Quebec Winter Magic: Ski, Snowshoe, Dining, History, and Culture
- Visit Old Québec City's Winter Wonderland
- See the only Ice Hotel in North America, Hôtel de Glace
- Ski and snowshoe with instruction in national parks
Guided skiing and snowshoeing
Double room accommodations near the heart of Old City
Ready for a snowy adventure? Join our inaugural winter Sierra Club Outing in Québec! Be prepared for pleasant surprises as we embark on this first time adventure together. This trip is suited for winter-hardy souls and those who are willing to bundle up and embrace the majesty of the season. We will ski, snowshoe, have ice and snow fun, and enjoy fine dining and all this historic city has to offer
Ready for a snowy adventure? Join our inaugural winter Sierra Club Outing in Québec! Be prepared for pleasant surprises as we embark on this first time adventure together. This trip is suited for winter-hardy souls and those who are willing to bundle up and embrace the majesty of the season. We will ski, snowshoe, have ice and snow fun, and enjoy fine dining and all this historic city has to offer.
Year after year, travel magazines rank Québec City and the region among the world’s top destinations. Not far from the border with the United States, you will step into a world where French is the primary language, and the culture and ambiance are distinctly European.
As the birthplace of French North America and the only walled city north of Mexico, Québec City is teeming with history, culture, museums, galleries, architecture, dramatic scenery, and international cuisine and delicacies. Vieux-Québec (Old City) was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985, and you will soon see why.
And Québec certainly knows how to do winter!
While advanced snow sports skills are not necessary, the outing will be most enjoyable for those with some experience skiing and in winter conditions, or at least a hearty willingness to brave the elements and try new challenges.
After invigorating days outdoors, you’ll relax in warm lodging and enjoy the company of new friends, delicious meals, and stimulating evening conversation.
We’ll set the timing, order of activities and pacing according to the weather, snow and other conditions. We’ll intersperse rigorous ski and snowshoe days with less strenuous excursions to the cultural and historical attractions of the city. And we’ll build in time for you to spend as you choose.
We welcome participants who are flexible and adaptable as circumstances change. Good humor and a positive attitude make for a convivial, supportive atmosphere. To get the most out of the outing, be ready for the unexpected! For the safety and enjoyment of all, participants must stay together during group activities and notify the trip leader or guide of any issue of concern or if you wish to opt out of a planned program
We welcome participants who are flexible and adaptable as circumstances change. Good humor and a positive attitude make for a convivial, supportive atmosphere. To get the most out of the outing, be ready for the unexpected! For the safety and enjoyment of all, participants must stay together during group activities and notify the trip leader or guide of any issue of concern or if you wish to opt out of a planned program. The leaders reserve the right to make changes as necessary, both before and during the trip. Please be aware Sierra Club specifically empowers the leader to exclude individuals from a trip activity in the interest of everyone’s safety and health.
Day 1: Arrival: We’ll check in to our lodging after 3:00 p.m., settle in, unpack, and unwind from our travels. We’ll enjoy a welcome dinner, get acquainted, and have an orientation to the week’s program.
Days 2-8: See the list of activities below. The specific sequence and timing will be determined based on weather and snow conditions.
Day 9: Last day, departure. Check out after breakfast by approximately 11:00 a.m. Plan departures after 12:00 p.m. A one night optional winter camping extension may be offered. Find out more from the leaders if that sounds like your cup of tea.
Approximate Daily Schedule
7:30 a.m.: Breakfasts at our lodging are all included in the trip price. Self-service coffee, tea and snacks are available at any time.
8:30-9:00 a.m.: Depart for day’s activities by van or on foot.
12:00 p.m.: Lunchtime. Five lunches, during all-day group excursions, are included in the trip price.
3:00 to 4:00 p.m.: After the exhilaration of cold season activity, we’ll return to our lodging for a cup of tea or hot chocolate and to rest up before supper.
