Nature, sports and outdoor activities

Ruiter Valley : Excellent Backcountry in a Protected Zone

Posted on February 25, 2020

Imagine ski and snowshoe trails that have not been trampled on yet by hundreds of mountaineers and visitors, combined with breathtaking landscapes. Welcome to Ruiter Valley.

By Simon Diotte

I was becoming quite restless! Accessing the Ruiter Valley Land Trust trails is a challenge by itself. Starting out from the town of Mansonville, a small hamlet part of the Potton Township, we drove 7.5 km further on sinuous roads to reach the Ruiter Brook parking lot. As soon as I got out of my car, I just wanted to take off on my backcountry skis into this domain nestled inside the Mount Sutton massif.

In the parking lot, my two guides were waiting for me: France Lapointe and Julie-Anne Bellefleur. These two friends are passionate outdoor activity enthusiasts and act as volunteers for the Ruiter Valley Land Trust. For several years now, they’ve been devoting all their energy to the protection of this 300-hectare territory. It was given to the population in the 1990s by a psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Shepherd (deceased since), and his wife Stansje Plantenga (still very involved today). They spend most of their time clearing and maintaining these thirty-some kilometres of trails, accessible as much on skies as on snowshoes. “We never stop,” says France Lapointe, who sits on the governing board.

Rarely Frequented Trails

Skiing on the Ruiter Valley Land Trust trails, allows us to rediscover cross-country skiing as it was practised in the early days; a time when we only dreamt of groomed trails. Although it’s not an obligation, wider skis (65 mm and even wider for skating) are recommended more than classic ones, if only not to find yourself knee-deep in the snow, and also for having more control when heading down the hills. “You’ll find there’s little traffic on our trails. After a snowfall, skiers can take advantage of powder conditions for several days,” explained France Lapointe. Indeed, this is what I discovered underfoot. The snow was immaculate. Wow!

We headed out to explore the east sector; unfortunately, the west sector is closed since last fall when the bridge serving the area was taken out by the river’s rising waters. Right away, after only a few metres, we were astounded by the surroundings. The access trail, called l’Orignal, runs through a plain where we enjoyed breathtaking views of the Mount Sutton range, with all its frozen, snow-covered summits.

My Personal Favourites…

We then headed deep into a broad-leaved forest, where we skied while taking full advantage of the sun. The network offers a series of loops which make it easy to explore. Beginners and families can head out on the 2.2-km Proc-Épic trail without any problems. Those looking for an extra challenge can add the Chouette trail (1 km), which starts out with an uphill effort and ends with a lovely descent (made much safer just recently).

As for us, we headed further inside this untouched valley by taking the Raton-Laveur, the Coyote and the Buse trails, for a total excursion covering 10 km (including the return route). The entire outing took us four hours to complete. The distance might seem small for a cross-country skiing route, but this very rugged terrain has an important relief and the abundance of snow slowed us down quite a bit. Several contemplative pauses also took up a bit of our time. My favourite part of the route was certainly the Buse loop (2.7 km), which runs by some beaver ponds and then ends by offering us several pleasant descents, without ever being breakneck.

The Ruiter Valley is not easily accessed, but it’s well worth the trip. You can expect to see me here after the next snowfall for sure!

The trail map is accessible on the Ondago application

Simon Diotte

Freelance journalist and editor in chief of Géo Plein Air, Simon Diotte is passionate about nature and outdoor activities. His favourite sports include: Canoeing, kayaking, hiking and cross-country skiing. Although he enjoys sports challenges, he also loves spending quality family time in nature with his two daughters.
Géo Plein Air

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