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09 Aug, Tuesday
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Montreal Families

Snow much fun at these outdoor centres

No matter what time of the year you decide to visit, Quebec’s nature parks and outdoor centres offer incredible recreational opportunities.

Whether you’re a seasoned cross-country skier/snowshoer/winter biker or looking to try something new with the kids, our cold-weather months are a great time to bundle up and enjoy the great outdoors. If you’re longing to get out of the city and up for trying a new spot, check out some of these outdoor spaces around Montreal that offer various sporting options.

Saint-Zotique Beach (105 81st Avenue, Saint-Zotique)

If you’re ready to take your snowy hikes to the next level, don a pair of snowshoes and hit the beach. Yup, even in winter! Located on the St. Lawrence River, the site and its adjoining forest offer five kilometres of trails to walk, snowshoe, fat bike, or cross-country ski (on untraced trails and you must have your own ski equipment).

Fat bikes (for 12 years old and up) can be rented for $10/hour, snowshoes are $4/hour for adults, and $3/hour for children. Due to health measures, you must provide your own bicycle helmet for cycling. Rentals are available Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Weekends from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Rentals are by reservation only done by email or by phone at plage@st-zotique.com or 450-267-3003. Those with their own equipment can visit at any time. Access to the site and parking is free.

For more details and updates about snow conditions or events, check out the Facebook page at facebook.com/PlagedeSaintZotique

Le Havre Familial (1085, rang du Havre Familial, Sainte-Béatrix)

Located in the Lanaudière region, Le Havre Familial is a four-season outdoor centre where you can rent chalets, or visit just for the day. Winter activities include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skating, tubing, broomball/hockey, and an obstacle course through the forest. Wander the 1.4 kilometre Sentier de la sagesse, which runs along Lac Claire or try the challenging 5.8 kilometres around Lac Beaupré. Whiz down one of two tube sliding lanes, enjoy the ice rink on Lac Claire, traverse nine kilometres of snowshoe trails, or explore the 30 kilometres of ski trails. On Saturdays, those over 12 can do an initiation to ice climbing, which is supervised activity with an additional charge.

Site access fees are $14 for adults and children and 12 and over, and $10 for children 4 to 11 (free for children 3 and under). Note: you must bring your skates and cross-country skis, but tubes and snowshoes are lent free of charge.

Accessible indoor locations are the Rendez-vous where you can change, eat, rest, and use the washrooms, and the dining room in the Bel-Air Pavilion (weekends only) where you can purchase snacks or lunch. Seasonal outdoor activities are accessible every day from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Because of COVID, places are limited and reservations are recommended.

For all information, call 1-888-883-2271 or visit havrefamilial.com

Saint-Eustache Nature Park (Saint-Eustache)

Breathe in all that fresh air while you explore this beautiful 65 hectare nature park north-west of Montreal. There are many cross-country ski and walking/snowshoe trails geared to the whole family. Observe some of the 127 species of birds that have been seen in the park, or have an outdoor adventure while taking part in the Reading Rally on the sentier de l’écureuil. Have fun spotting and solving 12 picture riddles created from children’s literature characters. Solutions are found under the questions. The rally is available until February 17, 2022, and takes about one hour to complete. No reservations or equipment required.

Watch for updates as many improvements to the park are planned in the coming years and include the addition of five kilometres of hiking trails, a Shinrin Yoku trail (sylvotherapy), additions to the snowshoe and skiing trails, a skating trail, obstacle course, picnic areas, and a reception chalet and parking. Whew!

Dogs are allowed on the walking and snowshoeing trails but must be kept on a leash at all times. The park is open year-round from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. and access is free for all.

For more information visit saint-eustache.ca and find the trail map here

Le Groupe Plein Air Terrebonne (1150 côte Boisée, Terrebonne)

A ski hill in Terrebonne? Who knew! Well, apparently quite a few because sports enthusiasts have been enjoying the affordable and friendly activities at this outdoor centre for more than 30 years. A non-profit organization, GPAT’s year-round activities are aimed at all ages. In winter, visitors can learn to downhill ski, snowboard, cross-country ski, or spend a day zipping down the hill on a tube.