6:00 p.m. or later: Dinner at local restaurants, or we’ll “carry out” delicacies to enjoy at our home away from home. We’ll share light tasks such as preparing hor d'oeuvres or salads, washing and tidying up after meals. Six dinners are included in the trip price.
Our ski and snowshoe excursions will be with the only company licensed to provide guiding services in Québec’s national parks. All of our activities with the company will include round trip van transportation from our lodging in Québec City, ski and snowshoe equipment, professional guides who will provide basic instruction, and park access fees.
Group activities included in the trip price (subject to change)
- Gourmet Snowshoe: With our expert guides, we’ll have fun on this snowshoeing adventure in the Jacques Cartier National Park. Along the way, we’ll stop for tastings of local products, lunch and hot chocolate.
- Nordic (Cross-Country) and Hok Skiing: We’ll glide on groomed trails, tracks or backcountry trails in Jacques Cartier National Park, and/or Camp Mercier and/or Duchesnay Station. Hok skiing is a hybrid activity with special skis and equipment that provide the maneuverability and climbing ability of snowshoes with the gliding and turning ability of skis. Try it or watch those of us who do!
- Jacques Cartier National Park: Just 30 minutes from Québec City, the park is home to one of the most beautiful glacial valleys in Québec, the spectacular Vallée de la Jacques-Cartier. The Jacques Cartier River, calm in some places and turbulent in others, has sliced a 550-metre-deep channel into the plateau. A coniferous forest dominates the high plateaus, and deciduous trees grace the deep valleys.
- Camp Mercier: Set in the wildlife reserve Réserve faunique des Laurentides and less than an hour from Québec City, Camp Mercier offers skiers of all levels and snowshoers a wide variety of trails, fantastic ski conditions, spectacular landscapes and superb views.
Hôtel de Glace: We’ll bundle up to walk through the only ice hotel in North America, open every winter only from January to March. Thousands of blocks of ice are sculpted each year into exquisite artistic marvels. Each themed room features beds, furnishings and adornments made entirely of snow and ice. We’ll stroll through the beautiful Grand Hall, chapel, ice slide, rooms and suites. Those hardy enough may choose to sip a cold or hot beverage at the Ice Bar.
- Parc de la Chute-Montmorency - Montmorency Falls: Montmorency Falls is one of the astounding natural wonders in Québec. At a spectacular 83 meters, it is 30 meters higher than Niagara Falls. In very cold weather, the splashes and mist projected by the falls can freeze and form the famous Sugarloaf, a unique natural ice cone. From the top of the falls, we may venture on trails and enjoy the peace, quiet, and beauty of the park in its winter blanket. Weather permitting, we may ride the cable car above the falls, with dazzling views of their semi-frozen cascades, Île d’Orléans in full winter wonderland mode, and the mesmerizing ice formations moving along the Saint Lawrence River with the rhythm of the tides.
- First Nations Village and Museum (mostly indoors): We’ll visit the Huron-Wendat First Nations community and museum in Wendake, just outside Québec City. Established in 2008 to protect and promote the heritage of the Wendat people, the Museum hosts a permanent exhibit, Territories, Memories, Knowledge, temporary exhibits and themed workshops and festivals. During our visit, we’ll feast on a traditional meal and have a guided tour of the museum and a replica of a longhouse.
- Walking Tour – City Highlights: With a certified guide steeped in the area’s rich history and culture, we will stroll the beautiful city and learn about the major sites and pivotal events in Vieux-Québec , including some of the original fortifications and oldest buildings, the iconic Chateau Fontenac, and the Plains of Abraham.
- Grand Marché de Québec: No trip is complete without a stop at the grand market, the gourmet food destination in the Greater Québec City area, where both locals and visitors are tempted by the wide variety of local products and seasonal items. More than a hundred producers, processors, and artisans bring Grand Marché de Québec to life and share their love and knowledge of mouthwatering local products with you.
Optional Activities (not included in trip price)
- Nordic Spa
- Fat Cycling – specially equipped fat tire bicycles for riding in the snow
- Tobogganing near Chateau Fontenac
- Ice skating – Many Québec children learn to skate and ski just as they learn to walk!
