Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 2:48 pm Posts: 163 Location: New England
DTK - Check Your Pins 2.2 Heading North
Unless we get a late season dump, the storm of February 25th will be remembered as the best of a lackluster season in New England. A few days after maximizing the snow in Vermont we headed north to the Chic Chocs on the Gaspe peninsula of Quebec, Canada. We left early to complete the double-digit windshield hours and follow the shores of the St. Lawrence to the northeast. A night in a cheap motel and a few Tim Hortons stops later we sorted our gear and set off to explore some terrain and ride with Vertigo Adventures, a guiding operation suppossedly light on frills but heavy on vert and powder at the northern end of the Appalachian range.
After some sketchy snow squalls during another few hours of driving we got our first glimpse of the mountains; impressive 4000′ ers with true alpine terrain stretched away into the distance. We had a schedule to keep and a week of earning it ahead of us, and so chose a mellow spot a short distance from the road with an easily lappable skinner.
Though tracked in the main lanes, we found plenty of turns at the periphery and where the trees were “too tight”. When it was time to head out and meet our guide we mobbed a twisty tree run back to the drainage and parking lot. The truck was loaded back up and we headed to a town well off the beaten path where we met Francois and Bruno from Vertigo. After completing the paperwork formalities we followed them to the trailhead where the week’s food and gear were loaded into sleds towed behind snowmobiles.
Looks like the Chics Chocs delivered in a below average East Coast season, sick! I love that area, there are more lines than a lifetime, and a lot of them are slightly "hidden gem" tree runs. I've seen a 3m b.c. coastal range style snowpack there, then I've also seen a 40cm sugar snowpack in December that suddenly gets 1.5m overnight, wild place.
Other places you'll have to hit in coming years:
-The Mt. Albert and Grand Cuve area can be epic if the wind has been kind to the area. This is the most consistently alpine area of the park and wind can be the deciding factor. You'll see some people but out at the Cuve it's pretty deserted.
-Mines Madelaines! This is some of the deepest snow and sickest terrain, and it's all accessible out of one of the more comfy "huts", just reserve early! The approach makes these lines not really practical for a day trip, so the hut has the terrain to itself mostly, hopefully little cat-skiing is going on.
-Lastly, if you're looking to explore deep into the Chic Chocs, at the cost of not riding huge vert every day, there is a large hut system inside the park, with trails interspersed over a huge area. You can tour around back there hut to hut with say a 35L daypack, and a pulk-sled full of food and wine. The huts have wood stoves and get stocked. Back in there you will be alone, and if you go exploring you'll consistently find sick barely explored lines with unique features. From some of the lines in the North-West end of the park, you can see the river on a clear day while riding.
I've found the best month to hit these mountains is February. Dec-Jan can be epic if you're lucky, but can also be too windy and not enough vis or snow. March and April can be fully epic but you're risking heat and rain.
Transform and roll out team
Also you'll have to ride the gully on Hogs Back facing the road in good conditions. That's a good storm day run if the avy conditions are okay and the wind loading is not harsh, you'll be guided right back to the transmission lines and the road.
Transform and roll out team