There’s no doubt that they know how to enjoy winter in Quebec.  Not that they have much choice in the matter! You could get pretty miserable if you lived in Quebec and didn’t know how to enjoy winter. For those of us that live in more temperate climates, it’s well worth an adventure to Quebec in the winter, especially during the three weeks of the Winter Carnival.  Just remember that any temperature is bearable if you have the right gear. I opted for thick snow pants and a ski jacket. My Canadian friends outfitted me with a knit cap with ear flaps, tightly wound scarf, snow mittens, and serious snow boots (not like the wimpy kind we use in Pennsylvania).

To enter the carnival grounds, you will need to purchase an effigy of the king of the carnival, Bonhomme. This lovable character leads parades, goes ice skating with the kids, and shares his ice palace with us.

The carnival is enough to keep you busy for several days, with a myriad of activities to keep the whole family engaged. It takes place in Old Quebec and on the Plains of Abraham. The hills of the Plains are a great location for snow tubing, sledding, and snow rafting, with the hike up the hill being enough to get your blood moving on a cold winter day. You’ll also find an introduction to alpine skiing, and a human table soccer game. Yes, table soccer. The game where players are on metal rods and must move in tandem. You can try it, too.

I was intrigued by the snow sculpture event, which starts in earnest during the first weekend of the carnival. There are many classes of competition, with the artists being grouped by age and nationality.  There are classes for youth, student, Quebec, Canada, and international teams. The competitions build as the carnival progresses, with the international competition the last weekend. The competitors work around the clock, using hand tools to create sculptures from large blocks of compacted snow. I was quite impressed by the creative works of art presented by the Canadian competitors during my visit.

I think this sculpture won its class

My favorite

Not sure what's going on with this bison

It seems the dogs like winter in Quebec, too. Snow is spread on the streets of old Quebec for the dog sled race. I was quite surprised that these athletes were not huskies, but much slimmer and with short hair. Lean and fit, they zipped up the hills while the crowd cheered and tooted their carnival trumpets. Dogs of all shapes and sizes also get to enjoy the dog agility competition on snow.

Dogs racing up the hill

The adventurous adults in the crowd can enjoy ziplining across the Plains of Abraham, “driving” a dog sled, and participating in (or watching) a canoe race across the St. Lawrence River. What – a canoe race on a frozen river? Yep! Well, the condition of the river varies each year, and is likely to be a mix of ice and water. The canoe race must be quite a sight to see. And also sounds quite dangerous if you ask me. After the canoe race, you can always relax in the arctic spa on the carnival grounds. All that’s required is a bathing suit, tuque (head covering), and towel.

Ready for a canoe race?

Any good carnival has a story to tell through its food and drink, and the Quebec Winter Carnival is no exception. I’d rank the sugar shacks and caribou as my favorites. No, not caribou the animal….caribou the drink. Served hot or cold (I prefer hot), caribou is a warming spicy drink made of brandy, vodka, sherry and port. And sugar shacks…imagine stepping up to a board covered with snow, having someone pour warm maple syrup into a depression in the snow, and picking up the maple syrup onto a wooden stick. Just swirl your stick a few times in the syrup, and you have a yummy sweet snack. It might be a little messy, but oh so good! Beaver tails are another delicacy at the Quebec winter carnival. As you might guess, it’s not a real beaver tail, but something like a cinnamon-sugar doughnut that’s fashioned into the shape of a beaver tail. Shame on us for eating like such gluttons…but it sure was fun!

There are many more unique winter activities and attractions in and around Quebec, including the ice hotel, sledding at Montmorency Falls, snow tubing at Valcatier Village, and dog sledding, snowmobiling, and sleigh rides at Pourvoirie du Lac-Beauport.

The 2011 winter carnival takes place January 28 to February 13.

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4 Comments on Quebec Winter Carnival

  1. Reading this does cool me off a bit from this heat wave! Adding it to my “must-do” list.

  2. Mary says:

    I love funnel cakes! I used to make them all the time when I was a teenager (a long time ago). I like getting them when I go to the fairs in Lancaster County (my hometown). I think the dough is about the same. The main difference is that beaver tails are covered in cinnamon-sugar, while funnel cakes are dusted with powdered sugar. Yum!

  3. Erica says:

    I think beaver tails are the equivalent of funnel cakes in the southern US?

    I may be wrong.

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