- Carpet sliding – Yes, that’s right!
- Plains of Abraham
- Museum of Civilization
- Museum of Fine Arts
- Parliament House
Québec City is accessible by train, bus, car, or airplane. To minimize your ecological footprint, you may take Amtrak and Via Rail Canada or bus lines. It’s best to check those schedules, however, as service and schedules change. Montreal to Québec City on Via Rail Canada is approximately 3½ hours. Driving in the city is not advisable, as it was designed before cars ruled. Parking is difficult and expensive. You can fly to Montreal or directly to Québec City. From the airport, train station, or bus station, a taxi or ride-share to our lodging is recommended
Québec City is accessible by train, bus, car, or airplane. To minimize your ecological footprint, you may take Amtrak and Via Rail Canada or bus lines. It’s best to check those schedules, however, as service and schedules change. Montreal to Québec City on Via Rail Canada is approximately 3½ hours. Driving in the city is not advisable, as it was designed before cars ruled. Parking is difficult and expensive. You can fly to Montreal or directly to Québec City. From the airport, train station, or bus station, a taxi or ride-share to our lodging is recommended. 2023 fares by taxi to Old City from the airport were approximately US$35 to 45, and from the train station, about US$12 to 16.
The leaders can facilitate your contacting one another to share travel plans and rides. Do not make non-refundable travel arrangements until notified to do so by the trip leader. Sierra Club strongly advises purchasing trip insurance. Participants who wish to extend their stay before or after the trip dates must make their own arrangements.
Note: Passports are required for U.S. citizens to enter Canada. Passport requirements are subject to change. Refer to current requirements for entering Canada.
Cash, currency and sales tax: Most vendors accept major credit cards, but some smaller places pre-fer cash, so it is a good idea to have some Canadian currency on hand. ATM/cash machines are readily available. For items you purchase on your own, be aware that you should allow for approximately 15% tax on top of the listed prices. Also, some banks charge for cash withdrawal, and credit card fees for foreign transactions may apply. Check with your credit card company and bank about those details to avoid unwelcome surprises.
Please do not make non-refundable travel arrangements until notified to do so by the trip leader.
Accommodations and Food
Lodging arrangements will be confirmed once we know the size and composition of the group, such as the number of people sharing beds or rooms and solo travelers needing roommate matches. Double rooms are included in the trip costs. A limited number of single rooms may be available for an extra charge. Contact the leader to request a single room, subject to availability.
We will stay either in a small historic hostel, a former convent, in the heart of Québec Vieux (Old Québec), or in apartments in a shared house just outside the Old City walls. The hostel is basic but comfortable, with real beds, private bathrooms with hot showers, communal lounge areas and a fully equipped kitchen. In either place, you will not need to worry about being on top of a bunk bed.
The hostel houses other guests, usually including individuals or small groups of independent travelers, and sometimes energetic teens on school outings. Those larger groups sleep in dormitory-styled rooms in a separate section of the hostel. Many Outings participants appreciate the youthful energy, but we want you to be aware of that possibility.
The other housing possibility is a single dwelling divided into two or three bedroom apartments, each with at least one bathroom, living area and kitchen. Each apartment unit has ample living/lounge space for our whole-group gatherings.
Both the hostel and the house provide bedding and linens, and both are in or very close to the heart of Old City and within close walking distance of most major attractions. Expect to walk up and down stairs, as the buildings do not have elevators.
Please note room preferences when you submit trip forms to the trip leader or when you speak to them during a phone interview. Specify requests for singles, sharing with a specific person in shared or separate beds, or to be matched with a roommate. We will do our best to accommodate preferences but cannot guarantee specific configurations until lodging arrangements are confirmed.
Participants extending their stay before or after the trip dates must book their own accommodation.
We’ll have breakfast at our lodging with fruit, yogurt and toppings, breads, pastries and hot and cold cereal. Delectable croissants and other baked goods beckon as we stroll the streets and markets. Participants may opt to cook more elaborate breakfasts with provisions purchased at local markets.
