Quebec City is a year-round sports paradise.
Written byTaylor Ireland
I’ll confess. I’m a big sports fan. Name a sport, I’ll check it out, either as a participant or a spectator. So you can imagine what a kick it was to discover I had landed in an incomparable sports paradise when I moved to Quebec City back in 2005. Because it has so many other outstanding attractions, the city’s amazing sports and outdoors offerings often get overshadowed.
Quebec City doesn’t make the news that often for sports stories. When it does, chances are it will be a report about what’s happening in the city’s quest to bring a National Hockey League franchise back since the Nordiques left in 1995. Now that we have a brand new arena, the Videotron Centre, it’s normal that there be a lot of speculation.
But, quite frankly, while the big money sorts out that affair, there is more than enough happening in the city, sports-wise, to keep just about everybody busy, either playing, watching or cheering.
Quebec City is one of those rare places that offers year-round excellence and variety in facilities and activities. That’s perhaps why the region produces more than its share of world-class athletes, some of whom competed in the just-wrapped Rio Olympic summer games. Many of the warm-weather Olympians hone their skills at sites such as Mont Ste. Anne’s mountain bike trails, the national canoe/kayak training centre at Lac Beauport or at Laval University’s top quality swimming/diving and track and field facilities.
Winter Olympians have access to top training installations and competitions at Mont Ste. Anne for aerial events and cross-country skiing. The several other ski hills in the area provide similar opportunities. The Valcartier Canadian Forces garrison has a biathlon training centre that’s produced several Olympic champions over the years. Speed-skating enthusiasts just got a huge boost with the recent announcement of a $68 million covered oval at the already popular existing facility in the Ste. Foy district.
For those not bound for sports glory, the city offers a dizzying variety of activities for all seasons. Since we’re still in summer mode, let’s look at what’s available in warm weather sports and recreation.
It’s worth mentioning that for the first time in 50 years Quebec City has a public beach on the St. Lawrence River open for swimming. A high-tech system at the Baie de Beauport monitors water quality to ensure safe bathing. You can also enjoy kayaking, kite-surfing and paddle-boarding at this historic beach with a view of Ile d’Orleans.
Golf is hugely popular in the area, and has been so for many years. In fact, the semi-private Royal Quebec Golf Club, with its magnificent clubhouse, is among the oldest golf courses in North America. There are at least a dozen other sets of links in the area, some of which have hosted high level tournaments over the years.
Tennis, anyone? Not only does Quebec City have an exceptional choice of courts in all corners of the city, most of which are free, it also boasts the Banque National Cup tournament in September at Laval University that has featured some of the world’s best over the years, from Maria Sharapova to Venus Williams.
If you are more into extreme sports, Quebec City is the place for you. Two examples come to mind for breath-taking summertime challenges. There is the thrilling challenge of rappelling down spectacular gorges at Canyoning Quebec’s three sites in the area. If you want to experience white-water rapids in a daredevil (but nevertheless safe) way, you can try the new sport of hydrospeed at the sprawling Village Vacances Valcartier park north of the city, on the Jacques Cartier River. It’s like surfing rapids on board an inflatable luge. The park offers a full range of more tame watery adventures and in the winter transforms into a ice and snow wonderland.
And speaking of the Jacques Cartier River, the provincial park 30 minutes from downtown offers some of the most scenic hiking trails in all of Quebec. There’s also loads of river activities like kayaking, canoeing, rafting, as well as camping for all tastes from canoe campsites to vehicle-accessible lots, to yurt, huttopia and cabin rentals.
Also north of the city is the Duchesnay « Station Touristique, » another provincial recreational facility, located on Lac St. Joseph. It offers a full range of outdoor activities from beach fun, to hiking and kayaking. Lakeside chalets are also available for rent. Like the Jacques Cartier park, it is open year round.
Back in the city, if you’re the type for team sports or like to participate in a league, there is no shortage of options. Both the city and Laval University organize leagues and competitions in just about any sport you can imagine and for all ages and levels of skill, from softball, to badminton, to soccer to hockey. As well, a multitude of sports leagues organized by community groups and private individuals, welcome new players in a wide range of sports.
I could go on and on, without even making mention of the big sports draws in the city – the Quebec Remparts of junior hockey, Les Capitales of the professional Can-Am baseball league, or the powerhouse Laval University Rouge et Or football team – the university’s sports prowess is a whole other amazing story.
Skateboarding, mountain biking, curling, broomball, zip-lines, floor-hockey, rugby, Crashed Ice, Big Air, sailing … Gaelic football and hurling! It’s literally an endless list.
As for me, softball, hockey, golf and boating top my list, but who knows what other sport might catch my fancy. Or yours.