Outdoor Winter Fun – Skating on the L’Assomption River

Winter in Southwestern Québec can seem interminable. By early November the leaves have all fallen and the days become grayer and shorter.

With December comes the snow, making for picturesque scenery that warms the heart just in time for the holidays. Ahh lovely, isn’t it?

Frozen River

During a normal winter the cold and snow intensify through January. Buoyed by a post-Holiday high as well as an understanding and a grudging acceptance that it is winter and we live in Canada, we trudge along through the worst of it in relatively good spirits.

But by the time February comes along,  quite frankly we’ve all had enough of the cold and the white sh*t. Those who can, escape to the southern U.S. or the Caribbean for a week or two of sun and warmth. The rest of us? Well we endure and hang our hopes ever so gingerly on the fact that the days are getting noticeably longer, as we pray for an early spring.

So what keeps us all from going batsh*t stircrazy and hacking away at each other with hockey sticks or worse, axes like a snow-bound Jack Nicholson in The Shining?

Well if you can’t flee the weather and you want to survive without strangling someone, you learn how to embrace it. Hence the abundance of outdoor winter festivals in our part of the world.

Just about every city, town, or village from Ottawa to Québec City and from the U.S. border north to the ski hills of the Laurentian mountains has its own festival designed to get people outdoors to face the cold head-on and shake off the winter blues.

This year we decided to check out the Festi-Glace winter festival in the town of Joliette, in the Lanaudière region, about 40 minutes drive northeast of Montréal.


The entire festival which operates on weekends from late January through mid-February revolves around a primary activity: ice skating on the frozen L’Assomption river which runs through the heart of the town.

The town maintains a 4.5 km (2.8 mile) stretch of the river for skating, with a center divider and a walking path along the outside edge for non-skaters.




Depending on the weather, the river usually opens for skating by mid-January and stays open as long as the ice is safe, often until early March.



DSC_7813There are multiple access points each with ample parking and changing huts allowing visitors someplace warm to change into their skates and store their boots while they’re out on the ice having fun.

DSC_7779Organizers even patrol the river with a mobile first aid vehicle in case of accidents or injuries.

The one disapointment is that we didn’t see any places that offered skate rentals; not a problem if you have your own, but not very practical for those who don’t skate regularly. Mind you a leisurely walk on a frozen river is still a very nice way to spend a mild winter day.


During the festival there’s a temporary stage set up on the river where you can enjoy live  performances by a local circus troupe.










There are stands and kiosks spread out at various points where local producers allow visitors to sample their wares such as pulling freshly-poured hot maple syrup from the snow with a stick. A favourite for kids of all ages.


They even have a makeshift miniature hockey rink set up for those who want to try a pick-up game of boot hockey which is played without skates.


There are activities for the whole family, and on the relatively mild -12C day we were there, it seemed like a good portion of the town’s population was out on the ice with us.


However on an outdoor rink that loops for a total of 9 km of skating surface, the crowds thin out once you get away from the visitors centers, and you’ll quickly discover that there really is room for everyone; even four-legged family members.


Though some are naturally a little better dressed for the weather  than others 🙂


DSC_7790For those interested in a little après-skate, there is even an ice-bar right on the river that offers a selection of snacks, and also serves soft-drinks, beer and liquor, as well as a selection of fortified coffees. Perhaps a nice hot cup of dark-roast with some Honey Jack Daniels in it? Mmmm.


Of course in 2015 the ice-bar seating area has to be set up for WiFi

If you’re in the Montréal  area and are looking for a weekend winter activity to get you outdoors for a few hours of fun, there’s nothing more authentically Canadian than skating on a frozen river, and the L’Assomption River in Joliette, is definitely worth checking out.






About Norm 3.0

World’s youngest grumpy old man & heart failure wonder boy. Interests: writing, woodworking, photography, travel, tennis, wine, and I know a bit about power tools.
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23 Responses to Outdoor Winter Fun – Skating on the L’Assomption River

  1. I think if I had seen this post at the beginning of winter, I would have been excited to attend a festival and skate on the river! But seeing as it is the beginning of March, and I now feel pure hatred for the snow, I will have to remember it for next year! Great post and pics, regardless!


  2. I remember what February feels like in Canada… but this post makes me want to be there! I can just imagine the maple syrup ice lolly… yum! It is ironic that February in a place like Mauritius makes you sick of the sun, heat, humidity, etc..

    Liked by 1 person

  3. restlessjo says:

    Well, I was going to settle for a maple syrup ‘lolly’, Norm, but you seem to have talked me into the Honey Jack Daniels option. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bernice says:

    Looks like fun! Though it has been so frigid outside – I don’t want to be outside – hard to get warm this winter! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. desleyjane says:

    I can’t even imagine that cold but it looks fabulous. I love the photo with the pink beanies. The place looks amazing, such a cool (no pun intended) way to spend the day. Free wifi, the maple syrup looks awesome. Do the puppies wear booties?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norm 2.0 says:

      Yes some owners really go overboard and dress their dogs in booties and sweaters – a bit much for my taste, but it does look cute.
      As for the cold, as long as it’s -15C or warmer with no wind, I’m good to go; dressed properly of course.
      Colder than that or very windy and I stay indoors because it’s too hard to have fun when you’re freezing.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Winter here on Long Island, has been harsh, but I must say, looking at your photos…I want to bundle up and run outside to do something fun in the snow!! That is until I go outside to warm up my car, and realize it’s just a fantasy. But I do love your photos, looks like a fantastic time!! Thanks for the tour.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Looks like a lot of fun, Norm. Love the photo of the dog skating along. 🙂


  8. joannesisco says:

    This winter has been so bitterly cold that many communities have had to modify their winter carnival activities. In my hometown in Northern Ontario, they had to cancel their outdoor activities one night and move indoors to the arena because of the extreme cold …. -40C – before the windchill.
    In contrast, the -11C temperatures in Joliette must have been near perfect for a weekend of outdoor activities. Loved your pictures! It looks like you had a great time 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norm 2.0 says:

      I know, this winter has been particularly cold here as well.
      It has kept me indoors more than I would like. Whenever we get a reasonably mild day, we just have to get out and enjoy it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Norm, that looks like fun. I love the river skating path and the maple sugar candy for sure. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. sue harvey says:

    Couple weekends ago, here in Michigan, the local news folk were touting up a weekend event.
    Ice carving, skating etc winter fest. “Get out there folks for fun!” Immediately followed by the weather report warning us to stay off the roads and stay inside to avoid the cold and wind chill of -20degreesfarenheit !

    Liked by 1 person

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