Val Saint-Côme - January 12, 2020
I had thought that Friday evening would be my last decent ski session for some time - I headed to Saint-Sauveur to catch the last few hours of the day after work. It was delightfully slick, soft with a thin layer of chill on top like the frosting on a cake, and oh, so fast. Not to mention it was full moon Friday! As viewed from halfway up the Sommet Express below:
The wet storm forecast for the weekend began on my ride home, making it a slow drive through thick fog and mist as I got back into the city. Feeling dejected about the weather, I slid into a great parking spot across the street from our building and flipped up the windshield wipers so the impending freezing rain wouldn't glue them to the windshield. Almost everything was closed on Saturday, and although Saint-Sauveur did open in the morning, they closed earlier than anticipated, as the rain had started during the day. What a let down from a storm event that was originally forecasting a ton of snow! On the upside, we were hosted Saturday evening by some wonderful friends for homemade izakaya and the flavour explosions and sake imported directly from Japan was a worthy rival to a night on the slopes. #karaageforlife!
Sunday, both Bromont and Saint-Sauveur opened until 4pm, but not being a morning person, and having a pass that only activates at 3pm, making it to either mountain was not in the cards for me. I checked all the other nearby mountains, Mont St-Bruno, Mont Habitant, Chantecler, and even Pente-a-Neige near metro Angrignon were closed. There seemed to be no hope for an evening session, but not to be dissuaded, I searched for other options. I knew Mont Sainte-Anne was open but I wasn't really feeling three hours in the car was in order, even if nearby Le Massif de Charlevoix was claiming to expect 75cm for Monday (hah! epilogue: they did not receive it). Thankfully, Zone Ski came to my rescue with some recommendations I hadn't yet heard of. The options were Val Saint-Côme in Lanaudiere, (123km or about 90 minutes in the car) and Vallée-du-Parc in Mauricie (just about two hours away).
To my delight, not only was Val Saint-Côme open until 10pm (Vallée-du-Parc closes at 9:30pm), it turns out Sunday evening skiing there is $12 (plus tax). And they received 20 cm of snow that morning! I packed up the car, spent about a half-hour grinding all of the freezing rain and sleet off the windshields, and left by 5:30pm. It was snowing in Montreal and with all the salt and sand that had been put down, and the roads were pretty slushy and slippery, so I set out for a slow drive. As I got further north, the snow stopped, the temperature began to fall and the roads became a bit more manageable, although still a bit icy. The drive took just about two hours, and at 7:30pm I was parked and getting ready. I picked up my $12 ticket from Lynda at the Billeterie who I had the pleasure to chat with about the mountain for a while. I arrived to prime conditions: no rain, no ongoing snow, and no wind whatsoever (where everywhere else in near Montreal was subject to wind gusts).
Merci Lynda pour la bienvenue!
At Val Saint-Côme, there are two main lodges, the service de la clientele including the billeterie, rentals and ski shop, and the cafeteria and bar in the other lodge. At the bottom of the other versant is an auberge that I didn't have time to check out. There weren't a whole lot of people there that evening but it was well organized so that it would be pretty efficient to pick up a ski pass and rentals for those in need. The ski lodge with the cafeteria and bar is huge with two floors and giant windows having a view of the mountain, and the bar upstairs. They also have a ton of great artwork adorning the walls.
Once I was all set, I headed to the lift "D" which in part runs over the black diamond run Genviève Simard. I hadn't looked at the trail map before starting my trip so I figured I'd just wing it, since the mountain is not huge. I started out on a blue run, Le Boulevard, and then hit another blue, Cascades, Genevieve Simard, and finally Traverse and Autoroute (the easy greens) ending with Serpentine which splits off from Autoroute. It's about a 6-7 minute loop, so I got in about twenty fast runs in just under two hours. I struggled a bit with the last half hour of the night as the temperature had been consistently dropping to about -17, and in these prime conditions, I definitely did not have time to stop!
Conditions were a dream: The runs had been groomed and conditions were packed powder, and the snow was squeaky like the cheese curds on delicious poutine. There was almost no one on the mountain, only ever 1-2 people ahead of me in the lift line, so it was almost like having the mountain to myself with conditions that were nice and fast! There weren't a whole lot of runs open for night skiing, but the ones that were had a wide variety of terrain, and some really great steep pitches on the black diamonds. And did I mention no ice or skied out spots whatsoever?
When the lift stopped running at 10pm sharp (not 9:50, not 9:55....this lift actually runs until 10!), it was time to head back home. I spent some time warming up in the car, grabbed a McSnack for the road home, and on arrival rolled into my favourite neighbourhood après-ski spot, Microbrasserie Helm, just in time for the last call. Grabbing an Esplanade, I caught up with my bartender who as it turns out spent a lot of time skiing at Val Saint-Côme himself while growing up in Joliette.
I'm definitely glad I took the time to persevere and find a good ski spot on Sunday night! At $12 for a pass, I'll surely be back at Val Saint-Côme during the next Sunday weather event (that is to say, when the other local hills get rained out)! I did not really get a chance to explore the region and local après spots, but I will leave it to the next time. Here are some snaps from the trip (there aren't a whole lot as it was far too cold to take out my phone too much!).
So many choices!
The roped-off area under the chair showing the natural snow from the morning has been poached a few times.
With a bit more powder, the section below the chair near the top of the lift would be pretty fun!
Pano where L'Autoroute meets La Traverse.
Looking down L'Autoroute, with Serpentine splitting off to the left (I think).
Super cute outdoor warming area - no fire tonight though. Brrr!
End of evening pano from the bottom.
I tried to capture how steep some of the bottom pitches are but it didn't come out so well.
Some adorable art inside the lodge.
Requisite old pair of skis hanging on the wall in the lodge.
View of the waning moon from the parking lot.
The devil - amazing metal sculpture outside of a metalworks shop on the way home.
The perfect après, a glowing glass of Esplanade.