"You'll love the luge," says Évelyne Tremblay as she serves us dinner at Chez Bouquet, the restaurant attached to her Baie-Saint-Paul property Auberge La Muse. "I tried it with some girlfriends and as soon as we finished, we wanted to do it again."
Évelyne has at least a couple of decades on me and does not look like an adrenalin junkie, but even so, I'm skeptical. As a nervous skier who hates being cold, I have my doubts that I'll enjoy the 7.5-kilometre sledding run at ski hill Le Massif, about an hour from Quebec City. But, hey, I'll try just about anything once.
So when we arrive at the check-in point to meet our group and pick up helmets and toboggans – handmade by area craftsmen, no less – I ask for a sled with metal runners, which they say slides more slowly than the Teflon version. The guide takes one look at me and denies my request. Yes, it's going to be that kind of day.
At the bunny hill, we receive a lesson on technique and safety. Sitting on my sled and doing short laps, I test the two ways to manoeuvre (leaning to one side sends you in the opposite direction, or you can press one foot into the ground to turn the same way) and the two methods of stopping (press both feet into the snow or, for emergencies, pull up the front of the toboggan with the attached rope). It's instinctive and, unlike my experience with skiing, I'm catching on fast.
Even so, as our group heads off to start the run, I hang back, not wanting to get in the way of the kids, who will surely be fastest going down. I take sharp corners at a snail's pace – they're marked with signs so there are no surprises – and am cautious about passing people. Until I realize that I'm catching up easily, and actually have better control than many of the others. Plus, the scenery is gorgeous: It's softly snowing and we're surrounded by forest. The busy ski hill feels a million miles away.
We stop at a cabin halfway down for a break, and the guides issue a challenge – who can finish the run fastest? As we glide around the final curves, I pass one person, then another, until I'm near the front of the pack. The last stretch is flat, so we need to build up speed (I'm probably helped by being heavier than a 10-year-old). As I whiz down the last hill I catch myself laughing out loud and, indeed, I am the first to reach the finish. Alas, it's too late in the day for a last-minute sign-up to do it again, but I know I'll be back. Sledding, you're my new favourite sport.
Group tours run multiple times daily. Must be over 10 to ride. Adults: $34.95, youth: $30.95, prices include helmet and sled rental, lesson and tour, and gondola ride back to the summit. lemassif.com
The writer travelled courtesy of Le Massif and Tourisme Québec. They did not review or approve this article.