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Five Good Reasons to Hire a Hunting Outfitter

Five Good Reasons to Hire a Hunting Outfitter

Perhaps your plans include some hunting this fall? Well, the season is fast approaching! Luckily, there are plenty of outfitters in the RCM of Vallée-de-l’Or and their services can make a big difference in your hunting experience. Whether you’re a seasoned hunter or a novice, here are five good reasons to hire an outfitter.

A Guide Makes Life Easier

As far as I can tell, of all the benefits an outfitter provides, a hunting guide is top of the list. A guide really makes life a lot easier.

 

Outfitting guides know the terrain like the back of my hand. They are readily able to get you to the hunting grounds, either by vehicle or boat. Guides are skilled at adapting their service style and approach to each and every hunter, veteran and newbie alike. A staff member at Fournisseurs du Nord, an outfitter specialized in bear-hunting, talked to me about hunters’ various different intentions and goals as they head out. Some want to head home with a hunting trophy, others with the first bear they see. Guides can help them to reach their objective, whatever that may be.

High Success Rate

Another great part about an outfitter is that everything is geared to maximize your chances of success. No one wants to come home empty-handed! Luckily, outfitters are based in areas that are ideal for hunting.

 

The hunting areas are usually baited. Fournisseurs du Nord does this with bears and so their success rate is 100%. What more could you ask for in a hunting trip?

Accommodation and Meals Included

It is customary for outfitters’ hunting packages to include room and board. Two things to take off your to-do list! Clean, comfortable chalets are easy to find through outfitters in the area. There is something for everyone, from rustic cabins to fully-equipped chalets. If you’re more of a camping type, a number of outfitters also offer campgrounds. And with meals included it’s stress-free! Makes for a much more pleasant hunting trip.

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a Cabin at the Matchi-Manitou outfitter

Meeting Kindred Spirits

During hunting season, many of the outfitters are full. It’s an ideal opportunity to meet other hunters who are also enjoying the benefits of dealing with an outfitter. You may even learn some tricks of the trade or be drawn to share a few of your own hunting tips.

 

It is also a great way to celebrate your success with others. Many outfitters, like Fournisseurs du Nord, celebrate hunters who got their animal. Your hunting trip could very well end on a high note, in a festive atmosphere.

Safety

With an outfitter, you’re always sure that someone is tracking the comings and goings of each and every hunter. At the Matchi-Manitou outfitter, there’s a staff member assigned to making sure that everyone has come back safely from their day hunting.

 

Outfitters’ hunting areas are protected. No squabbles, no other hunters on your turf (aside from other clients with the same outfitter). You can hunt with complete peace of mind.

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Lake Matchi-Manitou

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Top view of the Fournisseurs du Nord outfitter

Cover picture | Zachery Perry – Unsplash

Hunting outfitter in Val-d'Or
No me moleste mosquito – Dodging the mozzies!

No me moleste mosquito – Dodging the mozzies!

Summer is synonymous with warm weather, swimming in the lake, camping, kicking back on the patio, ice cream…and those blasted mosquitoes! To support peaceful cohabitation with these tiny creatures while fully enjoying your time in the outdoors, we’ve a few suggestions for all you potential blood donors: some tips for keeping them at bay and a relief plan if you aren’t successful.

How do mosquitoes select their victims?

There has been a lot of research done to determine what exactly attracts mosquitoes when they’re out looking for blood and whether some folks are more likely to get bitten than others. Although it’s a complex subject, there are some certainties to share.

Mosquitoes are primarily attracted to carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas we exhale in the process of breathing. Once mozzies have zeroed in on their blood donor, guided by their CO2 emissions, they then proceed to the next level of selection based on a number of factors.

First of all, mozzies love heat. The more heat you give off, the more they love you. Which is why it is recommended that you wear light-coloured clothing to ward off mosquitoes. Dark colours retain heat more easily so people wearing dark clothing will produce more heat and be more attractive to the mozzies. They also enjoy people who are physically active or just hotter by nature.

Smell is also very important in how mozzies choose their blood donors. Their sense of smell is actually so powerful that they can pick up about 150 different odours that emanate from the body – not all detectable by humans. The components of perspiration, skin bacteria and other smells the body gives off are all factors in how attractive an odour is to mozzies. In fact, certain perfumes and cholesterol (!) even feature among their preferences.

Another thing mozzies really love, over which you have no control, is your blood type. Japanese researchers have shown that mosquitoes have a penchant for blood type O because it’s high-protein.

A study of the correlation between drinks consumed and the frequency of mosquito bites showed that people who drink alcohol, particularly, beer, have a greater chance of being bitten than those who drink water.

How to avoid mosquitoes

Pick your times for heading outdoors.

Since mosquitoes are more plentiful in the spring (especially when it’s a wet one), at dawn, dusk and after it rains, it’s best to remain indoors then. Being on or in the water and out in the wind are good ways to escape from mozzies.

Wear light rather than dark or coloured clothing.

Dark colours absorb the heat (remember, mosquitoes are drawn to heat) and bright colours are easily picked up by mosquitoes’ photosensitive eyes.

