I so often find that downhill skiing disappoints—you pay hundreds of dollars to wait in massive lines, be carried to the top of a mountain, and then plopped down among dozens of families, fighting couples, and overconfident first-timers barreling down slopes they shouldn’t be on. I will admit, my lack of coordination may also play into my bitter attitude. No doubt, it’s fun, but the cost, wait time, and crowds are just not my vibe. Cross-country, on the other hand, is much more affordable and accessible, and is a great form of winter exercise. It also provides a true escape not too far from the city: You glide through snow-covered trees, people few and far between, at whatever pace you desire. You can even choose to ski into a cabin or do some winter camping if you’re feeling ambitious. So, without further ado, here are three spots to get out cross-country skiing in and around Montreal this winter.
Distance from campus: Five minutes by foot
Cost of entry: Free
Cost of ski rental: $16.50 for one hour, $22.50 for three hours
Although often busy, Mont-Royal boasts an impressive 16 kilometres of groomed cross-country ski trails right next to campus. The convenience of the mountain can’t be overstated—it’s easy to go skiing and get an hour or two of exercise in without having to rent a car and make it a whole-day activity. Les amis de la montagne offers rentals and courses for those who are interested.
Distance from campus: 35 minutes by car
Cost of entry for students: $14.52 for the day or $10.70 after 3 p.m.
Cost of ski rental: $30.50 for the day
*A bundle of entry and ski rental is available for $40.50 for students
With 35 kilometres of cross-country trails, Mont-Saint-Bruno offers a peaceful escape not too far from the city. Lakes and old buildings dot the park, and two warming huts are available for those who need a break. Equipment is available for rent but must be reserved at least 24 hours in advance, making this park a bit harder to visit on a whim. A fun bonus is that Mont-Saint-Bruno allows nighttime skiing from Wednesday to Friday between Jan. 3 and March 8—and tickets are just $5.78 for students!
Distance from campus: 40 minutes by car or one hour and 40 minutes by public transport
Cost of entry for students: $14 on weekdays, $16 on weekends
Cost of ski rental: Not available
This Laval spot claims to be one of the largest ski clubs in Quebec and offers a web of trails that are groomed by volunteers and weave through agricultural land. Students get a discounted rate on day and season passes, but there are unfortunately no equipment rentals available.
I will leave you with some final, unsolicited advice:
- Make sure to always check the ski conditions before you get your hopes up so you aren’t disappointed. Sites usually rank the conditions on a scale of “excellent” to “don’t come, the trails are closed,” which is info you definitely want before you leave the house.
- I’d skip the parks in Montreal that only have about three kilometres of ski trails. Even if you’re a beginner, they likely won’t have enough trails for you to really get into the swing of things, and they might not rent skis.
- Compare prices! Being a student can mean having a tight budget, but non-profits, community organizations, and student groups can be great ways to go cross-country skiing for cheap (the McGill Outdoors Club, for example, is a great resource that offers equipment rentals and group trips at a low cost).
- Finally, remember to make time for relaxation as the semester ramps up. It doesn’t have to be cross-country skiing, but it’s important to unplug and do something you find truly enjoyable and calming so that you don’t get too caught up in the hustle and bustle of school and forget to live your life.