The subject who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures. I admit my attitude was iffy as I stood shivering in flat and bleak Cap-Chat, Que. A handful of other would-be skiers and I waited to board a rumbling chenillette — a Ford van with tank treads instead of wheels — for the final kilometre trek into mountains that seemed at the time to be mere allegations.
Despite having devoured the brochures, I just wasn't ready for my first sight of the amazing Chic-Choc range, which rose at the first turn of the chenillette like an alpine mirage of snow-capped peaks behind the forested hills in the middle distance. In height, they are similar to the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, with 25 mountains over a kilometre high, but more closely clustered, far steeper and almost permanently snow-capped.
I did my best to make amends for my early doubts two days later while relaxing with new-found friends in the spa of the almost embarrassingly luxurious lodge, which sits in magnificent isolation at the centre of a degree panorama of postcard peaks.
Having devoted some decades to the pursuit of wild snow, I declared, in fractured French, that I could not easily recall a better day of powder skiing than the one we had just enjoyed together. Experienced skiers all, they heartily agreed. Mind you, no keen skier will be unhappy in mountains that can produce 90 centimetres of snow over the course of a stormy two-day visit. Nearly a metre — three feet! It's true that such stupendous dumps can also happen out West in places like Rogers Pass.
But there's no staff preheating your lunch cabin at the bottom of the big drops there, or taxiing you en chenillette back to a four-star auberge with an intimidating wine list at the end of a hard day's skiing. Despite the pampered comfort, skiing the Chic-Chocs is as hard as you want it. Led by our uncannily strong sylph of a guide, Laurie Dumas, our group of seven skiers managed an honest two kilometres of vertical travel on our big day: three metre climbs up and three swooping, whooping runs down through trees subtly thinned to make us all feel like heroes, snow to the waist in spots.
And when my companions went back up for another half run, I slogged back to the cozy refuge, happy to contemplate the pleasures that awaited back at the lodge. Such is the sophistication of the Chic-Choc lodge, where everything an outdoor purist could want is served with a winning smile, and every corruption that he or she disdains — the crowds, the noise, the chairlifts and grooming machines, the cheap-jack condos and wind-whipped trails cut like hydro corridors down the mountains — is strictly interdit. Nothing is unique, but I can't think of any other set-up so skillfully designed to suit the particular whims of that tiny minority of skiers who prefer to "earn their turns.
But why stumble about on snowshoes in such superb terrain?
Hinged bindings, soft boots and climbing skins stuck to the bottom of the skis make ascents efficient and enjoyable. Everything locks down cleverly for the descent, which can be accomplished with normal parallel turns.
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Or you can ski telemark-style, the acme of deep-snow elegance. The lodge supplied me with the latest touring equipment, including fat powder skis so easy to use they felt like cheating.
Earn your turns in Quebec's Chic-Chocs mountains
The lodge also supplies each skier with a two-way radio and an electronic beacon to aid rescue in the event of an avalanche. That's a huge plus in my mind. So is the auberge, where the winter guests are all French-speaking Quebeckers and every meal — served at two long refectory tables in proper ski-lodge style — is loud and convivial. This is deep Quebec at its most impressive, thanks in no small part to a provincial government whose generous subvention built the auberge seven years ago when long-standing plans for a private development fell through.
Suffice it to say that if the Auberge de Montagne des Chic-Chocs was a commercial proposition, it wouldn't exist. Vive le dirigisme! I came to these mountains as a jaded skeptic and left bedazzled, almost numbed by the intensity of three days that felt like an entire season. It was a mood that guide Sandra Huot recognized as we crowded into the last down-bound chenillette after our deep-snow romp in the Chic-Chocs. All meals, snacks, outdoor and safety equipment is provided, along with transportation to and from the lodge's office in the village of Cap-Chat.
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The rub is getting to Cap-Chat, which is almost kilometres north and east of Quebec City. Most guests arrive from there on buses chartered by the lodge. She described the get-together as solemn but hopeful, given the ups and downs in the case. The U. Rooney said multiple witnesses reported seeing Americans of varying descriptions driving around in a Jeep. He believes there were two vehicles and two American suspects from Pennsylvania, where the victims were also from. He suggests the slayings were committed in Canada to avoid suspicions at home and stemmed from illicit financial dealings.
The family has argued the case against Coffin was built on circumstantial evidence, with intense political pressure to get a conviction.
go to link Several books and films in English and French have dealt with the case and tips periodically come in about the possible true author of the crime. Reeder says Coffin, who was 40 when he was hanged, was one of 11 children and that only three sisters are alive today. Most of the nieces and nephews know Coffin from others as a quiet, gentle and generous man whose siblings have never given up hope. Postmedia is pleased to bring you a new commenting experience.
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