Looming mightily on the north side of the St Lawrence from the Ottawa River to the Saguenay River, the Laurentians are one of the world’s oldest ranges. Five hundred million years of erosion have moulded a rippling landscape of undulating hills and valleys, and a vast sweep of coniferous forest dotted with hundreds of tranquil lakes and rivers. The most accessible stretch lies north of Montréal, even though settlement in the upper Laurentians did not begin until the 1830s, when the construction of the P’tit Train du Nord railway tracks let in the mining and lumber industries. When the decline in both industries left the area in a depression, salvation came in the form of the recreational demands of the growing populace of Montréal. The region is now one of North America’s largest ski areas, helmed by the esteemed, stylish Mont-Tremblant, and the train tracks have been replaced by a terrific cycling trail. Even with the ski crowds, much of the land has remained relatively untouched – like the Parc National du Mont-Tremblant – and the area is a must-see when autumn colours arrive. Other than Tremblant – which is pricey – rates for ski passes are around $45 a day in the decent areas, a few dollars more at weekends.