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You might not be surprised to learn that Mount Royal’s snowy trails have attracted legions of snowshoers for over 175 years, but did you know that the mountain was also the stomping grounds of the first ever snowshoe club in Canada? The history of snowshoeing began in Montréal in the 1840s when a dozen amateur snowshoers (affluent English-speaking citizens for the most part) gathered on Saturdays at the corner of Sherbrooke and Union Streets for a friendly trek up the mountain’s snowy slopes. Up until then, snowshoeing had mostly been a means of transportation, but it became more of a winter leisure activity thanks to these outings.
 
One of the hallmarks of this group of snowshoers was undoubtedly the spirit of camaraderie and revelry that rallied its members. In his book “TUQUE BLEUE, A Christmas Snowshoe Sketch” published in 1882, the author John Lespérance paints a vivid picture of the festivities and gargantuan feasts that awaited snowshoers after their excursions on the mountain: “… ranks of cold fowl, pyramids of headcheese, coils of sausage, mountains of bread, oceans of cider.” The mood was festive and it was not uncommon for the men to burst into song:
 
“Chilliest of skies above,
Coldest of fields below,
Bound to the shoe we love,
Ever and on we go.”
 
 

With each passing winter, the Saturday snowshoe expeditions on Mount Royal drew more and more followers, and the group had to adapt to accommodate its many members. In 1843, excursions were formalized and the Montreal Snow Shoe Club was officially created, making it the first of its kind in Canada!
 
This was also the year that Montreal Snow Shoe Club members started to wear the now famous blue tuques. 
 
These blue hats were particularly visible during the club’s torchlight expeditions up the mountain, which began at the McGill Gatehouse and ended at the summit. After the trek, participants would gather to feast in a festive atmosphere, just like in the early days of the club!
 
  
 
Although its spirit of camaraderie and revelry stayed strong, the Montreal Snow Shoe Club gradually became more of a sporting event than a social occasion. This lead to the first competitions between various clubs and cities across the province, which then spread to the rest of Canada. And the popularity of the snowshoeing sport has continued to grow ever since!
 
 

The Tradition Lives on Thanks to the Tuques Bleues Benefit Event

Some 175 years after the first blue hat was spotted on the mountain, this festive and sporting tradition continues this year again with the Tuques Bleues fundraiser!
 
In the same spirit of camaraderie that brought together the founders of the Montreal Snow Shoe Club, the Tuques Bleues benefit event is an opportunity for the business community to get together and actively contribute to the protection of Mount Royal’s natural habitats, while living a unique experience on the mountain!
 
Each year, hundreds of participants gather on the mountain wearing the event’s signature blue tuques to snowshoe up the summit. And as they were wont to do in the past, snowshoers then head indoors in the Mount Royal Chalet to partake in the festivities that now pulse to the beats of a DJ! Teams of 10 can also register in the Défi Équipe challenge and compete against other companies for the Tuques Bleues trophy.
 
The Tuques Bleues benefit event held by Les amis de la montagne in partnership with Manulife takes place on February 15, from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Online registration is mandatory at tuquesbleues.com, at the cost of $250 per ticket.

Ticket price includes snowshoe rental, blue tuque, gourmet buffet and open bar, while helping Les amis de la montagne pursue our mission of protecting our beloved mountain.
 
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