Story by Ben Morrison
Photos by Drew Leonard
Ski and Snowboard Mont-Tremblant? Sounds great but We are here to motoneige dans la Région des Laurentides!
Early on in the 2019 winter season around the shop in Southern Ontario we witnessed fluctuating temperatures, and unpredictable precipitation. Most surrounding trails were either closed or in very poor conditions, and the few rides on or around Lake Simcoe didn’t even come close to scratching that itch to ride. This was making our riding season here appear quite gloomy, but luckily our prayers were answered, when we received an invite by Tourisme Laurentides to come enjoy, and experience the snow covered groomed trails their region has to offer.
Excited to get out on the trails and see what the Laurentides Region has to offer!
We were scheduled to spend our first day of the five-day total trip, simply traveling to Mont-Tremblant, Quebec. The team arrived at the shop early afternoon, and began loading the snowmobiles, and any gear we would need. The excitement was steadily building as this was the first ride in the Laurentides Region that any of us had been on. We were all gassed up and began the six-and-a-half-hour drive from OSM/STV HQ to the AX Hotel in Mont-Tremblant where we spent our first night. Traffic was nice and light for us, and we made great time getting into Quebec. Leaving the snowless terrain at our office behind. It almost felt like driving to a completely different world which was covered in snow. For dinner we took a short walk across the parking lot to Le Mad Grill for a delicious smoked bacon burger. Le Mad Grill had an interesting B.Y.O.B. concept for beer and wine.
Awaking just before sunrise on our first day of riding, as we would have a busy day ahead of us with a few stops to some of the more popular guiding outfits the area has to offer. After a hot breakfast at the AX Hotel, we unloaded the snowmobiles and we’re ready to hit the trails! A quick shot across the road and we were already riding on Regional trail 317. A lot of ground was covered in the first morning, probably more than what was originally planned for. What can be said for taking the time to enjoy some great riding conditions along some nicely groomed trails. Eventually arriving at Cana-Doo Adventures, we got the chance to meet the owners Dennis and Sylvie. They have been providing a V.I.P. Guide service for twenty years with their last three being out of the Labelle location. Suited well for the “beginner rider” with up to date snowmobiles, full gear, and a more than competent guide is included in the hourly rental prices. While we were there enjoying the conversation, we took some time to look through the snowmobile museum they have on site. Pretty neat getting a look back at some of Cana-Doo, Ski-Doo, not too mention Quebec’s snowmobiling heritage.
We lost count on how many bridges we had to cross.
With helmets on and lunch in the back of our minds we were off to find our next stop by La Macaza International Airport. Unfortunately we made a few wrong turns, and additional kilometers were made on a shared side–by–side, snowmobile and ATV trail (Regional 322 for snowmobilers). We decided to take a break in the all-season shelter Refuge du Lac Chaud. Thankfully while warming up and drying out some of our gear, our phones managed to get service, so we gave our next contact Bruno of Outdoor Logistik a call. With some much-needed detailed directions we were soon by the right airport, and also at Bruno’s front door.
Outdoor Logisitik is a guiding company with city centre people of Toronto in mind primarily providing fly in and ride packages from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. Outdoor Logistik allows these individuales to fly into La Macaza, walk across the street, where all the gear and snowmobiles are ready for action! We had the chance to sit down with Bruno over a late lunch at Le Pub Resto-Bar Motel, where Bruno has eaten so frequently, the chef makes him a custom dish of his personal favourites, penne pasta with a rosé sauce, ground beef, green onions, and crispy chicken tenders tossed in honey garlic sauce to top it all off. A few of us were brave enough to give it a shot, and I can attest that it’s delicious.
Pourvoirie Mekoos has it all! Even somewhere to soak your stiff and frozen body after a day on the trails.
Further to the fly in and snowmobile service Outdoor Logistik also offers guided services all year round with a current fleet of ATVs and Side-by-Sides for all your hunting, fishing, and riding dreams. As we were saying our good-byes to Bruno, he was nothing but smiles as he was headed on a 450 km ride to meet up with a group that was already riding and had additional riding plans for the upcoming weekend. Now with over twenty years of personal riding experience and eight plus years guiding professionally, Bruno is exactly what you would call a professional snowmobile enthusiast!!
The entire region has been made very accessible for snowmobilers.
Unfortunately, our first day had taken a little longer than expected, but Bruno had made sure to hook us up with the FCMQ iMotoneige app. For under $5 this app helped quite a bit for the rest of the ride, especially with our current itinerary uploading the way points automatically from the website to the our phones through the app.
