Two tales of our winter weekend at the Swaggin hut in February 2019!
This is my first winter in Québec–and since I lived in San Francisco for nine years before moving here, it’s my first winter in quite a while! I’d already spent most of my Thursday evenings in 2019 snowshoeing bilingually on Mount Royal with Intercultural Outdoor Recreation, so conquering winter with that group was a natural choice.
As the weekend approached, I become more and more excited about trying cross-country skiing, and slightly worried about spending two nights in a rustic hut in the cold.
There was no need to worry. Refuge Swaggin is big and solid, and most importantly, its wood stove keeps it nice and warm inside. Except for the lack of a sink in which to spit your toothpaste–which came as a surprise to one of number–the “hut” is less rustic than glamping, as far as I can tell.
The amenities quickly faded into the background as the members of our superbly intercultural group warmed up to each other. I’m sure I will miss some places of origin, but Canadians, Québécois, Americans and Mexican-Americans, Moroccans, Jordanians, Turks, Belgians, Colombians, Japanese, French, and Martiniquais were all represented. We bonded quickly over music, shared food, and Moroccan tea, as well as our frequent falls into the massive piles of powdery snow.
The ski piste that was chosen for our first morning was, as we learned eventually, “a little technical” and “not really meant for skiing but actually a snowshoe trail.” It was challenging, to say the least, but there was always someone on hand to pry you out of the drift you’d ended up in, and we had compassionate and encouraging teachers. Any discomfort was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the scenery anyway.
Snowshoeing in the afternoon was an even better opportunity to soak in the sights of snowy groves and clearings and frozen waterfalls, the sound of water rushing out from under the ice and snow that covered most of the river, and the smell of so much clean, accumulated snow. Adrienne taught us how to identify several species of conifer, and pointed out the smooth tracks that showed where a small animal had managed a slope by sliding down on its belly. After an hour or so on my snowshoes, I was convinced that I could set off on my own hut-to-hut winter adventure, and moreover that I would enjoy it.
The next day’s skiing on an official piste went much better, and everyone got really into it–and improved greatly. We capped off the trip with a group lunch in St. Côme, and vows to remain best outdoors friends forever.
- By Esther Cervantes, participant
From the beginning of the winter, one side of me wanted to do many things but the other side was concerned to do anything outdoor under these cold conditions. Every single weekend was checking and again and again, it was between minus 15-30 and l heard some gossips around that people are losing their fingers, arms or legs because of these holy colds!!! Adrienne informed me about the Saturdays, Fridays and this activity like in October very early thanks a lot Adrienne..I wanted to join the Saturdays program but due to my concerns l missed the registration period. Then I told myself this winter is not going to anywhere maybe you can try to go somewhere. Then finally in the last minute l found the courage to apply for this weekend. After the storm still, l had hesitation to join or not but thanks God I joined and I’ve not been lost any part of my body:))
C’était une super expérience avec le groupe. J’ai rencontré avec les gens géniaux. La collaboration du groupe était parfaite. On a vraiment parfois besoin d’être loin de l’électricité et internet de rester bien et tranquillement en paix.
Nous avons béni avec les deux beaux jours ensoleillés et pour la première fois j’ai fait du raquette et ski du fond en refuge. Premier jour était en peu difficile et fatigant mais deuxième jour était génial. Même si j’ai tombé plusieurs fois et peut-être que ce n’est pas assez encore mais finalement j’ai appris en petit peu. C’était intéressant de voir que j’appréciais de tomber:))
L’ambiance de refuge me rappelle mon enfance. Nous avons même tiré le poêle de bois, nous sommes assis et avons parlé.
Special thanks to Adrienne and Fred. Adrienne from the beginning until the end you informed and provide me everything l needed and Fred as well was there with all his excellent knowledge and l learned a lot from both of you.
Keep your smiles.
- By Nevzat Ayaz, participant
Thank you to all of our enthusiastic participants! Thank you to our amazing volunteer guide Frédéric! Thank you Natasha for helping with the ski groups and logistics! Thank you to MEC for providing the sleeping bags and camping mattresses for this outing. Thank you to Air Médic for providing us with affordable evacuation insurance. Thank you to our private donors and to the Maison de l’amitié for your support which helps us keep this activity affordable!