Few places in North America evoke Europe as authentically as Quebec City. Founded in 1608 by French explorer Samuel de Champlain, this 400-year-old walled city is France without jetlag, Europe without the euro. Cheek-by-jowl stone buildings line narrow streets. Horse-drawn carriages clip-clop along. Street entertainers jockey for attention.
It would be easy to spend an entire weekend browsing city shops or simply eating, dipping into frommageries and bistros, but Mont-Sainte-Anne and Stoneham—a half-hour away—beckon, making Quebec City a fine base for a weekend of skiing with a dash of Old World charm.
Aim for an early afternoon arrival. For the classic Quebec experience, check into the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, the iconic castle hotel topping the cliffs that divide Upper and Lower Ville (doubles from $199; fairmont.com, 800-441-1414). Far more intimate is Auberge Saint-Antoine, a chic, sophisticated Relais & Chateau boutique hotel in Lower Ville’s Old Port neighborhood (doubles from $199; st-antoine.com, 888-692-2211).
Steep roads, steeper stairways and a funky, cliff-scaling funicular connect Upper Ville with waterfront Lower Ville. Get your bearings and a dose of history with a carriage ride through Upper Ville. After cocktails overlooking the St. Lawrence in the Frontenac’s Bar St. Laurent, continue the romance with dinner at Le Café St.-Malo, a cozy French bistro. The mussel soup alone is worth the journey (418-692-2004). Play into the wee hours along the Grand Allée, Quebec’s own Champs Élysées.
Head east, passing the frozen Montmorency Falls—the 272-foot drop is longer than Niagara. Up ahead, Mont-Sainte-Anne’s trail-ribboned bulk rises out of the icy St. Lawrence. Impressive, yes, but Mont-Sainte-Anne delivers even more than what’s visible from the highway.
Ride the gondola to the summit, then drop into the hidden backside for breakfast crepes at North Side Lodge. The terrain is mostly blue, with islands of novice glades. Although the runs are relatively short, the snow tends to be lighter here due to less exposure to both sun and wind-driven river moisture. Two grin-producing glades, La Sidney-Dawes and La Vital-Roy—the former a bit steeper and longer—drop off L’Escapade.
Adjacent to the North Side is the well-concealed, never crowded and often wild West Side. Trails vary from blue to black depending on how they’re groomed. The only return is via T-bar or a skate-and-pole traverse to the North Side base.
Far more options exist on Anne’s expansive South Side, where the terrain ranges from lazy greens on the eastern edge to the challenging Black Forest glades on the western slope. Heading east off the gondola, the perimeter greens and super-highway blues roll from summit to base. Seek out the resort’s original trail, La Pionnière, a rollicking, rarely groomed black beauty tucked between the gondola and Les Ilots glade.
An especially sweet choice is La Prichard trail on the gentle eastern shoulder. Lumberjacks manning a trailside sugar shack sell sugar-on-snow, a local taffylike treat made from maple syrup poured over snow, then rolled around a popsicle stick.
Descend to the base for an early lunch at Le Brez—the fondue is gut-warming and fabulous—to fortify you for an all-out assault on Anne’s blacks. From the summit, ski out La Crête and choose your poison. The single- and double-diamonds dropping down the face earn their designations. Experts can stay high and concentrate runs on the double and triple chairs, or cruise to the gondola on La Crête, a periphery trail with spectacular views downriver to the city. About the gondola: Lines usually move quickly, but avoid it during the post-lunch rush.
En route back to the city, stop at the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre shrine, renowned for its healing powers. If time permits, visit the Museum of Civilization for a quick immersion into Quebec’s history (mcq.org; 418-643-2158).
Dine at Panache, the Auberge Saint-Antoine’s restaurant. Executive chef François Blais reinterprets traditional French-Canadian fare with nouveau flair and seasonal ingredients. Far less fussy (or pricey) is le Café du Clocher Penché, a boisterous bistro in the awakening Saint-Roch quarter (418-640-0597).
Although small when compared with Anne, Stoneham, a sun-soaked, wind-resistant pocket in the mountains, is a pistol. It’s known for its easygoing attitude (hot tubs on the base lodge deck), and it skis bigger than you’d think.
Three connected peaks circle a central parking lot and petite village. A slow
double and two faster T-bars climb the first peak, where glory seekers showboat in the monster halfpipe and terrain park. Rip down aptly named Rock ’n’ Roll to the high-speed quad, which ascends the middle peak. Most choices here are also accessible from one of the neighboring summits, but a notable exception is La Sapinniere, which snakes through trees and gullies. Keep skier’s left for Grand Virée, a runout to the quad serving the bonanza of blacks, bumps and take-no-prisoners glades on the final peak.
When you’re ready for lunch, Le Feu Follet, the restaurant in the base lodge, serves poutine, that local artery-clogging delicacy of French fries smothered with gravy and cheese curds. Only here, it’s gourmet poutine, made with chevre, foie gras and a port demi-glace.
Head out for a few more runs before returning to the city for an equally decadent hot chocolate from Érico Chocolate Museum (chocomusee.com; 418-524- 2122). Across the street, the city’s oldest grocery, Moisan Market (jamoisan.com; 418-692-2517), is jam-packed with Quebec specialties, from artisan cheeses and house-made patés to tortierres and pizzas—delicious souvenirs for nibbling on the way home.
MORE INFO>>> Quebec City, Que.
Mont-Sainte-Anne: 465 skiable acres; 2,050 vertical feet; 160 annual inches; 66 trails; 13 lifts. Lift tickets: $57; youth (13–17) $44; juniors (7–12) $31 and seniors (65-plus) $47
Stoneham: 326 skiable acres; 1,380 vertical feet; 140 annual inches; 32 trails; 8 lifts. Lift tickets: $47; youth (13–17) $35; juniors (ages 7–12) $20 and seniors (65-plus) $38
Getting There: Fly into Quebec City’s Jean Lesage Airport, or drive 568 miles from New York City: From the Quebec border, take Route 15 north to Route 30 east to Route 20 east to Route 73 north to Route 440 east into Quebec City.
Info: http://mont-sainte-anne.com/2/ target=_blank>mont-sainte-anne.com; 888-827-4579. http://ski-stoneham.com/3/ target=_blank>ski-stoneham.com; 800-463-6888