Typically, when spending a day or a week at an alpine winter resort, there are plenty of offerings for avid downhill skiers, snowboarders, cross-country skiers and snowshoers alike. Over the years, traditional ski trails have been complemented by glade trails, and some challenging “hors-piste” terrain for experts. Some resorts and their partners offer cat-skiing and helicopter skiing tours, where enthusiasts can experience some memorable runs that are truly one-of-a-kind!
But what about sledding? Sledding, sledging, or tobogganing is a worldwide winter activity, generally carried out in a seated position on a sled (English language), a sledge (Old English), or a toboggan.
Most will agree that sledding is one of the most wonderful winter activities that many of us first experienced when we were children, usually with our parents overseeing that the safety boundaries are not pushed to the limits. From an access perspective, alpine resorts do not allow sledding on the trails of the actual mountain. Some resorts have created small tubing hills, which can be a lot of fun for both the young and old. But at times, tubing can seem like an activity that is a short-lived rush, where gravity simply pulls you down the hill in a somewhat helpless fashion, other than any spinning you set yourself up for at launch. In other words, it lacks skill and control.
Le Massif de Charlevoix’s sled run is a unique attraction in North America that offers friends, families (minimum age is 10) and groups a chance to discover the Mountain from an entirely different angle. Imagine a 7.5 km (4.7 miles) sled run that winds down Mont Liguori on a groomed natural snow-covered trail that is just for sledding, with tight turns, speed and awesome scenery that lasts about 2 hours.
Your day begins by checking-in 30 minutes before the start of the activity at the Le Massif de Charlevoix summit, behind the Snow School. You will be greeted by friendly certified guides, who will provide you with your own “authentic runner sled”, that is made of wood and varnished webbing. After an introductory session that demonstrates how to properly sit, turn and brake while on your sled, you can take some time to practice your control on the nearby bunny hill. Learning how to shift your weight to make your turns while in complete control is achieved by the end of the 3rd practice run, which eases any anxiety about what you have gotten yourself into.
After the practice runs, it is now time to load all the groups’ sleds in the snowcat. What an incredible sight to see how the driver packs up to 50 sleds into the front compartment of the snowcat, before everyone is seated in 1 of the 2 passenger compartments. What an amazing machine! Then, the entire group is transported from the summit to the trailhead of Mont Liguori. Looking around at the members of the group, everyone is warm in the snowcat bundled up in their warm boots and winter outerwear. Their googles/sunglasses are perched onto their helmets (which are mandatory). There is frost on the windows. There is a sense the anticipation in the air; everyone is excited to launch their sledding run, and attack the mountain!
Within minutes, you are sledding – really fast! Everyone is well spaced in order to avoid any collisions, and the guides are barrelling down the track with us. The feeling is exhilirating! It likely compares to what a rally race car driver feels, speeding down a winding track with warning signs for upcoming turns. Trees are wizzing by on either side. The turns are banked, and can be safely navigated with appropriate braking and turning technique. The run seems to go on forever…
After about 4 km (2.5 miles), you begin to slow down and eventually stop at a flat portion of the run. After a short walk with your sled, you make it to the mid-way chalet for a well deserved rest. Hot chicken broth and hot chocolate is served to warm-up. Mmmm. There is a buzz in the air. Everyone is recounting and sharing their experience. Everyone is smiling and feeling like children again.
After the break, another 2 km of pure fun follows before another stop to cross a bridge over a mountain stream. What beautiful scenery! Afterwards, it is the home stretch of the run to the base of Le Massif de Charlevoix. At the base, you get the unique experience of loading up the gondola with your sled, and not skis or a snowboard, for the ride to the summit.
Sadly, it is now time to return the sled to the activity centre. Sledding – Le Massif de Charlevoix style is a must do during your next winter adventure in the beautiful Charlevoix region of Quebec.
Reservations required. Dates of operation are the end of December to mid-April (conditions permitting).