Avoid perfumes, soaps, fragrant creams and aftershave.

As mentioned earlier, mosquitoes decide whether a blood donor is tasty or not based on their body odour.

Stay zen!

The more agitated you are, the more heat you give off and the more appealing you are to the mozzies.

Apply insect repellent, preferably on your clothes.

Commercially available insect repellents sold in stores often contain DEET, a chemical that scares off mosquitoes. The concentrations of DEET depend on the repellent. The concentration won’t affect the effectiveness of the repellent, but the duration. An insect repellent containing 30% DEET will last six (6) hours while a concentration of 10%, will last about three (3) hours. Insect repellent containing DEET is not recommended for children under a year old.

There are also natural and homemade insect repellents. Once again, it’s a matter of how long it lasts. Citronella, lemon eucalyptus oil and rose geranium are three essential oils that mozzies really don’t care for. They can be mixed with vegetable oil and applied to the body or put in a diffuser to keep mozzies away. Again, essential oil should not be applied directly on children’s skin.

How to find relief from mosquito bites

Despite all these helpful tips, a few mozzies may try to draw out some of your blood, because there’s one thing that attracts them that you’re better off not doing anything about: breathing!

So, if you get bitten and the itch is unbearable, here are a few ways of finding some relief:

  • Apply ice to the bite. The cold will contract your blood vessels which in turn helps to reduce the swelling and numb the skin, thereby decreasing your discomfort.
  • Apply a cotton pad soaked in vinegar to the bite for 30 minutes. Vinegar is a natural antiseptic with anti-itch properties.
  • Apply aloe gel on the bites. Aloe works real magic when it comes to healing skin! It also has a cooling, soothing effect that helps you to resist scratching your itch.
  • Apply essential oil of spike lavender or real lavender (lavanda angustifolia) on your bites. This essential oil is also found in many natural mosquito repellent recipes.

Still looking for more tips to keep mozzies away or relieve their bites? Visit our Camping page on Pinterest [French only]: https://www.pinterest.ca/tourismevaldor6562/camping/

I hope you’ve found this helpful. Now, you might feel that you are better equipped to fight off mozzies effectively, instead of just madly waving your hands around in the air with annoyance. My intention is for this information to have the best possible experience in the fresh air and the great outdoors this summer!

 

Cover picture | Manlake Gabriel

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Birds to watch for in the forests of Abitibi-Témiscamingue in winter

Birds to watch for in the forests of Abitibi-Témiscamingue in winter

There are countless ways to enjoy Val-d’Or all year long. In winter, outdoor activities are very popular, which include taking a walk in the woods. Nothing quite compares to the joy of getting some fresh air and immersing yourself in Nature. Although most birds head south in winter, to escape the snow, some of the hardier ones stay behind, enhancing our local forests with their own special beauty, to everyone’s delight. You can take photos and even feed them. Here are eight birds you can see in the woods of Val-d’Or during our colder months.

Brown Creeper

This little bird is brown on the upper parts with light spotting, distinguishable by its long thin bill, eyebrows and white underparts. The creeper can often go un-noticed due to the fact that this bird, which forages for food on tree trunks, blends in so well it appears to be part of the tree bark. Sunflower seeds are a big hit with creepers.

Ruffed Grouse

Sometimes incorrectly referred to as a partridge, the ruffed grouse is a ground-dwelling bird, often found close to tree trunks.  About the size of a small chicken, the grouse’s dappled and barred plumage ranges in colour from pale grey through to reddish brown. The male fans its tail to seduce females. It is a relatively shy bird, but you can get closer for a peek if it happens to be perched in a tree. Click here to hear the song of the ruffed grouse so you know what to listen for when you’re out in our woods:

Common Redpoll

What makes this little seed-eating bird quite distinctive are its pinky-dappled breast and the dash of red on top of its head. Its short, pointy, yellowish beak is perfectly designed for getting at tree seeds (particularly, birch seeds), its primary food source. Redpolls can be seen hanging out at birdfeeders in the winter and they enjoy all kinds of birdseed. Click here to hear its song.

Blue Jay

Long before it became the emblem for Toronto’s baseball team, this bird was a resident of Quebec and the great forests of Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Its magnificent plumage is bright blue overall, with some touches of grey. It is a friendly bird that enjoys being around humans. Its shrill call makes it easy to recognize. Click here to have a listen of its song.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

As its name implies, this bird’s red breast makes it easy to identify. Another distinguishing feature is the black band across its eyes. Its main sources of food are coniferous seeds, suet and birdseed from feeders. Sunflowers are a big hit with these little birds. Click here to hear its song.

Gray Jay

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Photo | CC BY-SA 3.0

This bird, also known as the Canada jay, can live up to 19 years! Its plumage varies from white to gray, with touches of blue on its tail. It can be up to 23 cm long. Often mistaken for a magpie, the gray jay is omnivorous. To make it easier for you to identify, click here to hear its song.

Pine Siskin

This bird is brown and streaky overall with subtle yellow edgings and a pointed tail. They tend to roam in twittering flocks; in fact, in winter, they can live together in groups of as many as 50 individuals. The pine siskin eats all kinds of seeds. Click here to hear their song so that it is easier to identify them.

