Why is it that a cold snap striking Abitibi-Témiscamingue makes news headlines, but when a snowstorm hits the entire province, it’s as if our region has never existed? It’s public knowledge: you need only to say “biting cold” and an image of Abitibi-Témiscamingue springs to mind. I often feel that people think that we survive […]
The Big White Tour
Last February 22 to 28, I took part in an extraordinary snowmobile event in Abitibi-Témiscamingue: The Big White Tour…
What is it?
It is a grand contest organized by Tourisme Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Tourisme Baie-James in collaboration with the Supertrax International reference magazine. The latter was specifically in charge of the promotional aspect of the contest.
This adventure was in fact an IMPRESSIVE snowmobile excursion of over 1,500 km in 5 days across two vast regions renowned for the exceptional quality of their trails. The entire experience was complemented by gifts, cocktails, tastings, massages, fine dining and high-ranking accommodations for a truly VIP experience!
Hence, Michelle and John Kelley of Lowville in the state of New York, were the lucky ones to live the adventure. The draw, carried out by John Arkwright of Supertrax International, took place on January 22, which gave our winners 1 month to get ready.
So, on Saturday, February 22, I had the pleasure of welcoming Michelle and John in one of the superb spa-equipped cottages of La Bannik in Duhamel-Ouest, Témiscamingue. We had prepared a remarkable welcome cocktail for them. The team of news reporters of Supertrax, headed by John Arkwright, also joined our team to welcome the winners and launch The Big White Tour…
Sunday morning, at 8:00 a.m., with our hearty and tasty breakfast taken, we were all ready on our snowmobiles, anxious to start our adventure…and off we were for 5 days of excursion with an average of over 300 km per day in unsurpassed sunny conditions. We wound our way across dense mysterious forests and through cities with their top-notch services. We were lucky, because this year, Mother Nature sent us a lot of snow. The conditions were excellent and the panoramas awe-inspiring. The scene was set for a remarkable experience.
On Sunday, after stopping for lunch at the Pizzé in Rouyn-Noranda, we left for l’Amosphère Complexe hôtelier in Amos for a tasting of micro-brewery beers and local cheeses at the utmost delight of our American friends who discovered or regional flavours!
On the following day we left Amos destination Matagami for lunch, and then on to Lebel-sur-Quévillon for a well-deserved night’s rest… That day was cold but nothing to stop our two lucky participants from having fun galore!
Tuesday, the third day of The Big White Tour, we travelled 235 km to arrive in Oujé-Bougoumou, a superb Cree reserve where our winners were able to visit the Cree Cultural Institute museum; a perfect way for our American friends to discover the native culture of Northern Quebec.
Wednesday, the longest ride of the stay, we travelled over 400 km across splendid trails and arrived in the evening around 7:30 p.m. at the Hôtel Forestel in Val-d’Or where we had the pleasure of enjoying a buffet meal prepared with regional products by the internationally famous chef Yves Moreau. The expression « and after the effort, relaxation » was never so well illustrated and Michelle and John literally feasted!
Finally Thursday, was the last day we really counted on to thoroughly take advantage of our trip! We left Val-d’Or by the Rapide-Sept trail which allowed us to saddleback, on snowmobile, the imposing dam that bears the same name. In the mid-afternoon, we reached our departure point and took advantage of the end of the day to relax with, among other things, a massage for Michelle and John in order to relieve the muscle pains of the last few days…and to chat about our fine adventure over a thirst-quenching beer and then a good meal!
It was Michelle’s and John’s first visit in Abitibi-Témiscamingue and James Bay. Their reaction towards our trails was irrevocable: “this has nothing to do with what we have at home, we would never be able to travel such great distances in the same unique conditions, our trails are definitely busier with traffic and much less groomed!”. Their second conclusion was concerning the beauty of the Nordic landscape, so exotic for them! So, this was a case of love at first sight for our two snowmobile enthusiasts…The quality of the accommodations and dining was also a neat discovery for them, namely through such a warm welcome which is a characteristic of our region!
An interesting anecdote; during our trip, we met a group of 8 Ontario snowmobilers who, during an around-the-table conversation, explained to us that they were making The Big White Tour! They saw the publicity in the magazine, took part in the contest and planned (knowing that they were not sure of winning) their annual snowmobile expedition as described on the contest Web site, while respecting the daily distances and stopping at the suggested accommodations! They were overjoyed about their adventure!
Finally, the experience was true magic for all those concerned, whether for the winners or our team of news reporters or our tourism team. Michelle and John, on their departure, were already talking about coming back next winter with their family and friends! For my part, it was a genuine pleasure! It is so pleasing and enhancive to present the region when you are proud of it! A sure repeat experience!
P.S. An article on this one-of-a-kind adventure will be published in one of the 2014-2015 winter editions of the Supertrax International magazine.