Remember going to the circus and watching
a dozen clowns unload from a Volkswagen Beetle? Stoneham surprises skiers in a similar way, delivering more terrain than its modest stats would lead you to suspect, along with plenty of Quebecois joie de vivre-a zest for life that makes skiing here just plain fun. Music pulsates from the base lodge, and skiers keep the beat as they dance their way through the liftlines. Freeriders preen in the massive halfpipe and terrain parks in front of the lodge, and sun-worshippers recline on the wooden benches.
The resort anchors a horseshoe-shaped valley and comprises six connected mountains, three of which are developed for skiing. All trails end in Stoneham's little base village, which has a lodge, condos, a hotel, shops and restaurants (remember, you're in Quebec, so the food is excellent, though the English Pub is quite good, too). Nearby sister resort Mt. Ste. Anne might be larger, but it's also more susceptible to the cold, damp winds blowing off the St. Lawrence River. Rather than expose its visitors, Stoneham embraces them, sheltering them from the wind. Ask a liftmate on the high-speed quad why he prefers Stoneham over all the other Quebec resorts he's skied: "This area always has the best conditions," he replies. Twice-daily grooming helps insure that.
Stoneham isn't just an easy slide. Terrain parks are scattered across the mountain, glades vary from open and inviting to tight and challenging, and the au naturel trails on Mountain Four will give even haughty experts pause. The real fun of Stoneham, though, is that of discovery: testing yourself on a beginner's rail, swooping down the undulating slopes in front of the base lodge, attempting to rail-slide the Kokanee bus in the errain park; tasting crepes and poutine and smoked-meat sandwiches; learning that if you don't know the French word, saying it in English with a French accent often works.
Though most visitors day-trip from Quebec City, 20 minutes south, staying in a slopeside condo is the way to go. When the sun goes down and the lights kick on, Stoneham rocks. Nightskiing attracts a multi-generation partying crowd that seems to divide its time equally between the terrain parks, the trails and the Bar of the Four Fireplaces, which has to be one of the best designed ski bars anywhere. Especially at night, Stoneham embodies an infectious energy that few areas can beat. It's lively, it's fun, and even if you don't speak a word of French, you can't help but enjoy yourself. Go ahead, send in the clowns. They'll add to the fun.