Black-Capped Chickadee

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Photo | Mary C Kirby “shurdbug”

This is the most common of the American chickadees and definitely the best known bird in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Its black cap and white sides to the face make it easy to identify. Sometimes, it has bluish highlights on its off-yellow flanks. Black-capped chickadees are curious and congenial birds that won’t hesitate to eat out of your hand if you offer some sunflower seeds. Their vocalization is very distinctive. Click here to hear its song.

With a bag of seed, a good sense of observation and some patience, your walk in the forest can become a veritable ornithological adventure! Nature is our playground and Val-d’Or and Abitibi-Témiscamingue are ample proof of that. Come see for yourself!

To see more photos of birds that live in our beautiful forests, I would suggest Raymond Ladurantaye’s work. Raymond is a photographer and avid birdwatcher from Val-d’Or. Check out his images by clicking here.

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8 Reasons to Tour Val-d’Or and Abitibi-Témiscamingue on a Motorcycle

8 Reasons to Tour Val-d’Or and Abitibi-Témiscamingue on a Motorcycle

Motorcycle touring options in Abitibi-Témiscamingue are endless. The potential for adventure and discovery is too! If you are a motorcyclist, Val-d’Or has so much to offer: customized, personal service, attractions, restaurants to satisfy all your taste buds and hotels that will make you feel right at home. So much to see and do! Here are eight reasons to tour Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Val-d’Or on a motorcycle.

To discover La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve

La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve alone is worth the trip to Abitibi-Témiscamingue: it is amazing to behold. Let yourself fall under the spell of its magnificent landscapes, covered in white pine, spruce, fir and a few deciduous trees, thousands of lakes and rivers, floating islands and majestic rock cliffs. Crossing the bridge over the Ottawa River is one of my all-time favourite sections. Still to this day, I find it breathtaking every time! There are lots of rest stops along the way, to take a little break or soak your feet in the water.

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Many rest stops are located on the shore of a lake or a river.

A free cleaning kit to get your ride nice and shiny

Available at our tourism information office, this kit contains everything you need to clean up your bike and restore that shine it deserves. Just ask for your free kit at our reception desk where our tourism advisors will be happy to help you out. You can buff up your motorcycle in the specially designated area in our parking lot. Mosquitoes and dust will soon be nothing but a bad memory!

Hotel specials to make your stay with us more pleasant

A number of hotels offer special packages for motorcyclists travelling in our area. The Escale Hôtel Suites, Quality Inn & Suites and Hôtel Continental Downtown all offer breakfast along with a variety of other options: dinner special (table d’hôte), gas card, visit to a local attraction or massage. To see all packages available, click here.

Warmth and simplicity

People in Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Val-d’Or are known for their warmth and simplicity. They’ll greet you with a smile and treat you like royalty! In Val-d’Or, you’re sure to meet jovial, friendly and refreshingly straightforward locals who’ll leave you with lovely memories of your time here.

Lively downtown and lots of restaurants with outdoor patios

There’s nothing better after a day of riding than a cold beer on a sunny patio, soaking in the sights, sounds and smells of summer. Downtown Val-d’Or is a happening place, with lots of restaurants with patios to add the perfect finishing touch to your day on the motorbike. Le Prospecteur microbrewery, for example, offers a wide selection of craft beers and a roof patio with an uninterrupted view of downtown. You can taste the best poutine in town at Chez Ti-Pit Snack-bar for your lunch break. Or let yourself be transported to Asia by the typically Thai fare at the Ô Thaï restaurant. Only to name a few!

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The Bar bistro l’Entracte patio is another great option. This pub offers a great view on the historic site of Bourlmaque Mining Village.

Free downtown parking sticker

We provide a free downtown parking sticker for our visitors to make it easier for you to enjoy some carefree downtime on our patios. It allows you to park your motorcycle anywhere downtown at a parking meter or in parking lots with a pay station. Anyone residing outside the regional county municipality of Vallée-de-l’Or is entitled to the parking sticker. It’s available free-of-charge at our tourism information office at 1070 3rd Avenue East at the eastern entrance to the city, which is the one you use to access Val-d’Or if you’re coming from Montreal. The Rouyn-Noranda tourism information office provides the same service to anyone who lives outside Abitibi-Témiscamingue.

Rolling on gold

Who can say that they’ve ridden on gold? Well, anyone who’s taken Highway 117 from Val-d’Or to Rouyn-Noranda! Indeed, the road runs along the Cadillac Fault, which contains abundant deposits of gold. To learn more about this gold-rich fault line, go to: https://tourismevaldor.com/cours-de-geologie-101-rouler-sur-lor/

There’s a lot to discover about the mining industry while touring our area by motorcycle. You might begin at Cité de l’Or where you can morph into a miner for a few hours and travel 300 feet underground to explore the workings of an old gold mine. Then, you could visit Canadian Malartic, the largest operating open-pit gold mine in Canada, and experience an earthquake at the Abitibi-Témiscamingue mining museum (Musée minéralogique de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue).

