Gorgeous Weekend of Skiing at Gatineau

What a weekend!  We had 30 Beaver Tail members at the hotel, plus five others who were in Ottawa and joined us on the trails and/or for dinner.  (Two people had to drop out due to illness.)  This was the first time time in four years we had spent the weekend in Ottawa and Gatineau Park.  We had been there three other times in recent years, in 2011, 2012 and 2013.  Among those of us who had attended all four times, it was agreed that this year we easily had the best two days of skiing.  Fresh snow, well-groomed trails, and comfortable temperatures made for ideal ski conditions on both Sat and Sun.
Let’s go through highlights.
A few of us arrived early enough to get in a ski (or fat bike!) outing on Friday at Gatineau Park.  It was -2 C with occasional sun.  Violet wax worked great all day.

During the afternoon, we all checked into the Novotel Hotel in downtown Ottawa, located next to the Byward Market.  It’s the same place we stayed the last three times.  It just seems to have the perfect combination of location and quality for us.  Unfortunately, the warmer weather of the last couple of weeks meant we could not go skating on the nearby Rideau canal that day or the rest of the weekend.

At 6:30 pm, those of us who were interested in going out somewhere nearby for supper gathered in the lobby.  Our weekend organizer, Cheryl, had walked around the neighbourhood that afternoon and had made a reservation for 15 at a nice pizzeria.  When we ended up being 26 in the lobby, she called the restaurant and they were able to set aside more spots.  So we all walked two blocks to The Grand Pizzeria and Bar on George St and found three large adjacent tables waiting for us.  It was something of a minor miracle that such a large group of us were able to find a place to eat so close by!  The food was good, the service was efficient and we were out of there by 9 pm.  Good thing too, because many of us were looking to get to bed early to get ready for the next day.


We began gathering for breakfast at 7 am in the hotel’s dining room (nicely redecorated since our last visit).  In between too-frequent visits to the sumptuous breakfast buffet, we took turns studying the large map of the Gatineau trails and discussed where to ski.  The consensus was to depart the hotel at 9 am and meet at one of two locations — P9/P10 for those who wanted a long ski on intermediate trails and and P2 for those who wanted a mix of easy & intermediate trails and also wanted a building where they could wax and use a washroom indoors.  (The P9/P10 locations only have outhouses).

I arrived a bit early at P10.  It is a smaller parking lot and me and four other BTers in two cars got the last three spots.  I texted to the others to instead go to P9, which is 1 km further along the trail and has a larger lot.  Those of us from P10 skied down to meet the others at P9.  There were some delays — Cheryl’s car had been broken into 🙁  — but the P9/P10 group finally met up and began skiing.
The temperature was -4 C and there was a couple of cm of fresh snow.  A cooler violet wax worked well.  Most of us in my group took the parkway up to the number 3 intermediate trail towards the Champlain lookout.  The no. 3 is a pleasantly undulating 4-km long trail through the woods.  We skied by the Champlain lookout and the Western cabin.  We eventually returned on the number 3 trail.  We skied on average between 20-26 km.  After the ski, some people from both the P2 and P9 groups stopped in at the Chelsea Pub.
Some of us gathered before dinner for drinks in the swish bar just off the lobby.  (This bar is also new since our last visit.)  At 7 pm we headed up to a meeting room on the third floor for our private dinner.  It turned out we had to order any drinks or wine we wanted with dinner from the bar and bring them up with us.  The room was not very atmospheric, but it was the perfect size for our group and was very comfortable. Since we had pre-ordered our choices for entrées, mains, and desserts, the service was swift.  Everyone agreed the quality of the food was very good.  Some people returned to the bar for an after-dinner drink, but most were ready for another early night!
We went down for breakfast starting at 7:15 am.  It was shaping up to be another nice day for skiing or just playing tourist.   After a very full day of skiing on Saturday, about half the group decided to visit some of the many attractions Ottawa has to offer.  The rest of us decided to meet at P2 at 9:45 am for another couple of hours of skiing.  It was a bit cooler, about -6 C, so it was a blue wax day.  But the trail conditions were otherwise just as nice as the day before.  A couple of us had good 16-km ski along the intermediate trails 15, 7, 35 and back on the 15.

The Gatineau weekend was a resounding success.  This was in no small part thanks to the work put in over several weeks by Cheryl W, with some key help from Helene C (e.g., the flyer).  Sadly, Helene was one of the two people who had to cancel because she was sick.

For many of us, it was the first time in four years we had the opportunity to ski the trails of Gatineau Park.  We were reminded what a great trail network it is.  I think many of us will be ready to pay a return visit as soon as next year.  Thanks again, Cheryl!