Lunches are included on five days, during all day group excursions. On the other days, you may purchase lunch on your own, or you are welcome to pack goodies or delicious leftovers from the group provisions at our lodging.
Dinners will be at various restaurants in town, or we will “carry out/take in” for cozy, leisurely meals in our lodging. Six dinners are included in the trip price. By ordering from menus, we will be able to accommodate most diets, but be aware that cheeses, dairy and eggs are featured prominently in the French-style cuisine. If you have any concerns about meeting your dietary needs, we suggest discussing them with the trip leaders and planning to purchase any specialty items there. The local markets are well stocked with natural, specialty foods and local products. In general, we’ve found that even small groceries have better supplies of healthful, specialty and gourmet items than many places in the United States.
The trip is moderate to rigorous, best suited to those who are physically fit and prepared to brave cold winter conditions, ice and snow. You need good balance and ability to walk in uneven terrain and on cobblestone streets. Walks from our lodging to restaurants and sites around the city will range from a quarter mile to a little over a mile at a time (1/2 to 2 kilometers,10 to 25 minutes). The city is hilly, and there are some short but steep inclines. Old Québec is at an elevation of about 180 feet (55m) above the Saint Lawrence River. For the steepest part, you can walk up and down stairs or take a funicular (cable railway) up and down. (2023 price CAD $5, cash only). For skiing and snowshoeing, our expert guides will offer a choice of easier or more challenging routes suited to different levels. They will help you choose what’s right for you and provide basic instruction and guidance to help build your confidence and efficiency.
The leaders are happy to discuss the trip and help you determine if it is a good fit for you. As volunteer leaders, we do our very best to plan the itinerary, arrange our excursions and work with our local contacts in advance. As this is the first time we are offering a winter trip in Québec, however, we cannot anticipate every eventuality, and we ask for your patience, understanding, and most of all, flexibility and spirit of adventure.
Trip members are expected to participate in scheduled group activities, although there will be free time to spend as you wish. There are so many wonderful things to see and do in Québec that we cannot possibly fit them all in our group agenda.
We ask you to be punctual, considerate of fellow Sierra Club travelers and willing to help out to keep things pleasant for all. We request that all participants be understanding about differences in views, comfort levels, fitness, speed, experience, and skill in outdoor activities. We are not in a race or competition. We look out for one another, try to be welcoming and respectful of all and sensitive and responsive to individual differences, views, and needs. Please discuss with the trip leader any issues or concerns that would affect your and others’ participation and enjoyment.
Equipment and Clothing
The trip leaders will send a recommended packing list to confirmed participants in advance of the trip. Warm winter clothing, tip to toe, is essential. The packing list includes microspikes, important for traction in icy conditions even in the city. The trip price includes ski or snowshoe equipment. Upon request, the leaders can also provide information about renting appropriate winter clothing and boots locally.
Weather and Climate
The average maximum daytime temperature in Québec City in February is -4.1°C (24.62°F), while the average minimum temperature is approximately -14.8°C (5.36°F), usually at night.
By February, there is usually a good base of snow, making favorable conditions for winter sports. On average, there are about twelve snowy days, yet the month’s average snowfall is a moderate 84mm (3.3 inches), and the sun graces the area with about 120 hours of sunshine during the entire month.
Zero Waste: A beginner’s guide: https://learn.eartheasy.com/guides/zero-waste-a-beginners-guide/
Québec is the first jurisdiction in Canada to submit protected areas for consideration under the International Union for Conservation of Nature Green List Standard — a certification system for high-quality protected areas. In addition, an update to Québec’s Natural Heritage Conservation Act now recognizes Indigenous-led protected areas and commits to international protection standards. (Source: https://www.nationalobserver.com/2021/06/22/news/Québec-feds-lead-canadas-conservation)During our excursions in the parks and throughout the city, we’ll learn about historic preservation and environmental conservation efforts.
We will strive to minimize waste and follow Leave No Trace practices during the entire trip.