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To visit the underground galleries of La Cité de l’Or, you have to dress yourself up like a miner.

You will be amazed by the gigantic equipment used at the Canadian Malartic Mine.

The artistic fountain route

If you’re one of those people who thinks that motorbike trips are made for riding and not for visiting tourist attractions along the way (my dad and my sister are like that, too!), I have a cultural activity to suggest, which you can enjoy with getting off your bike. In the Amos-Harricana region, there are 10 artistic fountains in 10 different municipalities. These fountains are a delightful excuse to stop for just a minute and take a little breather. The fountains are beautiful and each one is unique. And this itinerary will take you through some magnificent countryside, a changing landscape of farms and forests, striking in its immensity. The fountain route is described in the Amos-Harricana tourist guide available in all the visitor information centres in the area. You can also have a peek by clicking here or click here to see it on Google Maps or download the free app from Balado Discovery for Android or BaladoDiscovery for iPhone/iPad.

Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Val-d’Or are wonderful destinations for motorcyclists: our roads, beautiful scenery, personalized services, restaurants, outdoor patios, activities and hotels are all part of the magic you’ll find here. There’s no doubt in my mind that you will have an amazing, memorable time!

The Best Lures for Catching Walleye

The Best Lures for Catching Walleye

A visit to the Zone Chasse et Pêche store in Val-d’Or and some browsing on the Web turned up lots of expert advice about the best lures to use for fishing walleye in Abitibi. I’d like to share my findings and personal favourites with you here.

Before I get to lures, just a little reminder about the new government bait-fish regulation. It took effect on April 1, 2017 and is intended to minimize risks associated with using bait-fish, commonly known as minnows. Click here to see the new regulation.

  • The use of live bait-fish is prohibited everywhere in Quebec.
  • The use of dead bait-fish in the summer is prohibited everywhere in Quebec.
  • For winter use, go to the Ministère des forêts, de la faune et des parcs du Québec (MFFP – Quebec Department of forests, wildlife and parks) Web site by clickling here. (map available in French only)

And, remember that walleye must now be transported whole or in ‘wallet’ filets. The MFFP Web site states as follows:

  • When a fisherman has in his possession elsewhere than at this permanent residence fish caught while sportfishing, the fish must be in a state that makes it possible to determine the species (for example, by leaving sufficient skin on the flesh to identify it), the length and the number. When a length limit applies, the fish must be transported in such a way that its length can be measured. Here’s the link.

Here are the top five tried-and-true lures to use for catching walleye in Abitibi

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Floating Minnows

The Hot ’N Tot and the Thin Fin are two of my faves. The Hot’N Tot, with its genuine metal lip, classic shape and wild movement, is a legendary bait. It’s excellent for trolling. Walleye cannot resist its side-to-side searching action. What is also great about the Hot ’N Tot, is that even if you scrape the bottom (which is ideal when fishing for walleye), it doesn’t get snagged because it flips upside down when it hits an obstacle. It really helps in areas that are rocky or where branches have sunk to the bottom. Whether it’s a bright sunny day or twilight, the Hot ’N Tot will help you to provoke strikes and be very productive.

The Thin Fin is a classic go-to that all serious fishermen need to have in their tackle box. With its multi-ball rattle, the Thin Fin emits a clicking sound and a vibration underwater as it moves. The lure sinks head first and has an erratic, darting action that imitates natural movement. The longer and more pronounced the tongue, the deeper it goes. You’ll see that the Thin Fin is very effective early in the season when the walleye is shallow. My husband really loves the Thin Fin for fishing walleye. In fact, he used it to land his biggest one yet: 9.5 lbs!

This is all well and good, but you are probably wondering what colour swimming fish lure is best for walleye – there are countless ones to choose from. Happily, I have an answer for you!

Perch imitation is a very good choice because it’s prey of choice for walleye. They’re crazy about perch!

Natural black and silver works everywhere. Using the most natural colour will give you better results in clear to moderately clear water.

Walleye imitation because the walleye is notorious for cannibalism. You can go for an imitation of a fish whose appearance and action remind the walleye of its food. Daniel Robitaille, professional fisherman, fishing guide and columnist for the Quebec hunting and fishing magazine, Aventure Chasse et Pêche, recommends the 7-cm. gold/black Flicker Shad. He says it has done an amazing job virtually everywhere he’s tried it!

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Bottom walkers

Walleye can often be found just a few feet above the lake bottom. The bottom walker is just a metal pin bent to 90° with a sinker attached to it. The rule of thumb for choosing the proper sinker weight is an ounce for every 10 feet of water. The three- to four-foot worm harness goes behind the bottom walker. You can use a little Indiana-type spoon for the harness, in pink, fire tiger, chartreuse or silver, colours that work well for walleye. The classic technique is to troll slowly, using an earthworm. The sound of the bottom walker hitting the rocks excites the predators, who are territorial.

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Live Target Bait Ball

This realistic lure works really well in clear water. It imitates a school of small fishes, and as such is an attractant for walleye, who see it as a big lunch in one fell swoop! Its medium dive lip and slender body allow the bait to dive quickly and hold in the strike zone longer.

