Cross-country skiing is an ideal winter activity for families. The sport can be learned easily, even by young children and equipment can be rented inexpensively. Best of all, Montreal has many great places for skiing, including my top five: Bois de Liesse Nature Park, Mount Royal Park, Cap St. Jacques, Pointe aux Prairies and Maisonneuve Park/Botanical Gardens.
All these centres offer extensive networks of groomed trails — meaning the cross-country tracks have been prepared in a way that make it easy to glide along with your skis. The length of the various trails is also important because once you’ve learned how to cross-country ski, it can take less than an hour to cover 10 kilometres. Even young children and novices can cover four or five kilometres in an hour.
Our favourite location is Bois de Liesse because it offers trails (with hills) with three levels of difficulty. Also, their equipment rentals feature boots, skis and poles that are usually less than two years old, so no one gets stuck with poorly functioning equipment. Two chalets with fireplaces and snack bars, lots of bird feeders and the possibility of seeing foxes and bunnies on the trail add to the fun, as do snowshoeing trails and a tobogganing hill.
If you have some cross-country ski experience, Mount Royal Park offers a challenge with its long, winding trails and multiple hills and turns, which allow more expert skiers to practice their fancy moves. However, novices and small children might find the going a bit tough. Keep in mind that high winds on the mountain often turn the snow into ice (making skiing much more difficult). Two chalets, a visitor centre, a skating rink and tubing hills provide additional entertainment.
Cap St. Jacques stands out for its extensive network of well-groomed trails as well as its knowledgeable, helpful staff. An inviting chalet with a fireplace and snack bar, sleigh rides and an ecological farm that’s open daily throughout the year have turned this West Island locale into a family favourite.
Those on the east side of town are well served by the long trails at Maisonneuve Park/Botanical Gardens and the Pointe aux Prairies Nature Park. The former has loops designed for different ski levels, plus the advantage of being able to visit the gardens themselves or the nearby Insectarium. Pointe aux Prairies Park also has excellent trails, geared to different levels, as well as two chalets and onsite staff who can answer your questions about equipment (available for rent) and the condition of the trails.
All these great places make it easy to slot in an hour or two of skiing, either on the weekend or when the kids have a day off from school. There’s a sense of adventure when we head out on the trails, even ones we have skied many times before. We never know what magic awaits.
Information on the top 5 parks
Nature Park Fees:
Entrance to the nature parks is free but there is a fee for parking.
Bois de Liesse Nature Park
3555 Douglas-B.-Floreani St., Saint-Laurent
Eighteen kilometres of trails, lessons and equipment rentals
Mount Royal Park
1260 Remembrance Rd., Montreal
Twenty two kilometres of trails, lessons and equipment rentals
Cap St. Jacques
20099 Gouin Blvd.W., Pierrefonds
Thirty two kilometres of trails, activities and equipment rentals
Maisonneuve Park/Botanical Gardens
4601 Sherbrooke St. E., Montreal (main entrance)
Eighteen kilometres of trails
Pointe aux Prairies Nature Park
14905 Sherbrooke St. E., Montreal
Twelve kilometres of trails
Additional spots for skiing
If you want to explore even more trails, check out these four parks:
3400 des Trinitaires Blvd. and la Verendrye Blvd., Lasalle
Three kilometres of trails
Bois de l’île Bizard Nature Park
2115 Chemin du Bord du Lac, Île Bizard/St. Geneviève
Twelve kilometres of trails
150 des Pins St., Ste. Anne de Bellevue • $7 per person to ski – rentals available
Fifteen kilometres of trails
Île de la Visitation Park
2425 Gouin Blvd. E., Montreal
Eight kilometres of trails
This articles was updated November 2019