‘Hot Chic’ and Other Words on Skiing the Gaspé Peninsula

Two St. Lawrence University students document skiing in the Great White North

In Gaspésie, Quebec, middle-aged men sit in a backcountry cabin and speak intermittent French and English over a small wooden table with fold-up chairs, the only light source emitting from a propane lamp on the other side of the room. Skiers float through deep powder on Mount Lyall, navigating old growth forests, big bowls, and avalanche clearings, while friends hoot and holler at the bottom of the run. The Chic-Chocs are what I would expect the rest of the East Coast to have looked like hundreds of years ago. There are no condos, no mansions, no egos, and no major ski areas nearby.

Because they are so remote, most tilt their heads in misunderstanding at the mention of the Chic-Chocs (pronounced shick-shock). When the region was selected as the spring break destination for the St. Lawrence University Outing Club, it was not surprising that only eight people signed up.

Filmmakers Nick Edwards and Adam Silverstien, both 23, were a part of that group. In the spring of 2014, they loaded their ski packs with cameras and microphones to document the trip for their filmmaking class. After spending a week skinning up mountains, eating burritos and drinking beer at the Sea Shack, and finding some of the best East Coast powder they had ever experienced, they had more than enough footage to tell their story, Hot Chic.

PHOTO: Adam Silverstien
PHOTO: Adam Silverstien

POWDER: Why the Chic-Chocs for spring break?

Silverstien: In my opinion, it’s probably the best backcountry skiing on the East Coast.

Edwards: Yeah, going to Northern Canada isn’t exactly an ideal spring break destination, but students before us had been there already and had said good things about it. Henry Eckerson, the leader of the trip, was the man who made it all happen. He brought all eight of us together, and convinced us that it would be fun to go up to Canada and freeze a little bit. In the end we found sunshine and powder skiing so it was all worth it.

What makes the Chic-Chocs different then other places you’ve skied?

Silverstien: The Chic-Chocs really have a mix of everything. The West Coast can be more open I’d say, but the Chic-Chocs have super technical lines, in-your-face trees, and if you’re lucky, some of the best skiing ever. Like our last day, it dumped two to three feet in a couple hours, which was awesome.

Edwards: It’s very small-town French Canadian. You have to buy your food far in advance since there’s really nowhere to go shopping once you’re there, but the skiing is incredible. You don’t really run into anybody in the mountains, and because there are no chairlifts, you end up accessing all this cool terrain that most people haven’t seen. And for some reason the snow there is way better than it is in New York or anywhere in New England, so there’s something special about that.

Did you draw inspiration from any particular ski films while working on your own?

Edwards: I definitely drew some inspiration from ski movies and videos online. I spend hours watching ski videos, though I couldn’t pinpoint a single one. However, I have always been drawn to videos that tell a little bit of a story as to how people were able to experience such amazing things.

The whole team skinning up Champs de Mars, a Chic Choc classic. PHOTO: Nick Edwards
Henry Eckerson leading the skin up Champs de Mars, a Chic-Choc classic. PHOTO: Nick Edwards

Where did you find the best skiing?

Edwards: Mount Lyall has been awesome time and time again. I’ve gone back since the making of the movie, and had another great experience on that mountain.

Max Lewis demonstraing proper form on Champs de Mars. PHOTO: Adam Silverstien
Max Lewis ripping turns on Champs de Mars. PHOTO: Adam Silverstien

What didn’t make it into the documentary?

Edwards: What you don’t see is a lot more of the craziness that went on and the logistics behind traveling to the Gaspé. We weren’t all necessarily the best of friends when we started the trip, but after skiing together for a week and staying with each other in the Sea Shack, we definitely became a lot closer.

Silverstien: That last day at Lyall I got frostbite on my finger and all my skin fell off. I got the shot though.

Any travel tips you’d like to share about the Chic-Chocs?

Silverstien: Definitely check out the Sea Shack.

Edwards: I think the Chic-Chocs are something that everyone on the East who truly cares about skiing should experience at least once. It shows you that there are a number of powder days out here even if it doesn’t seem that way.