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Flexible Bait

Flexible bait is used with a jig head. You insert the hook under the belly and bring it out at the top of the back. Flexible bait vibrates, and so there’s a lot of action in the water. It’s exactly the kind of food the walleye is looking for. You can cast or troll with this lure.

Jigger

Jigger

Despite their small size, jiggers are formidable allies in the search for the most beautiful walleye. These guys have a fat little body and a lively tail that vibrates at high speed. Jiggers will yield excellent results early in the season with fish that are starting to feed again. The jig must move up and down slowly. The deeper you go, the heavier the jigger head you need; the same applies when there’s a current or wind. The deeper the colour of the water, the better it is to select highly visible colours like orange, yellow, green or chartreuse. Chartreuse is the colour that got me my best walleye so I highly recommend it ;-). In crystalline water, natural colours can often work very well. The biggest sellers at Zone Chasse et pêche are pink, white, blue and chartreuse. I have purchased a few pinks and blues and intend to try them out this summer!

6 Reasons to love the intense winter in Val-d’Or, its cold weather and its abundance of snow

6 Reasons to love the intense winter in Val-d’Or, its cold weather and its abundance of snow

Expedia has recently published an article on the Canada’s worst winter cities and Val-d’Or is one of them. The ranking was done according to four criteria; the snow, the cold weather, the means put in place to get warm and the national records. Well, Val-d’Or scores high in all these criteria! But don’t forget that it’s not because winter is intense that you shouldn’t visit Val-d’Or at this time of the year. In fact, I strongly suggest to visit it. Here are 6 reasons to love the intense winter in Val-d’Or, the cold and the abundance of snow.

A dry weather

In Val-d’Or, there is dry weather most of the time. But know that it is easy to protect oneself from it by dressing warmly. Well dressed, you can enjoy the fresh air and the outdoors for a long time

Magical landscapes

Winter in Val-d’Or is completely gorgeous. With all the space we have, no need to remove all the snow and put it in the pits for this purpose. We only have to move it to the side of the streets. Even in the city, you can find large spaces all white and admire the shine snow. The contrast of dark green spruce with the whiteness of the snow is quite handsome. And there, I don’t even talk about the skies at dawn and sunset that looks like cotton candy or a drink of Tequila Sunrise!

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A lot of outdoor activities

Of course, we can practice a host of winter sports in Val-d’Or: snowshoeing, ice skates, cross-country skiing, fat bike and many others. Moreover, you will find the Forêt Récréative (recreational forest): 50 km2 of playground for outdoor enthusiasts. There are trails for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and fat biking and a 2 km loop of an ice-skating trail. All the equipment necessary for these sports is rented except for Fat Bikes (they can be rented at Cyclo Vélo Pro). To complete, an outdoor fireplace is maintained to warm the users of the trails.

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Recreational forest trails are illuminated in the evening until 9pm and 11pm.

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The outdoor fireplace is located at the central entrance of the different trails.

High quality snowmobile trails

The Abitibi-Témiscamingue region is known for the quality of its snowmobile trails, and Val-d’Or contributes to maintain the reputation. Snowmobile enthusiasts will enjoy 3,700 km of wide and safe trails throughout the region. Val-d’Or for its part, has these urban trails allowing snowmobilers to access services such as restaurants, hotels, gas stations and snowmobile dealers. Then, the cold weather and the snow that people generally dread allows us to start our snowmobile season earlier and finish it later!

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Nothing better than a beer or a coffee after a day of snowmobiling. But to have beautiful snowmobile trails, it takes snow and cold!

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With all those signs who are indicating nearby services and directions, you can’t get lost in the snowmobile trails in Abitibi-Témiscamingue and in Val-d’Or.

Restaurants and cafes to warm up

Val-d’Or has a host of restaurants and small cafes that will warm you up suitably after a day out in the open air. You’ll have a lot of choice between coffee shops and delicious teas. There are restaurants with a warm atmosphere like the microbrewery Le Prospecteur or the poutine bar Bar à poutine chez Morasse, or others who propose comfort food like as Windsor or Chez Vic.

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Windsor proposes the most comforting cuisine in a warm and comfortable atmosphere.

Activities to celebrate winter

The winter in Val-d’Or is not perceived as miserable, but rather as a beautiful season to play outside and have fun! Besides, it doesn’t stop people from organizing events or festivals. For example, at the beginning of February, winter is celebrated with the Hiver en fête Festival. It offers musical shows, open-air cinema, fireworks and a host of activities for the whole family, ice fishing, dog sledding, pony riding, horse drawn carriage rides, maple on snow, inflatable games, Zipline, snow sculpture, giant sliding, rock climbing and more! There are also Polar Night [s] two days long and offers musical performances in a giant igloo. Exploded activities and fires to roast sausages and marshmallow are planned.

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The Hiver en fête festival is taking place at the great site of the Cité de l’Or.

