Warrior Sport: Skiing Mont Royal
Cross-country skiing is an excellent sport for Montrealers to engage in while combating the cold weather from the north, and the blistering winds from the St. Lawrence. Many citizens who live in snowy climates can succumb to a host of ailments, both physical and mental due to inactivity or seasonal depression. Finding an enjoyable outdoor winter activity in order to exercise is a beneficial way to stay positive during the winter. After all, it's usually very sunny and bright, but the weather can be freezing cold. Physically, cross-country skiing requires some of the highest levels of endurance in the world of sports, as people utilize more muscles all over their bodies while participating than other sports (Gaskill 1). In Montreal, the park on Mont Royal in the best area for cross-country skiing in the winter, due to its location, accessibility and in terms of services provided.
Montreal is certainly set up for cross-country skiing, and supports students and those who lack personal transport in particular; there are numerous parks around the island that support the winter sport. The most prominent of the parks is undoubtedly Parc Mont Royal. It is a park of great historical importance for Montreal, after all, it is where the name of the city comes from (Les Amis de la Montagne). Due to its geography, the sight of the park is inescapable, no matter where one is within Montreal. In addition to the height of Mont Royal, two of Montreal most iconic structures are also visible, high above the skyline, on the mountain from most areas on both sides of the mountain: the illuminated cross established by the Society of Saint John Baptiste (Les Amis de la Montagne); and the most outstanding structure of Saint John Baptiste's legacy: Saint Joseph's Oratory (L'Oratoire). Not only is it the most prominent park in the city, it is also the best park in the city for cross-country skiing, particularly if you are a student. Location wise, the park is situated at a central location in Montreal, and is easily accessible by public transit; some of the underground metro station runs very close to the park, chief among these is the Mont Royal station. Additionally, the bus route 11 Montagne Est will also get you to the park (STM). Skiing equipment can be brought on public transit the majority of the time; restriction dates due to large events can be found on the STM website (STM). Another aspect which makes Mont Royal so worthwhile is indeed the aforementioned geography. The varied landscape of the park makes it a suitable location for beginner and seasoned skiers, as it has both meadow-like plateaus and steep rises and falls. Mont Royal is a premiere cross-skiing location in Montreal as it is located in a central position highly accessible by public transit and it offers up several different difficulties of trails, making it an appropriate destination for all types of skiers in the city.
In North America cross-country skiing has only been gaining popularity since the 1960's (Caldwell 6). This is interesting as this coincides with the dates that Mont Royal went through an overhaul. In 1960, land scape architect Clarke and Rapuano, the same team that designed Central Park in New York City, went to work creating a new plan for the park (Les Amis de la Montagne). The infrastructure that they designed was certainly suitable for skiing in the winter. The Park is extremely well lit, and there is a strong network of trails in both open and treed areas.
Mont Royal is, of course, not the only location in the city for skiing. It is one park of many; the abundance of parks is what truly makes Montreal excellent for cross-country skiing. Some of the other parks include Bois-de-I'lle-Bizard, Boise-de-Liesse, Cap St-Jaques, Ile-de-la-Visitation , and Point-aux Prairies, Angrignon and Maisoneuve as well as the Saint-Michel Environment Complex (Ville de Montreal). The parks cover a truly expansive area of the city, yet none are as geographically varied or convenient as Mont Royal.
Despite the abundance of locations to cross-country ski in Montreal, in order to actually participate in the sport, one does actually have to own a pair of skis. Like with most equipment based sports, acquiring the skis is only the beginning; skis, poles, boots, waxes, scrapers and a variety of outer wear are all required in order to perform properly. One store that stands out for outer wear and equipment is Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC); MEC caters not only to skiers, but to essentially anyone who enjoys the outdoor possibilities that Canada has to offer, including hikers, mountain climbers, cyclists, kayakers (MEC). Another store that caters to cross-country skiers is Le Yeti (Le Yeti). The main difference between MEC and other retailers is that they have considerably lower prices on clothing and equipment as they are a co-op; in order to become a lifetime member with MEC, there is a $5.00 cost (MEC).
Cross-country skiing is a rewarding activity, with numerous health benefits; however, it is a sport that does require a lot of equipment, which potentially can get very expensive. A suitable way to try out skiing is to rent equipment. Several of the parks around Mont Royal provide rentals, Mont Royal being one of them (Out There). Other parks that provide rentals are Bois-de-I'lle-Bizard, Boise-de-Liesse, Cap St-Jaques, Ile-de-la-Visitation , and Point-aux Prairies (Ville de Montreal). If, after trying out rental equipment, cross-country skiing turns out to be a sport worth investing in, there are some very cost effective ways to acquire one's own equipment. Perhaps the best place to obtain cheaper equipment is at an annual ski swap. Ski swaps are convention style events with promotions from ski related companies, local ski resorts and, most importantly, they are an excellent opportunity to find used equipment. In Montreal, the annual ski swap is hosted by the Canadian Ski Patrol System Eastern Township; the swap takes place in St. Lambert, located directly south of Montreal across the St. Lawrence River (CSPS).
A Sport of Many Benefits
The distinctive sound of finely waxed skis gliding over the frozen landscape is truly one of the rewarding sensory aspects of getting active and warm during the blistering cold of the Montreal winter. There are many ways to stay warm and exercise in the winter, and cross-country skiing is one of the best options in Montreal. The city has many areas in order to participate, and a public transit system that supports transporting equipment; which is a particularly handy aspect for students who may lack personal transport. The best park the city has to offer is Mont Royal as it is in a convenient location, has a variety of skill levels and a well maintained infrastructure for the sport.
Les Amis de le Montagne. Outdoor Activities. 2010. 13 Oct. 2010 <http://www.lemontroyal.qc.ca/fr/activites-et-services/activites-de-plein-air.sn>.
Canadian Ski Patrol System Eastern Townships Zone. Ski Swap- CSPS Eastern Township Zone. 2010. 15 Oct. 2010 <http://www.pcsqestrie.com/?page=bazar&langue=en>.
Gaskill, Steven E. Fitness Cross-Country Skiing. Windsor: Human Kinetics, 1998.
Mountain Equipment Co-op. Cross-Country Skis (Nordic Skis). 2010. 15 Oct. 2010. <http://www.mec.ca/Main/content_text.jsp?FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374302887206>.
L'Oratoire St-Joseph du Mont Royal. Home. 2010. 26 Oct. 2010. <http://www.saintjoseph.org/fr_1001_index.php>.
Out There. Nordic Skiing. 2005. 13 Oct. 2010 <http://www.out-there.com/qc12ns.htm>.
STM. Bicycles & Metro: The Rules. 2010. 13 Oct. 2010 <http://www.stm.info/English/metro/a-velo-met.htm>.
Ville de Montreal. Discover the City's Large Parks. 2010. 13 Oct. 2010 <http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/portal/page?_pageid=175,4804150&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL>.
Le Yeti. Workshop/ Rent. 2010. 15 Oct. 2010. <http://www.leyeti.ca/2010/atelier_location>.
Photos supplied by author.