« Autoneige» tour in Portneuf!
Since 22 years, the Festival Neige en Fête de Saint-Raymond makes us relive the fabulous history of snowmobile. Some will even say that this is the most important gathering of snow vehicles and antique snowmobiles in the province. Personally, it is simply one of my favorite activities that I eagerly expect each year!
In 1936, Joseph-Armand Bombardier creates the first tracked vehicle for travelling over snow, the « autoneige ». This B7 model, Bombardier 7 passengers, will be produced to facilitate motorized traffic in winter. In 1941, 12 passengers can take advantage of this type of vehicle in the B12 model. Over the years, the snow vehicle gets so popular that it is used for different purposes such as freight transport, mail delivery, ambulance, army, etc. Then, the C-18 model is introduced on the market. Firstly designed for 18 passengers, this snow vehicle will be mostly used for school transportation services. An average of 25 students will get aboard. In 1948, the snow-removal policy for rural roads begins. Thus, Mr Bombardier develops new markets. After manufacturing many other snow-going vehicles for industrial purposes between 1949 and 1958, he will innovate even more with the Ski-Doo snowmobile that will evolve until it becomes the snowmobile of today.
Even if the B12 is the most common model seen today, many other models are also present at the Festival Neige en Fête.
Back in the past
To be part of the Festival Neige en Fête represents a true return in the 1950’s, when it was usual for families to ride downtown in snow vehicles. Firstly, the Club Motoneige St-Raymond allows the participants to ride on their trails for the tours organized all weekend long. Of course, many volunteers take care of the safety of the other snowmobilers at that time. The town of Saint-Raymond also helps making this event wonderful by authorizing snow covering downtown where will be held the parade and family activities on Sunday.
On Friday, a moonlight ride of about 20 kilometers reaches the local ski station for a bonfire. The torchlit descent and fireworks make this evening unforgettable each year.
On Saturday, snow vehicle riders from all over the Province of Québec fully enjoy the trails during a ride of over 80 kilometers in the region of Portneuf. Owners of antique snowmobiles are not forgotten as a circuit of 65 kilometers is also prepared for them. This year, 51 « autoneiges» and about 30 antique snowmobiles took part of these rides.
Finally, on Sunday, all residents of the Portneuf region are invited to attend the celebrations in the village to discover this page of Québec history. This impressive cortege combined with the beautiful downtown of Saint-Raymond makes the experience even more unique year after year. Tourists will also like the affordable tours of snow vehicles.
Saint-Raymond is a town of about 10 000 residents located 45 minutes west of Québec City, towards Trois-Rivières. From Québec, you take trail #3, then Trans-Québec #73 and trail #23 west. If you plan to be there on only one day, we recommend Sunday activities because on Saturday, participants are gone snowmobiling. Usually, the event is held on the second weekend of February. For a whole weekend, make sure to book your stay early because many participants are outsiders. Please take a few minutes to read the following article presenting the wide range of snowmobile circuits you can discover during your stay : http://sledmagazine.com/actions/pagedocId=9601&ctx=&=A%20tour%20in%20Portneuf!%20%E2%80%93%20Part%20I&request_locale=en
To conclude, I would like to congratulate all the volunteers dedicated to the festival and the president, Mr Denys Tremblay, who all work so hard each year to make this event a success.
I am also grateful to my cousin, Jérome Cloutier, former president of the festival and owner of a B12. He is the one who made me discover this passion and who invites me to experience it every winter.
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Credits photos : Isabelle Naud photographe