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During the event Nuit Polaire (Polar Night) in 2017, Valaire’s band came to warm the crowd.
Photo | Geneviève Lagrois

Winter in Val-d’Or can be cold and the snow can be abundant, but when we know how to dress and that we found an activity which we like, then this cold and this snow become expected and appreciated. Then we see the landscapes under another eye noticing their beauty and their magical side. Come visit us and try it!

When I started walking the talk about the wonders of snowmobiling in Abitibi-Témiscamingue – Part 2

When I started walking the talk about the wonders of snowmobiling in Abitibi-Témiscamingue – Part 2

Three days ago, I was preparing for my first snowmobiling experience (Read When I started walking the talk about the wonders of snowmobiling in Abitibi-Témiscamingue – Part 1). My uncle, Yves, his daughter and one of her friends, a couple of my uncle’s friends, Marco and Danielle, my sister, Kim, and I had planned to travel out to the Pourvoirie des Îles du Lac Duparquet and come back the next day. In all, the trip would cover 440 km; my sister and I, who had never snowmobiled, were to spell each other off driving the machines. Three days and 440 km later, I can now safely brag about how wonderful sledding is in Abitibi-Témiscamingue because I have actually experienced it!

ABITIBI-TÉMISCAMINGUE: A SNOWMOBILERS’ PARADISE …FOR NOVICES TOO!

People who say that Abitibi-Témiscamingue is a snowmobiling paradise are right! I felt totally safe and in control, which was so reassuring for a first experience. Of course, I have nothing to compare it to, because I have no experience sledding in other areas, but I can assure you that I was blown away by what I saw and experienced! The vegetation and the scenery are breathtaking and changing constantly. The trails are undulating and winding in places and straight and true in others, but always very wide. As a novice, I found this quite reassuring because I was never concerned about catching an oncoming snowmobile. Also, the frequency and quality of the signage was impressive. I was travelling at my own speed, which was very different from Yves and Marco’s, who’ve been sledding for about 20 years, or Danielle’s, who has had her own machine for six years, so I’d lose sight of them occasionally. So, even if I lost sight of Danielle bouncing along on her sled or taking a tight turn, I knew what was coming on a corner or at the bottom of a hill. The little yellow signs were always there to give me a heads up! There were numerous rest stops and huts, providing ample opportunity to stop safely and often to prevent fatigue.

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One of the numerous rest stops in the snowmobile trails, in Rivière-Héva.

WE ALWAYS NEED A GOOD YARN

It’s a fact. The trips that include an unexpected adventure or leave you with a great story to tell are the most memorable. And I can assure you that this is one we will definitely remember! Kim and I were not the only novices in the group. It was also the first time snowmobiling for my uncle’s daughter and her friend. They were two very excited little 9-year-olds as we headed out on our adventure together. About 20 minutes into the trip, we stopped to check that everything was going well. We discovered that their enthusiasm had waned and their little faces were now

an interesting shade of green or white. Motion sickness had joined our expedition! After a 15-minute break, we started out again only to stop about 20 minutes later. The girls had both brought their breakfast up on the blanket that was keeping them warm. That was the beginning of the story. Every 20 minutes, we stopped to clean up the vomit, and console and encourage the girls. We finally stopped in Cadillac for a rest and some lunch, which was good for everyone. The girls were feeling a lot better by then and even fell asleep in the sled after lunch, which allowed us to travel a fair distance without stopping.

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From the inside of  the sleigh

Then we came to another lake. The crossing woke the girls up and they promptly threw up again; they also got scared. So, at Preissac, just over the halfway mark, we decided to spell each other off in the passenger sleigh. Yves climbed in with his daughter’s friend and, 30 minutes later, all was well. Her fear had disappeared and she felt good. Then it was my uncle’s daughter’s turn… and mine! It brought back childhood memories of being small and not able to see anything, as well as a few added bonuses: the smell in the sleigh was awful, my cousin’s motion sickness was still very much on board, and the suspension was broken (the sleigh didn’t care for my uncle’s powerful build). I must admit, even as an adult, I HATE sleighs!

We finally reached the Pourvoirie des Îles du Lac Duparquet where we would bed down for the night; the girls played all evening. Sunday morning, my cousin’s grandparents came and rescued the girls from another day of torture on the snowmobile. They drove to Duparquet and took them and the stinky sled back to Val-d’Or. So, on the return trip, we were down to five adults and four machines.

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The view from our room at the Pourvoirie des Iles du Lac Duparquet. In addition of the great landscape, the food was delicious and service was top-notch!

With stars in their eyes, so many sledders have described the sense of freedom, spirit of camaraderie and stunning landscapes that draw them to snowmobiling. The experience certainly matched the descriptions I’d heard over the years. On my machine, I felt as though I were floating on the snow, flying through the trees. On my own and surrounded by the strength and magnificence of Mother Nature, I was indeed free. And I met two wonderful people: Marco and Danielle are simple, funny, considerate and passionate souls and lovely travelling companions. Now, I will be able to describe the snowmobiling trails in Abitibi-Témiscamingue from personal experience, with stars in my eyes. I’ll be able to explain why it is so much fun, describe the beauty out there and talk about the camaraderie that reigns. And, believe me, I’ll do it with passion!

