There’s a reason “après” is a French word.
Cole Porter famously wrote, “I love Paris in the springtime.” But had the songwriter been born a few decades later and spent his late-March days on a snowboard in another francophone city, he might have written a similar ode to Quebec.
Perhaps it’s because Quebec’s winters are a notch colder, perhaps it’s because Quebec’s drinking age is a notch lower, or perhaps it’s because les Quebecois place more value on the important things in life (cheese, outdoor fun, wine). But few activities beat spring riding in La Belle Province. And nowhere is that celebration of the outdoors more apparent than on a sunny, soft-snow Saturday at Le Massif de Charlevoix, an Eastern resort owned fittingly by a cofounder of the Cirque du Soleil, Daniel Gauthier.
The resort’s long-running Rossignol Open, which this year took place on March 20, has a reputation as the party of the season. And if you happen to be sharing a quad with one of Massif’s loyal locals, they’ll swear to you it’s the best post-slope socializing someone in snowpants can do all year.
It’s certainly the least pretentious.
At 8:30 a.m. the summit parking lot, located less than an hour’s drive northeast of Quebec City, is filling quick. The only fresh tracks to be had today are groomed ones, but there’s still a rush to start shredding—if only to justify the indulgence that awaits come mid-afternoon. Since the main parking lot sits atop the mountain, one starts the day at Le Massif not with a chairlift ride but with a decent. A decent, if you are fooled by optical illusions, directly into the Saint Lawrence River. Making turns in a come-to-life postcard, you see why people come here for the snow. There will time to hang out later.
The Rossi Open offers an outdoor fashion show, a family-friendly obstacle race, a costume contest (this year’s theme: superheroes), and an après party to end all après parties.
Ah, yes. The après. Mon Dieu.
Around three o’clock in the afternoon, the summit chalet bar expands, swallowing the entire cafeteria. Hunks of pork sizzle and rotate on an outdoor grill. Bartenders smash garbage pails full of ice cubes apart using a mini canoe paddle, assuring frosty refreshments for all. Clusters of skiers in makeup and capes walk past, and there’s a palpable feeling that grown men and women will make a fool of themselves this evening—and that will be perfectly acceptable.
A cover band with a funny (and racist?) name, Les Crackers, will rock till the wheels fall off, and the last $3 shuttle downhill to the quaint bed-and-breakfast village of Baie St-Paul won’t arrive till 1:30 a.m. Guaranteed some revelers will be sleeping in their car tonight, you’re told.
Good idea. They will be able to score nice, spring-soft first tracks come morning. I just hope they remember to air out those boot liners.