Gnarled Timber: Quebec’s Urban Royalty Heads for the Hills

“This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve ever put on climbing skins,’’ 35-year-old JF Houle said as he tried to attach the back clip to the tail of his fat twin-tip.

His crew laughed. It was another cold February day at Mont Édouard, a community hill turned quasi-backcountry gold mine in L’Anse-Saint-Jean, four hours north of Quebec City, QC. The laughter was more out of surprise than in jest. Houle had been a pro skier for nearly 20 years and is a legend in the world of street skiing. Now he was admittedly flailing with his backcountry setup. This was new territory for Houle, and for the whole crew. Phil Casabon, Émile Bergeron, and snowboarders Frank Bourgeois and David “Meloche” Melançon—all top urban riders—have never been known for bushwhacking on tech bindings. Still, the skintrack was well-packed, and as the morning light softened the icy route, the team awkwardly cut upward through dense spruce forest.

Calling themselves the Prospecteurs—French for “prospector”—the group was seeking something outside their comfort zone. After years of metal, concrete and icy transitions, they’d turned their attention to the trees and a new way to ski in their own backyard, discovering the oft-overlooked backcountry of frigid northeast Canada…

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