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Because we also need a good yarn for Sunday, my uncle had a little incident on that day!

When I started walking the talk about the wonders of snowmobiling in Abitibi-Témiscamingue – Part 1

When I started walking the talk about the wonders of snowmobiling in Abitibi-Témiscamingue – Part 1

For a little over three years now, I’ve worked at the Val-d’Or Tourism and Convention Bureau. As part of my job, I often talk about snowmobiling in Val-d’Or and Abitibi-Témiscamingue, when I am on the road promoting our area or assisting a visitor at our tourist information office. I suggest itineraries, talk about how great and beautiful the snowmobile trails are, let people know which sections are more straightforward and which are more technical, but I had not actually done any sledding for about 20 years!

My only memories of snowmobiling are being bundled up in sheepskins, squished like sardines into the back of a passenger sleigh with my two sisters. Between our helmets, our size and the tight space, we couldn’t really see a thing. So, for me, snowmobiling was just a slow, uncomfortable way of getting to the family cottage.

I have always felt a little uneasy promoting snowmobiling when I don’t even do it. I feel as though I am talking through my hat. And then there was the fear of misleading someone despite carefully studying our regional snowmobile map and frequent conversations with local sledders who know the trails and the terrain. The doubt and uneasiness that have always lurked at the back of my mind will soon be gone because in less than 24 hours, I’m heading out for a weekend of snowmobiling!

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The stand of Tourisme Abitibi-Témiscamingue during a snowmobile show in Québec in 2015, which I participated to.

Along for the ride will be my uncle, his 7-year-old daughter, and one of her friends as well as a few of my uncle’s friends, all old hands at snowmobiling. My sister will join us too; she’s a real novice like me! We’ll leave from Val-d’Or, spend the night at the Pourvoirie des Îles du Lac Duparquet and head back to Val-d’Or the next day. We will cover about 440 km in all. I am very excited about finally getting out. By all accounts, sledding gives you a wonderful sense of freedom. I am also pretty nervous. Why? Because, for logistical reasons, my sister and I will need to spell each other off driving the snowmobile.

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Our itinirary

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My sister who were pretty happy to find all the equipment we will need for our trip.

So, I’ve been preparing for this excursion all week, pumped full of anticipation and adrenalin. My sister and I had to round up all the gear we needed: helmet, snowmobile suit, mittens, long underwear, woollen socks, snowmobiling map, etc. Since neither of us usually do any sledding, we got our parents’ old snowmobiling gear out of mothballs and borrowed the rest. We were all ready, with our mismatched suits straight out of the nineties, but still cozy warm. They did the trick! Stay tuned, Dear Reader, for a few gems in the second part of this blog! J To satisfy my need for a modicum of control over the unknown, I also sought out advice on driving a snowmobile. I contacted my uncle and my sister a million times to go over the various stages of our trip and to sort out the most minute details, right down to what we’d eat for breakfast the morning of our departure! Yup. Under stress, I can get a bit controlling…

Here we are now, just hours from leaving, and everything is just about ready to go. A few more things to buy, luggage to secure on the machines and then a good night’s sleep to be in good shape for the trip. As soon as I’m back, I’ll tell you about my first actual snowmobiling outing. For the first time, I’ll be able to give a firsthand account of the beauty of our land, the great camaraderie, the freedom we felt. And this time I’ll know what I am talking about!

Read the second part
God Bless Snowmobiling – 10 reasons why snowmobilers should visit us

God Bless Snowmobiling – 10 reasons why snowmobilers should visit us

There are several magnificent snowmobiling locations in Quebec, but Abitibi-Témiscamingue is in a class by itself. Our wide, meandering trails are safe and so extensive, chances are you won’t see another person all day, even though there are hundreds of snowmobilers out there. Our region is a snowmobiler’s paradise! Snowmobiling is highly important in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, both for residents and visitors. Not only is it rooted in our culture, it is the main tourist attraction during the winter months, making a substantial contribution to the regional economy. Below are ten reasons why snowmobilers should visit Val-d’Or and the surrounding area, and why we should all exclaim: God Bless Snowmobiling!

International Reputation

With its wide open spaces and long winter season, Quebec is snowmobiling heaven. Tourists from around the world are visiting Quebec to snowmobile in increasing numbers. In the 2012-2013 winter season 3,329 Americans, 5,308 Canadians from outside Quebec and 88,535 Quebeckers bought snowmobile permits (TAT, 2014), with Abitibi-Témiscamingue ranking third for the number of permit sales after Outaouais and Lanaudière. Top snowmobiling magazine Supertrax International has more than once named Abitibi-Témiscamingue one of the best snowmobile destinations, and awarded it first place in 2010 and 2011. The region is also receiving high praise from other quarters, and growing numbers of journalists, experts, bloggers and other visitors to the region are unanimous: snowmobiling in Abitibi-Témiscamingue is an unforgettable experience!

An Excellent Reason to Enjoy the Outdoors!

There is only one thing to do when there are wide, meandering trails and breathtaking natural panoramas on your doorstep: spend the day outdoors snowmobiling! The benefits of the outdoors are many: more energy, less stress, sound sleep and a hearty appetite, in addition to wonderful memories to take home.

