Growing number of skiers means expansions and upgrades for the ‘Ski Kindergarten of Québec’
The kindergarten of Québec skiing is growing up fast.
Ski Mont Rigaud – located just a short drive west of Montréal – is booming. The ski centre has been continually upgraded over the past several years and is now preparing for the addition of a second ski lift. Installation is planned to begin this summer on the $2-million project quad-chair lift, which is being added due to the increased number of skiers and snowboarders on the mountain.
“We have so much volume now we need a second quad lift,” says Mont Rigaud owner Luc Elie, noting the mountain’s proximity to Montréal and other urban centres. “We’re in an area that is growing so fast, we have to adjust to keep up.”
The new lift will be the latest of many upgrades at the mountain, including almost $1 million in snowmaking upgrades over the past three years.
“It’s been a number of years that we’ve been living with very mild weather at the start of the winter – it’s hard to do the snowmaking,” Elie observes.
To help resolve the early-season snow issue Mont Rigaud seriously upgraded its snowmaking capabilities, adding water pipes on every trail, along with a small army of high-efficiency snowmaking guns.
“Even with the mild weather, with the investments we’ve made, we managed to complete our snowmaking by December 24,” Elie says.
Fully open for the first time since 2020
The ability to open early was extra beneficial for the 2022-2023 season, as for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020, Mont Rigaud is fully open. Skiing remained a popular winter outdoor activity during the pandemic, however Mont Rigaud and other ski hills sold tickets only online for the 2021 and 2022 ski seasons and had to limit the number of visitors.
Mont Rigaud fared well during two full seasons of limited operation due to the pandemic. Its close proximity to Montréal and other municipalities made it a convenient spot for a day of recreational skiing. The hill was limited to 1,500 visitors per day, broken in to three blocks of 500 skiers per four-hour period.
“We were sold out almost every day,” Elie says. “There were also more people coming to ski during the week. We had just as many people overall, but they were more spread out.”
Mont Rigaud is now back to offering day, night, or full-day passes. The ski centre is also one of the only ones in the area that offers lift passes by the hour. Passes for the full season are available in seven-day-a-week, weekdays and evening formats, with adult weekday and evening full season passes each available for $187. The full list of daily and season rates can be found on Mont Rigaud’s website.
Thanks to the abundance of snow the mountain received in January, the ski trails at Mont Rigaud are about as good now as they could possibly be.
“Conditions are great and we haven’t seen ice this year so far,” Elie says, noting the warm temperatures in January made for many beautiful days on the mountain. “You’re skiing at between zero and -5, so it’s great for the skier. You’re not cold, you’re not freezing your toes and your fingers – it’s beautiful.”
A safe place for families and friends
Mont Rigaud’s skiing history goes back to 1962, when a group of local businessmen laid the foundations for the ski resort. It closed in 1978 during a downturn in the ski industry, reopening eight years later.
Elie, 46, began working at Mont Rigaud almost three decades ago, beginning as a ski instructor and eventually becoming general manager. He purchased the ski centre with several partners in 2009, becoming sole owner in 2019.
The mountain holds a lot of memories for Elie and he always loves skiing there.
“It’s like a big family here – you know everybody,” Mont Rigaud’s owner says proudly, while looking over the mountain from the centre’s expansive elevated outdoor deck. “You meet friends or neighbours all the time.”
Speaking of family, Mont Rigaud is known as the ‘Ski Kindergarten of Québec’ for that reason. The resort’s renowned ski school has more than 100 instructors and offers children’s, adult and group lessons. It’s also a safe place for families and beginners to ski, with 14 well-groomed runs over a size of 188 acres that makes it hard to get lost.
“When you’re teaching at the ski school here, you cannot lose your kids,” Elie laughs. “It’s a small resort, there’s not too many trails and everything comes back to the same place.”
“It’s good for seniors and children. They come and ski, and feel safe. Because it’s not too steep, it’s easy to make good conditions, so there’s no ice.”
A special place
Mont Rigaud has a special attraction says the mountain’s owner, which is why people keep coming back long after they have passed the kindergarten stage as a skier.
“There’s something that got me attached to this place and I never left,” Elie says of the ski centre, which has more than 250 employees during peak season. “There’s people I taught how to ski who are working for me today.”
“It’s like home.”
More information on Mont Rigaud can be found on the resort’s website at http://ski.montrigaud.com/home.