Just before dark we pulled up and parked at l’Île de France, Inn and Restaurant. A note on the door informed us to give Nancy Pilote a call, as no one was on site, and soon we were greeted by Nancy and Heiko the owners of the establishment since 2015. Sleds had to be moved into the locked VIP shed parking, which eliminates the stress of leaving four machines out all night.
The rooms all have their own theme from around the world. We were lucky enough to have stayed in the Bali and Venice rooms! At the I’lle de France, Inn and Restaurant we were served salmon cakes, crème of Mushroom soup, and hot chicken with biscuits and gravy. The hot meal was great to warm our bodies from being out on the snow all day. An amazing desert and some coffee followed with Nancy’s own gluten and dairy free banana crème sandwich. Once everything was cleaned up, we were given the rules about locking the front door and ensuring lights were turned off.
Nancy and Heiko stay across the street and give their guests the front door keys, and almost complete access of the entire Inn and Restaurant. A hearty breakfast was prepared for us in the morning and we made sure to get some photos, the machines warmed, goodbyes said, and we were again back on the trail.
With the remainder of our trip in the FCMQ iMotoneige app, we were ready to get a full day of riding. We headed right back onto the Trans Quebec 63 North for about 27km and then right on Trans Québec 53 North. Then we were lucky enough to try out the local trail #253 into Parc Kiamika. Tourisme Laurentides put some great thought into planning this suggested route, as we had been getting a good mix of terrains from flat rail bed, wide open trails along power lines, curvy turns climbing and descending mountains, and tight trails with walls of trees on either side.
We took a quick break along the revivor to take in the winter atmosphere of Parc Kiamika and found some untouched snow that ended up being well over our knees when we jumped off the sleds. Returning to Trans Québec 53 North we had about 46km until we hit Regional Trail 319. Little did we know at the time we were riding, but we had passed into the 346 km2 of exclusive Mekoos territory, and soon found ourselves at the main lodge of Pourvoirie Mekoos.
We were blessed with at least 10 inches of fresh snow while we were in The Laurentides and thought of no better way to say thanks, but track up as many milometers on the trail as possible!
One of the owners of the Pouvoirie Mekoos, Bobby St–Louis was more than happy to set the phone aside for a few minutes and give us the history. The original business is now over 70 years old, and has been owned by Bobby St-Louis, Sébastien Dumoulin & family since 2004. The same year they started renovating. Today the lodge,complex and eleven rustic-looking log cottages can now accommodate up to 150 guests.
There are a wide variety of different packages geared towards groups looking to enjoy a change of scenery while riding by on one of their many snowmobiles or off-road vehicles. The territory plays host to 135 lakes over the 346km2 providing a lot of room for fun outdoor activities. Seasonal fishing is also offered with year-round fishing for walleye, pike, and various species of trout. located in Hunting Zone 15 West, the territory has an abundance of moose, white-tail deer, black bears, and small game all thanks to Mekoos sustainable fish and wildlife management.
Pourvoirie Mekoos has even gone as far as to have the ability to provide groups with all the equipment necessary for any of the activities they provide, and at the end of the day you can wind down at the lodge bar, or just warm yourself up in the hot tub or sauna.
We continued on from Pourvoirie Mekoos along Regional Trail 319 arriving at the Resto Bar le Relais du Touriste in Sainte-Anne-du-Lacs just before one in the afternoon. It’s not hard to miss this establishment which is sitting very close to the intersection of Regional Trail 319 & Trans Québec 13. The parking lot is full of snowmobiles was a good indication that we found our lunch spot for the day and were in for a good meal. Steve Aubin who has been the owner for over 18 years also happens to be the chef. We said our hellos and introduced ourselves, and then back into the kitchen. Resto Bar le Relais du Touriste has 11 rooms within its main building, and secondary building out back. They stay busy all year around with the equally impressive ATV trail system in the area, and the ability to arrange snowmobile and ATV rentals for guests. The restaurant’s menu is quite extensive, but we stuck with the popular bacon cheeseburgers, traditional Montreal smoked meat poutine, and a hefty meat lovers pizza that almost broke the table’s legs. Somehow amid running the business, Steve finds time to also be a very active and important member of Club Motoneige Piteman for 33 years now, running two groomers over 236Km worth of trail.
The atmosphere at Ile De France is one of a kind, Nancy and Heiko know how to take care of their guests!