The centre offers downhill skiing and snowboarding trails, a magic carpet, a small hill for young children and beginners, and tubing lanes with a mechanical return back to the top. The rental centre has a full range of equipment for all sizes including alpine skis, snowboards, and helmets.

Tickets are sold in four-hour blocks and it is highly recommended to book in advance to guarantee a place. For reservations, visit the website at gpat.ca and watch the Facebook page before travelling to check snow conditions.

For even more outdoor fun, in collaboration with the City of Terrebonne, the GPAT also runs the nearby TransTerrebonne that has 20 kilometres of groomed cross-country ski trails, and trails where you can fat bike or snowshoe.

Visit their website for more details, maps, and rental info.

Gai-Luron (2155 montée Sainte-Thérèse, Saint-Jérôme)

A quick jaunt up Highway 15 brings you to this gorgeous outdoor centre in the Laurentians where you can choose from a variety of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails, and travel three different levels of fat bike trails. An outdoor equipment shop offers rentals, a waxing room, and a restaurant (currently closed due to COVID), and two heated lodges in the forest welcome you for a break.

The site is open Monday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Reservations are needed to rent a fat bike, but are not for snowshoes or skis — which are available for those as young as 5.

Visit the website at skigailuron.ca for info and to rent equipment, and follow their Facebook page for updates and trail conditions.

Centre de ski de fond Gai-Luron from Anick Gauthier on Vimeo.

Club de golf Les Cèdres (669 Coupland, Granby)

The ski and snowshoe club at this beautiful golf club in the Eastern Townships has offered 18 kilometres of cross-country and snowshoeing trails since 2008. Eleven seasons later, there are now 31 kilometres of trails and eight different winter sports that appeal to outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and interests. During snowy months, you can try out classic or skate style cross-country skiing, skijoring with your dog, kicksledding, canicross (again, with your furry friends), snowshoeing, fat biking, and hiking.

A variety of adult and child-sized gear is available for rent and daily access fees depend on the chosen activity. Note that to preserve the grounds, canicross and kicksledding are only available at temperatures of -6 C or colder.

Depending on COVID measures, you may be able to warm up and grab a hot chocolate or soup inside the heated pavillion.

Visit en.golflescedres.com/sports-d-hiver for full details and follow the Facebook page for up-to-date conditions.

Fernand-Seguin Ecological Centre (257 Fernand-Seguin St., Chateauguay)

This vast centre welcomes thousands of outdoor enthusiasts in winter, who come to toboggan, cross-country ski, walk, and feed the birds. Hiking trails are accessible year-round. In winter, there is 15 kilometres of cross-country ski trails, four kilometres of snowshoeing, and two kilometres of walking paths in addition to a hill with sledding. Ski trail number one is ideal for families wishing to introduce their children to cross-country skiing, and as a partner with La Petite Expé du Grand Défi Pierre Lavoie, the site offers free cross-country ski and snowshoe equipment rental for children 12 and under.

New this year is an improved sledding hill where a thick coating of snow has been blown to ensure fun and safe sliding throughout the winter. In addition, tubes are loaned free of charge to families but available in limited quantities and on a first come. first served basis. People can  bring their own sleds (but metal ones and snowracers are prohibited). The hill is supervised and lit on Fridays and Saturdays until 9 p.m. (closed at 5 p.m. Sunday to Thursday). Access to the  site is free.

All the details on the activities and services offered are available at cefseguin.com. Also, watch for special events like the upcoming Family Torchlight Walk.

Related reading:

Skating, snowshoeing, and mystery in N.D.I.P

Libraries loan out winter equipment

Families can skate on one of many trails

How to get kids interested in cross-country skiing

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