• Alex 50km Lahti Champion
    • All About Cross-Country Skiing In The Laurentians

      December 19, 2010

      Herman Smith-Johannsen, affectionately nicknamed Chief Jack Rabbit by the natives, came to the Laurentians in 1925 and settled in Prévost.  At the age of 20, he was considered as one of the best skiers in his country, Norway. Upon his arrival in Québec, he vigorously pursued his cross-country activities and the following is the result of his endeavours.
      In 1930, the Quebec Government granted subsidies for the development of the famous “Maple Leaf Trail”, linking Prevost to Lac Tremblant. The trail was well identified throughout the whole area with highly visible six-inch green rectangles bearing a bright maple leaf full centre.
      From Herman’s arrival to 1938, one thousand miles of trails were marked out with beacons. The amount of miles is surely understated, as Herman, a true and devout cross country skier, most probably developed his own trails to vary his itinerary ad infinitum.  The Gillespie trail ran from Ste-Marguerite to Ste-Agathe, the Johannsen east and west joined Ste-Marguerite to Shawbridge end the Western followed the CN railroad tracks from Ste-Agathe to Morin Heights.  All these trails were creating major links between the Laurentian villages.
      Today, the regions of St-Agathe, Val David, Val Morin, and of course, Tremblant are among the oldest and best-tuned ski networks in the world. Johannsen played a major role in the growth of skiing and the making of it as a major sport in the Laurentians today. In 1982, at the age of 107, he was inducted into the Laurentian Hall  Ski of Fame. He died, fours years later, at the age of 111.
      Phil Shaw, from Morin Heights, followed in the path where Chief Jack Rabbit left off and founded “Let’s Glide, Let’s Roll”.  Phil is an accomplished athlete and a Laurentian legend. At the age of  4, he laced his cross-country ski booths and participated in scholastic competitions always finishing amongst the top competitors. At the age of 19, he joined the “McGill University Team” and from the ages of 19 to 26, he was a member of the Laurentian “Fondeurs” (long distance skiers). In all prestigious international events, one being the American BirkeBeiner race, he always finished in the top 10.  In 1998, Phil cross-country skied 88 miles in 7 hours. He now organises many expeditions in the Laurentians. You get to choose the duration and the location.  In 1995, Shaw accomplished a feat  demanding extreme endurance and fitness. He “In-line skated” across Canada in 72 days!!!  A Guinness Record, which still holds to this day !
      Throughout the years, the Laurentian region has always strove to improve the facilities. Le P’tit Train du Nord was an incentive to tourist industry. It created holiday villages. Its unprecedented success reached a peak between 1920 and 1940 when CP innovated the “snow trains”, dwelling more and more skiers to the Laurentians.  “Le P’tit Train du Nord” made its last passenger journey in November 1981 and the last freight train ran in 1989.
      Due to collective efforts from 1987 onwards, the Linear Park was  inaugurated in 1996 in order to pursue its new mission. Renovations have since then continued.  The existing train stations and bridges have now been rebuilt and are generating tourist activities such as cross-country skiing.
      The Laurentians cross-country tales and trails are now yours to discover !