The people of Quebec have a passion for the sport of snowmobiling. It was fun for me to travel to the town of Saint Raymond for three exciting days of riding on their comprehensive trail system. It was very easy to fly to Quebec City from my hometown of Thunder Bay. You have your choice of many flights on Air Canada, West jet or Porter. After leaving at 8am I was in the beautiful Quebec City terminal building at 12:30 and ready to begin my adventure.
Annie Martel of the Development Office of Saint Raymond was there to meet me and we began our 40 minute drive east to Saint Raymond with lots of snow evident on the ground. Our first stop was to the Hotel Roquement which features 44 rooms including 17 brand new with an recent addtion, as well as dining area, bar and even a gated compound to store your snowmobile. This hotel caters very much to the snowmobiler and offers packages that feature breakfast and dinner included. This very nice property is located right on the trail that allows you to explore 500 km in Saint Raymond alone!
A few miles away is Quebec’s largest Ski Doo dealer, Dion Moto. They offer 70 2012 and 2013 Ski Doo rental sleds including the GTX, MXZ Renegade and Expedition models featuring 600 ACE and 1200 4Tec engines.You can also get all your clothing if required from boots to helmet.The cost to rent your Ski Doo can range from around $200 to $288 per day and that includes all taxes,trail permit and insurance.There is what they call a franchise deposit of $1500 to $3000 in case of an accident. Dion Moto also has guides available that will travel the whole trip with you and show you the area in style. Another great feature of Dion Moto is they will pick you up at the Quebec City airport and bring you to their location eliminating the need for a rental car.
Dion Moto is a very impressive snowmobile dealer that sells 500 sleds per year including 300 brand new and 200 used Ski Doos. Their market is 60% from the area including Quebec City and 40% from the northern regions. They have 35 employees and operate from a 25,000 square feet building. Very interesting is their building previously was a motel operation. They purchased the building and have made it their own including large showroom, rental area, enclosed sled storage and even a used showroom in the basement. It is really quite impressive and great to see if you are an snowmobile lover. The rental side of the business sees 60% of their business from Quebec and area and 40% European people. The European audience rides during the week and weekends the renters are from Montreal and Quebec. It was fun to talk to Mr. Dion with Annie as my interpreter. “ He likes to ride snowmobiles but doesn’t have the time today. Mr. Dion used to do 5000 km a season but not now. In Saint Raymond the snowmobile is much more popular than ATV because there are more trails for snowmobile,”said Annie Martel. “ We have 1300 trail permit members in Saint Raymond and the trail system works only because of volunteers . We can start the season around December 15th and ride until March 15th. You can also travel a bit more north and ride until April 30th.” The trail permits costs if you bring your own sled is $280 until Dec 8th and $340 after that. We had our 2013 Ski Doo Expedition 600 ACE and were ready to begin our snowmobile adventure the next day.
Our first ride was to Lake Edward, 160 kilometers one way up into the mountains to Demain Lake Edward. The day was bright and sunny, about -9 degrees Celsius and our group of 11 was ready to put on some kilometers! The first thing I noticed riding was the excellent marking of the trails.You had signage everywhere you needed and this makes you feel more comfortable riding in a new area. Of course our guide today was the local Snowmobile Club President who knew the trails like the back of his hand and also had a GPS mounted on his sled! “ We are in Port Neuf Capital National, the 03 region which used to be called Quebec. In Saint Raymond we have 500 kms of trail and the district has 7 or 8 clubs. The snow conditions have been excellent and were open before Christmas time. We can get 250 cm to 400 cm of snow per year,” said Christine Clouthier, General Manager of Development for Saint Raymond- Residential, Commercial and Tourism. “ The trails are groomed 4 times a week and kept it in good condition with 10 volunteers and 4 groomers. In the town the trail is on the old railroad track and in the summer becomes a bicycle trail. We have people coming here to ride from Ontario, Vermont, Maine and New York. They come back year after year because we have lots of snow and they like the conditions. Also they can do some loops and come back to the same hotel every night if that is what they prefer. There is even a storage location for snowmobiles you can rent near our town offices. We have Americans who store their sleds there and come here 5 or 6 times a year, buy a trail pass and ride.”
It was fun to stop along our ride in the club shack that had the wood stove going and made for an interior temperature of 92 degrees Fahrenheit! The club has even installed solar power with batteries here to provide lighting. Our ride continued on a variety of trails some winding as well as more open to our lunch stop at Demain Lake Edward. The ride back was excellent as well with a stop at historic Relais de la Marmite in Portneuf National Park. Operator Clement Tardif, a former radio announcer in Quebec City, served me hot chocolate and introduced a local trapper there taking a break. The trapper showed me some of his recent catch including an otter on his I phone! Todays trapper is high teck! After this stop we hopped back on to our sleds to an ice condition. It has started raining and made the remaining 50 kilometers ride back a little harder to see. Overall we rode 325 kilometers on our trip and this was a great riding day. Rain in January in Quebec is pretty rare but I guess we must expect everything in 2013!
Our next day’s ride was to include an overnight trip to Lac St Jean and the Mont Valin but the rain meant we decided to stay closer to home. It was fun to ride the trails near Saint Raymond and one stop was to an ice fishing area, which is a passion here. It was a carnival atmosphere on the ice and the beaver tail sugary treat was excellent. My last riding day included a ride to Duchnesnay Station Touristique that is a 5 star hotel that used to host the famous ICE Hotel operation in Quebec. Their buffet breakfast is well known and was a real treat to experience. The food options are great in Quebec and the people are very passionate about their food.
My last night’s stay in Saint Raymond would be at the historic La Bastide bed and breakfast.This 110-year-old property features 7 rooms each with their own bathroom and fine dining at it’s best. It is located in the village setting of Saint Raymond and snowmobilers can ride their sleds right to the back door. La Bastide offers snowmobiler packages including breakfast and a 5-course fine dining experience if you choose. It is a fun place to stay and offers a contrast to the traditional hotel setting of today.
My trip to Saint Raymond was excellent and included 600 Kilometers of great snowmobiling. The people here were a highlight of the trip. The small town nature of the area meant everyone you met was very genuine and ready to help at all times. Their goal is to make your time there special! I would like to thank Christine, Dave and Annie for all their help during my visit and I hope to return again one day.