SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE FEATURED ARTICLE:

The Art of Snowshoeing Perfected by the Québécoise

The Québécoise – also known as citizens of Québec City – embrace the snow.  They embrace it out of necessity.  Yet, that embrace doesn’t come at a loss of love for winter, but an appreciation.  To accurately capture how the Québécoise live happily with long winters and a consistent deep snow pack, you must celebrate with them.  From the ice sculptures that rest outside the doorways of quaint retail shops to the elaborate Carnaval de Québec, the winter season is a reluctant lover that sometimes outlasts its stay.  But it’s a love affair that the Québec City townspeople choose to observe – using the sculpting of snow and ice as the Carnaval’s founding fascination.  Within this fête is an appreciation for winter sports and the city’s rich history.  Snowshoeing is no exception.  Behind every snowshoer in Québec, you’ll find a passion and devotion for the city … and Canada.

Today, Québec City is drenched with an enchanting history; it’s the city’s youthful residents that scatter an effervescent tone that noticeably sets a beautiful disparity between past and present.  Among the dynamic adolescent is a respect for the preceding generations that helped mold a foundation that holds true to Québec’s heritage.  This legacy is woven throughout the city’s architecture, its dazzling countryside, and the tide-stricken waters of the majestic Saint Lawrence River.

Among the 98 percent of Québec’s French-speaking citizens, you’ll find a warmly spoken “Bonjour” and a genuine smile.  The Québécoise embody an enthusiasm for hospitality and penchant for generosity.  In that same light, they are proud of their heritage.

When visiting Québec City, you’ll find an appreciation for the First Nation ancestral traditions and amazing architecture.  This represents more than a 1,000 years of Canadian history.  While supporting an artistic culture, the city is itself … a work of art.  Québec City’s historic grounds can be appreciated on snowshoes – from inner-city excursions on the Plains of Abraham to the unique snow-covered trails of Wendake.

As I prepare to tour Québec City, I reflect on a recent mantra I adopted: “Snowshoeing is about the experience, not the goal.  Taking something with you in the end, calls you back for more.”

Kwe!

Although the avenues of Québec City are easy to navigate during the summer, the entire city offers a “snowglobe” experience when the snow and ice arrive for a long winter.  And the Québec winters are harsh – with the humidity always present, mixing with the often bone-chilling arctic air.  The community’s rating as a “safe city” (and rather low unemployment) is a testament to the stability of its economy…and Canada’s.

The Québec province’s vastness is truly remarkable.  Its two largest cities, Montreal and Québec City, are in close proximity to the United States.  A majority of the province’s populous live in the two cities; while most of its countryside is home to a variety of Aboriginal Nations.

From the Mohawk to the Cris, the Québec Aboriginal peoples are diverse.  Their one thing in common is a place called Québec.  The name Québec was derived from the Algonquin word “kébec.”  It means “where the river narrows,” which was influenced by the great Saint Lawrence River.

The Saint Lawrence is unique, simply for its extreme tidal behavior – best known for the largest inland tides in the world (up to 17 feet).  It’s more accurately described as a seaway, inviting barges and large ice-cutting ships to its waters.  The river’s ice levels can reach up to 12 feet high.  And to see the river in action – as it flows backwards – is peculiar and wildly captivating (especially when large ice blocks are floating by).

Watch a video of the Saint Lawrence tidal phenomenon:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSTTlJWcRx0.

Montmorency Falls is another “water in motion” attraction close to Québec City – about 12 kilometers to the northeast.  During the winter, the falls are a big draw for ice climbers and, of course, tourists.  At about 280 feet, the Québécoise are proud to say that Montmorency Falls is higher than the majestic Niagara Falls.

Visitors to Montmorency have the opportunity to view the falls from several different angles, including across a suspension bridge that hovers over the crest.  Visitors can also take a cable car to the top and then view the falls via multiple viewing platforms.  The bridge can be accessed near the Manoir Montmorency, a historic gourmet restaurant that is closed during the winter.  However, during the summer, the Manoir’s seven dining rooms can accommodate up to 200 people.

The Québec history is a true Canadian commodity: Protected by the Québécoise.  The province’s roots stem from its Aboriginal peoples, French-based civilization, and a dash of Irish heritage.  But like most countries, Québec’s evolution and structure came at a tremendous price.  Wars were fought as the British and French found their way into the Americas, leaving the Aboriginals to choose sides and defend their lands at great costs.

Sadly, war forces change – for better or for worse.  As a result, Québec City is known to be the only fortified city in North America.  Its walls are still lined with cannons that once protected the city from the oncoming British armies.  The cannons stretch from the Petit Séminaire De Québec to the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac – swarming almost every historic structure in Old Town Québec City.  According to local snowshoers, there is a difficult-to-find geocache in one of the cannons.

Within the fortified confines of the city – and among the world’s most historic buildings – some amazing independently-owned shops and restaurants await eager, spendthrifty patrons.  Follow the foot traffic to the Quartier Petit Champlain, the oldest commercial street in North America.  Its cobblestone streets provide a true slice of European commerce and lifestyle.

If you’re keen on purchasing some local art and leave with it in hand, visit Artists Alley – not far from La Petit Champlain.  Be on the lookout for the beautiful art of Sonia Gilbert.  Born in Québec City, Sonia captures the true expressions and inspiration of the city through her etchings and engravings.

Not too far from Old Town Québec City, the Plaines d’Abraham (Plains of Abraham) accentuates a fairytale adventure with “The Snowshoer’s Walk.”  Guided by a 20th century-dressed snowshoer, participants will don traditional woodframe snowshoes (made by Faber) and explore the famous Plains of Abraham.  The guide will provide background information on the battles that were fought on the plains and some tidbits on the origination of how snowshoes were used by early Québec settlers.

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