We were getting way to comfortable siting in the restaurant after lunch, so we finally decided to suit up and start our final stretch for the day to where we would be staying for the night. A quick shot down Trans Québec 13 going South, and we connected with another great local trail #222. We made great time passing through Mont-Saint-Michel, Lac-Saint-Paul and then through some tighter trails with plenty of timber surrounding us on either side. Wildlife sightings were quite abundant the entire trip, but this was the afternoon we passed a herd of whitetail that had to be numbering well over twenty. Our group stopped to watch most flee further into the trees, while a few stood their ground, starring us down to ensure we were not a threat and the rest could safely get away. Before we knew it, we were pulling up to the grocery store Marché R. D. St-Louis in Chute-Saint-Philippe where we had to get the keys for Chalets Aiglon. Only Two more minutes down to the end of the road, and we were at a gorgeous chalet siting right on Small Lake Kiamika.
They have an interesting concept geared towards snowmobilers that had everyone very intrigued. The idea being after a day of riding, you pull right up front to the chalet, park your sled, drop your gear to dry, and enjoy dinner which is awaiting you in the refrigerator. Once the wood stove was stocked, we took a quick tour of the chalet which has two separate bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 5 futon beds that could all be separated by a privacy curtain, and basically two full kitchens. In one of the refrigerators waiting for us was an assortment of salami, vegetables, potatoes, cheese, and a few packs of thinly sliced steak. Sitting on the counter was also a basket full of fresh bread which made the decision very easy to make some steak sandwiches. With the stove warming up the potatoes, and frying up vegetables, we put this handy hot plate to use. It easily warmed up the salami wrapped in cheese for an appetizer, cooked the steak no problem on the grill portion, and then these individual cups that sat under the warmer were used to melt cheese right onto the steak slices. It was a perfect group to be with for this type of accommodation, everyone pitched in with the cooking, and the same while we were cleaning up afterwards. With nothing else planned for the night, no WIFI, and hardly any cell service, the four of us sat down for a few games of cards before heading to bed.
Stunning fast sweeping trails!
Overnight the forecasted 10-12 inches of snow started to fall. The trails up until this point were all very well groomed and maintained, but we were excited to get into some of that fresh powder. While the already prepared breakfast of Chalets Aiglon’s own twist on eggs benedict was being cooked.
After dropping off the keys to the chalet we found our way on to Regional Trail #322 and decided to take the chance and ride up through Parc Regional Montagne Du Diable (Devil Mountain Regional Park). It was still snowing quite a bit by the time we carved out our path up to the top, so we couldn’t take in the full atmosphere and effect of the view. There is a little restaurant-bar at the top called Relais Halte-Titude 727 where you can get out of the elements and sit and have something to eat or drink. On the way down from the top of the mountain we passed by one of the Mekoos guided tours lead by an immaculate Nordic wide track snowmobile. That thing just pushed its way right through the fresh powder with ease. We then hooked back up on Trans Quebec #13 and rode South all the way down into Mont-Laurier where we stopped to fuel up and get something to eat for lunch.
We stuck to the marked trails, but others took advantage of the open powder lines.. Be Safe!
Joining up with the Trans Quebec #63 South, we rode through Nominingue, and made a right continuing South down Regional Trail #319 South to La Minerve. There was a restaurant that was suggested for dinner, Bistro/Grill L’Entre Côte, but we had enjoyed our ride so much through the fresh, mainly untouched trails that it was getting late. A quick refueling and we were on the trails again headed for our final destination of the trip back at AX Hotel, Mont-Tremblant. We had a lot of fun navigating our way from Regional Trail #319, to Regional #323, and back onto the familiar Trans Quebec #43 Trail. Even though night had fallen, and some trails had remained untouched all day, we were familiar enough with the remaining couple of trails to make it back to the hotel. After loading snowmobiles, getting out of our suits and into some fresh warm clothes, we hit up Le Mad Grill again.
It was a very easy group decision that before bed we would take advantage of the hotel’s services with the provided robes in our rooms and relax our bodies in the heated pool. We couldn’t of asked for a better way to end an amazing three-day ride through the Laurentide’s wilderness, and seeing what the region has too offer.
Dennis & Sylvie at Cana-Doo Aventures staying warm on the trsil in their FXR gear.
With a full travel day ahead and snowy road conditions, we decided to take it easy and sleep in a little longer than normal. All snowmobiles and gear were loaded and properly secured in the truck and trailer, so we hit the road stopping quickly to fuel the truck and refuel our stomachs. At the start of our trip it felt like we had drove into a different snow-covered country coming into Quebec. Now the drive home was taking a little longer with all the snow Ontario had just received. After the 3 full days of riding, well over 700 km of trail, and all the new friendly people we had the chance to meet, the 6 ½ hour drive seemed very quick, and it is nice to know that you don’t have to travel too far North to find all the snow and dedicated snowmobile communities.