Top Quality Trails

Abitibi-Témiscamingue, known for its wide, meandering snowmobile trails and breathtaking scenery, is one of the most popular snowmobile destinations in the world. With 3,700 km of trails, snowmobiling is a top tourist attraction and the number-one tourism product during the winter. Snowmobilers can cover long distances without crossing roads and love both the variety of trails (straight and curved) and the sense that they have the trails all to themselves. It is rare to encounter other snowmobilers, even when there are several enjoying the trails at the same time.

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A Longer Season

Winter 2016 was unusual for its late start. Generally, snowmobile season opens in Abitibi-Témiscamingue approximately two weeks earlier than in many other Quebec regions, and ends two weeks later, offering snowmobilers an important extra month of fun!

Snowmobiling is part of who we are

Because snowmobiling is so popular among residents of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, it is part of the culture. Visiting snowmobilers won’t feel that they are a disruption and will encounter respectful and careful drivers when crossing urban areas. Moreover, they can easily get tips on the best locales, where safety precautions are paramount, and reliable advice.

Welcoming Locals

It goes without saying that the warmth and friendliness of the residents of Abitibi-Témiscamingue also have a major impact on the quality of the snowmobile tourism experience. With such a friendly reception from residents, visitors find it very easy to fall under the region’s spell and rate their experience as unforgettable. A number of returning visitors to our visitor information centre tell us that it only took one visit to convince them to come back again and again.

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Brasserie Le Contact is un pub connected to a local snowmobile trail which connects to regional trail #83 as well as a large parking

Accessible Services

In Val-d’Or, an urban snowmobile route is prepared each year through a large part of the downtown area, providing access to numerous services, such as gas stations, banks, snowmobile specialty shops, hotels and restaurants. There are information panels located along the route to direct snowmobilers who are unfamiliar with the city.

An Active Tourism Industry

Although tourists place a great deal of importance on trail quality, access to services and a destination’s reputation, the human side is equally important. The region’s tourism industry understands that fact, and makes sure that snowmobilers have access to products and services that will give them a top-notch experience. For example, hotels offer competitive packages that are designed for snowmobilers, with a number of value-added services and products, such as trailer and snowmobile parking with 24/7 monitoring, or heated garages. There is also signage along the trails for a number of restaurants and hotels.

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A Longer Tourist Season

Because snowmobiling is such a tourist attraction in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the tourist season extends through the winter, reducing the drop in revenues between summer and winter. For example, many accommodation providers in Val-d’Or offer snowmobile packages and restaurants regularly welcome groups of snowmobilers stopping in for a meal.

A Substantial Economic Impact

Snowmobiling is an essential component of tourism in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, with economic spinoffs of over $2.5 billion in Quebec as a whole, including $60 million in Abitibi-Témiscamingue and close to $20 million in MRC de la Vallée-de-l’Or (MRCVO). It is now recognized as a major economic partner in regional development. The urban route in Val-d’Or also bolsters other services that while not a direct part of the industry, such as gas stations, banks and snowmobile specialty shops, benefit from snowmobile tourism in Val-d’Or. Tourism has a positive impact on the city’s economy as a whole.

 

Translation by Anne Laflèche

Disappointment-Free Fishing

Disappointment-Free Fishing

Every year the retreating ice signals the frenzied start of fishing season.

Just a few minutes from Val-d’Or and we are in the great outdoors, speckled with numerous lakes awaiting us. With rod in one hand and tackle in the other, we’re ready for a brand-new day of fishing, on the hunt for the best-looking pike in the lake!

We become more patient as we bask in the silence on the water and take advantage of these moments of serenity to admire nature, feel the gentle rocking of the boat, listen to the birds, breathe in the fresh air, turn our faces to the warmth of the sun and admire all the colours of the natural world.

Then, a bite!! The adrenaline starts to flow! We get ready for that last tug that will land our prize in the boat. Every fish that comes out of the water is followed by a surge of pride!

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In the Réserve faunique La Vérendrye, over 800 lakes are accessible for fishing. They have walleye, lake trout, northern pike, speckled trout, smallmouth bass, and sturgeon.

In our bubble, the only thing on our mind is fishing and we experience the restorative effect of nature and the sense of well-being it brings. If we want to appreciate every second of our fishing days to the fullest and not give in to disappointment, we have to appreciate the natural landscape around us and keep our expectations in check.

Lunchtime? Time to return to shore, light a small fire and toast our sandwiches – yummy!

Fish aren’t biting? Time to try some different techniques or different bait. We’ve got all day to meet our quota. In the heat of the afternoon sum, we find a little beach on the shore and play in the water for a few minutes. Then it’s back into the boat for a cool one!

We come home sun-tanned, our catch in the basket – what a wonderful way to spend a day, to spend the summer! And we’ll have plenty of fishing stories to tell as well.

And what could be better than fresh pike sizzling on the grill? If you’ve never had it, give it a try. It’s unbelievably delicious!

 

Translated by Anne Laflèche