Annual, historic cross-country skiing tour in Québec. It is expensive but well-organized services are provided.
The Canadian Ski Marathon (CSM) is a not-for-profit organization that has been putting on the tour for 52 years. In 2018 it ran from Mont-Tremblant to Montebello on day one, and to Lachute on the second day, for a total of 160 km. Over 425 private landowners allowed the use of their property for the event, simply with a handshake agreement. There are 10 sections in total, and a participant who completes them all is deemed a Coureur des Bois (CdB). There are three levels to the CdB: first is completing the trail (Bronze), then carrying a minimum of 5 kg (Silver), and finally, Gold, during which skiers carry their camping gear throughout the course to spend the night at Gold Camp in Montebello.
I signed up for CdB Bronze with the early bird discount in November before I even tried classic cross-country skiing. I was optimistic, however I only ended up skiing a few times and for short distances before the event! As it turns out, I suck. I did not pick up the movements like I hoped. In fact, I barely move! Fortunately, registering as a CdB allowed me to start early (I needed it) and I ended up completing 3 sections on the Saturday (43.5 km) and 2 sections on Sunday (32.7 km). Since I was so slow, I had the beautiful trail to myself during most of the day. Signing up early, not much information was available, and so here is the 2018 Skier’s Guide for your planning purposes.
It is a wonderful event. You are motivated to do as many sections as you can because they are unique, and you know that it will be impossible to do the trail the next weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed the scenery, the novelty of skiing over lakes, and the people!
I stayed in the Papineauville so-called dorm, Louis-Joseph Papineau high school, on Friday and Saturday nights. The included meals are standard cafeteria food with adequate serving sizes and options. Keep in mind that you are eating a large breakfast at 3:30 am for the CdB! There is also a Metro grocery store across the street. Private showers are available.
CdB participants sleep in the gymnasium. Classrooms are apparently reserved by ski clubs. Besides a sleeping bag, air mattress, and pillow, some folks brought a cot, a drying rack or rope for their clothing, boot dryers, battery packs, an extension cord, ear plugs, and an eye mask. On Sunday, participants’ luggage is transported to Lachute.
An option for tourers who live in Ottawa or within 1 hour from Papineauville is to drive to Papineauville on both mornings of the event to catch a shuttle bus. A group did this and said they enjoyed the comfort of their own bed, doing laundry, and cooking.
While I am just starting out at classic cross-country skiing, I am not sure if I will ever be excellent at it. I may not be motivated enough to put time into becoming a Coureur des Bois. I will give it a few years and see if the sport grows on me!