Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Warming up to winter

Quebec festivals celebrate ICE AND SNOW

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Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver.

So let's celebrate it.

Quebec City has perhaps the best-known winter celebration, but many other towns and cities within driving distance of Montreal put on fun outdoor bashes.

Quebec City

The 58th annual Carnaval de Quebec runs from Jan. 27 to Feb. 12.

The 17-day event features dozens of events and attractions. Drop in for a day, a few days or make it a week.

Among the highlights are two night parades (Feb. 4 and 11), when 100,000 people line the streets. There are outdoor dance parties on Friday and Saturday nights, and an international snow-sculpture competition.

The kids will enjoy sugar-shack treats, skating on the outdoor rink in Place d'Youville and snow tubing and ice sliding on the Plains of Abraham.

You can watch an ice canoe race across the St. Lawrence River, dog sled races, and a bain de neige (a sort of polar bear run, but instead of jumping in frigid water, 75 brave participants in bathing suits roll around in the snow).

If you want to spend a night or two, you can join the brave souls who camp on the Plains of Abraham (for info and reservations, visit horizon5.ca or call 877-406-0705).

Looking for less extreme accommodations? Several big hotels are in or near Old Quebec. For hotel options, visit quebecregion.com

Book early. Last year, the event attracted 650,000 visitors, half of them from out of town.

Buying a plastic Bonhomme Carnaval "effigy" ($13 each) gives you access to most activities at the carnival's two main sites for the entire event. For many events, the effigy is mandatory for adults and for children over eight years of age. They're available at many Quebec City stores.

There's a family discount -- get four effigies for $40; the package is available online or at Metro, Couche-Tard and Uniprix stories in Quebec City.

Quebec City is about 250 kilometres northeast of Montreal. To get there, take Highway 20.

Info: carnaval.qc.ca, 418-626-3716.

Ste. Agathe des Monts

Ste. Agathe's annual Festi-Neige runs every weekend until March 10, with activities on or adjacent to Lac des Sables.

You can skate along a path that's lit up at night, borrow a crazy carpet for a ride down a hill or take a walk along a trail around the lake.

Every weekend has a different theme, with activities including horse races (Jan. 14-15), ice fishing (Jan. 28-29), winter camping (Feb. 4-5) and ice-sculpting and fireworks (Feb. 25-26).

All activities are free.

Ste. Agathe is about 100 km northwest of Montreal. To get there, take Highway 15.

Info: sainte-agathe.org, 888-326-0457.

Terrebonne

The Carnaval Glisse et Glace takes place on Jan. 28-29 and Feb. 4-5.

Activities are on or adjacent to the Ile des Moulins. The small island between Laval and Terrebonne is home to several mills built in the 1700s and 1800s.

Carnival activities include a natural ice rink near the Ile des Moulins lock. During the evening, visitors skate to music and can have a warm drink at the rinkside outdoor bar.

This year's programming will be announced next week. Last year, events included sleigh rides, fireworks and concerts. Terrebonne is about 30 km north of downtown Montreal. To get there, take Hwy. 25.

Info: iledesmoulins.com or 450-471-0619.

St. Placide

Kites aren't an obvious choice for a winter festival theme in Quebec, but St. Placide, on the banks of Lac des Deux Montagnes, is making a go of it. The Festi-Vent sur Glace, this year on Feb. 18-19, attracts about 20,000 visitors every year.

Events take place at Adelaide-Paquette Park and on Lac des Deux Montagnes.

You can watch giant floating inflatables and acrobatic kite demonstrations or bring your own kite and fly it in an open area. Professionals will put on demonstrations of "snow-kiting" -- gliding and sliding on skis or snowboards pulled by large kites.

Visitors can learn how to make a kite, take in some snow sculpting and take part in snow tubing.

It's free for those 13 years old and younger. For others, it's $8 per person for a pass that covers both days.

St. Placide is about 75 km west of Montreal. To get there, take Hwy. 13 to the 640 to the 344.

Info: festi-vent.com or 450 258-4517.

-- Postmedia News

A few other events of interest:

-- Fete des neiges de Montreal takes place at Parc Jean-Drapeau (weekends to Feb. 5), with visitors taking part in zip-lining, tube sliding and dogsledding, among other things. Info: parcjeandrapeau.com, 514-872-6120.

-- Festi-Glace de la riviere L'Assomption (Feb. 3-5, 11-12) is a celebration of skating that also features fireworks, outdoor concerts and an ice-sculpture competition. Info: festiglace.ca, 450-755-1651.

-- Winterlude in Ottawa and Gatineau (Feb. 3-20) features snow slides, a snow maze and ice sculptures, among other things. Info: canadascapital.gc.ca, 800-465-1867.

-- Cineglace Oka (Feb. 4) features snow sculptures, snow tubing and outdoor movies (bring your own chairs). Info: municipalite.oka.qc.ca, 450-479-8333.

-- J'Aime Ste. Adele (Feb. 10-12) focuses on fine food, art and... an ice-climbing competition, all in a Laurentian setting. Info: jmsteadele.com, 450-745-3161.

-- Carnaval de Sherbrooke (Feb. 25-27) presents snow sculptures, dog sleds and children's activities spread over seven locations. Info: carnavaldesherbrooke.com, 819-575-9108

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 28, 2012 D5

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