snow slides with varied thrill levels for young and old alike open from mid-December to mid-March. For staggering acceleration, there’s Everest, at a height of just under 34 metres, and the anything-but-everyday experience of snow rafting. The site is also crisscrossed by fabulous skating trails. Tickets are $35 for the day (free for small children under one metre tall). Try our Valcartier Vacation Village package.

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Perhaps you’ll be hankering for a little warmth after an awesome day enjoying Québec City snow slides and other attractions. Feel free to share your yearnings with us—anything from nice cup of hot cocoa to a restaurant serving your version of comfort food or a show in dinner-concert format. We, the concierges at Hôtel Château Laurier Québec, are always eager to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. We hope you have a great time in Québec City that will make you want to come back soon!

Happy holidays!