Hut-to-Hut Cross-Country Ski, Papineau-Labelle Wildlife Reserve, Quebec

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14431A, Ski, Snowshoe, and Dogsled


  • Cross-country ski Quebec's backcountry
  • Stay in heated, rustic cabins overlooking lakes and woods


  • All meals
  • All lodging
  • On-trip transportation and trail passes


DatesFeb 15–21, 2014
StaffCatherine Mclaughlin

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Trip Overview

The Trip

This trip offers an excellent opportunity for an extended cross-country skiing experience -- skiing hut-to-hut in the remote and breathtaking Papineau-Labelle Wildlife Reserve northwest of Montreal. Formerly a wilderness retreat for wealthy hunters and fisherman, Papineau-Labelle was donated to the Quebec government and is now used for fishing and swimming in summer and cross-country skiing in winter. Here in this peaceful environment, the silence is broken only by woodpeckers or the ranger on snowmobile delivering our gear. With any luck, we will come upon wolf tracks imprinted in freshly fallen snow disappearing across a frozen lake or foraging moose ambling out of the underbrush.

We will spend the first two nights at a hostel in Mont Tremblant and the first day skiing its extensive, groomed trail system. For the rest of the trip, we will be skiing a hut-to-hut loop within the Papineau-Labelle, with daily distances of no more than 13 miles. Our huts -- or, more properly, rustic cabins -- are located among the splendid lakes that dot the mountains. We will be able to savor our beautiful surroundings as we glide through a winter landscape on an easy-to-moderate trail system, carrying only day packs to our overnight retreats. The option to ski a more challenging track with greater elevation changes will also be available. Essential equipment will be awaiting our arrival at the huts, and our personal gear will be transported by snowmobile.


After gathering for a 6:00 p.m. dinner at a ski hostel in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, we'll spend our first day enjoying Mont Tremblant's extensive groomed trail system, which is accessible from our hostel. On the second morning, we depart for the Papineau-Labelle Wildlife Reserve to begin our backcountry loop.

On each day of our backcountry loop, we typically will eat breakfast around 7:00 a.m. and be skiing by 8:30 a.m. We should arrive at our next hut by 3:00 p.m., giving you time before dinner to relax or do some extra skiing.

We expect to return to Mont Tremblant about 5:00 p.m. on the final day. Travel between the hostel and the Papineau-Labelle Wildlife Reserve will be by chartered bus, and you can park at the hostel while we're away.



Getting There

Mont Tremblant is about 75 miles from the nearest large city, Montreal, and regular bus service is available between the two. If traveling by car, Mont Tremblant is located about two hours north of Montreal off highway 15 /117. If traveling by air, fly into Treadeau (formerly Dorval) International Airport and take the Skyport Mont Trembant Express bus three hours right to the door of the hostel. If traveling by bus, take the "Limocar Laurentides" bus from Montreal's Greyhound station to the hostel.

Plan on arriving at the Auberge International Youth Hostel by 4 p.m. We will have a get-acquainted meeting at 5 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m. The trip ends upon our return to the Auberge International Youth Hostel on Friday at about 5 p.m. There is a bus back to Montreal that departs the hostel at 6 p.m.

The leader will provide full information after your application is accepted and will periodically provide trip roster updates so you can arrange carpools if desired.

To enter Canada, a current passport will be needed.

Accommodations and Food

The huts, or cabins, are wood-stove heated and have bed platforms with comfortable mattresses. Participants must provide their own sleeping bag that will keep them comfortable if the temperature should drop into the low 40s at night. The huts have propane cooking stoves and lights. We will need to carry our water from nearby lakes or streams, and the toilets are in outhouses.

All food is provided from dinner on the first day through lunch on the last day. Meals are hearty vegetarian-friendly affairs with dinners consisting of salad, main course, and warm dessert. Participants will share the meal preparation and cleanup.

Trip Difficulty

The average daily distance between huts is 10 miles, with a maximum of 13 miles. The terrain is variable and the daily distance gives the trails intermediate status; weather conditions may make them difficult. You will need to be proficient in the basic techniques of cross-country skiing. In addition, you must be fit enough to ski up to 13 miles per day, for six days, while carrying a day pack of extra clothing, food, and shelter. You should be able to ski in normal backcountry conditions, uphill and downhill, at an average speed of two miles per hour for at least six hours.

Winter weather in a wilderness setting must be taken seriously. Temperatures below zero are common, so proper layering and "broken-in" equipment in good repair are essential. Leaders will take all precautions in inclement weather, but participants must be prepared with gear and stamina. This trip is for adults only (18 and over).

Equipment and Clothing

You will need layers of clothing, including protection from rain and extreme cold. You will need to provide your own lightweight touring skis, boots, and poles. Bring a day pack large enough to hold extra clothing, food, and shelter, such as an emergency space blanket. Stuff sacks and plastic garbage bags will help keep everything in your pack dry. Bring a personal first-aid kit (bandages, moleskin, etc.), toiletry items, and, of course, any regular medicines. You can buy any last-minute or forgotten items in Mt. Tremblant. The leader will be happy to discuss clothing and equipment details with you.

You will need a passport to enter and leave Canada. Expect security checks at the border.


For information about our hostel in Mont Tremblant, visit:

To learn more about the Wildlife Reserve, visit:


We will travel through pristine wilderness preserved by the Province of Quebec, following Leave No Trace protocols.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.

While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Catherine McLaughlin is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of trauma. She and her husband Ed Lawrence, along with their Australian Shepared Sheba, hike and participate in outdoor activities throughout the year. They regularly lead trips for their Sierra Club group near their home in northeast Pennsylvania.

Assistant Leader:

Ed Lawrence is an active outings leader with his north-central Pennsylvania group, Otzinachson. He is a public lands advocate who has taken the passion and the message to both Harrisburg and Washington, DC. He has provided his highly regarded culinary expertise to several cross-country skiing and service outings.

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