Campus Spotlight, Student Life

McGill Outdoors Club makes the most of Montreal winters

Each year, the end of the holiday season inspires dread for the rest of winter. Come January, our sweaters grow worn with time and our excitement over the first snow has melted with the realization that the ruthless Winter season will stretch on for months longer. The McGill Outdoors Club (MOC), however, has a different take: The club strives to cultivate students’ appreciation for this season through sport—including ice climbing, to cross-country skiing, winter kayaking, and many other winter recreational activities.

Founded in 1936, the MOC is one of the oldest outdoors clubs in Montreal. Led by 29 executive members, this independent student group rents out sporting equipment and leads trips to remote areas outside Montreal. Membership is open to everyone, from beginners to professionals, McGill students to Montrealers, undergrad to post-grad. The MOC welcomes anyone with a passion for the outdoors.

“The MOC is one of the oldest and largest clubs on campus,” Kyle Dolph, MOC President and U4 Arts student, said. “Names and faces change, but the attitude doesn’t [….] we’re committed to getting people outside.”

The MOC owns a house in Prevost, Quebec, a Laurentian town less than an hour’s drive from Montreal. For a fee ranging from $5 to $15—depending on night and room choice—students can stay in the house overnight and partake in sports nearby, including ice climbing, hiking, and cross-country skiing on trails the club built in the 1930s and 1940s. These trails, which supplement the free skiing trails found on Mont Royal, make cross-country skiing more accessible for McGill students. Joanna Peterschmitt, MOC Cross-country Ski Officer and U3 Science student, regularly takes advantage of the sport’s availability.

“I think when there’s a lot of snow, it’s a more fun way of getting around,” Peterschmitt said. “It’s a nice balance between downhill skiing and hiking.”

In previous years, the MOC has led survival trips, zipper-less camping, and backcountry skating trips where participants hiked to find frozen natural ponds to skate. This semester, the MOC tentatively plans to offer 25 trips, including introductory Telemark skiing trips—a type of downhill skiing with one’s heels unclipped from the back of the ski—for students seeking to embrace the cold.

Additionally, Louis Devaux, MOC House Manager and U3 Engineering student, will run, for the first time in the club’s history, a bobsled trip in early February that pits small teams against each other to build the fastest bobsled using broken skis.  

To Dolph, braving negative temperatures and trying out new activities helps with learning to appreciate the Winter season.

“Winter sports are not a way to endure the winter, but to enjoy the winter,” Dolph said. “At least for me, and other people in the MOC, we’re happy when winter comes. We’re almost sad to see it go.”

Before joining the MOC, Dolph had no experience with winter sports. Since becoming a member and climbing the club’s ranks, however, he has tried various activities including hockey, winter camping, and Telemark skiing. But of all the sports he’s tried with the MOC, ice climbing has become Dolph’s main winter sport.

“I chose [ice climbing] because it feels very real,” Dolph said. “It’s a very unnatural thing to be climbing a sheet of ice. It’s a lot of fun.”

Equally enthusiastic about winter sports, Navoneel Chakraborty, Kayak Frosh coordinator and U1 Arts and Science, feels most passionately about winter kayaking, which he describes as an unforgettable experience.

“When we were kayaking [off the coast of British Columbia in February], and it started snowing, it was deathly silent and it was eerie, but also serene,” Chakraborty said. “It’s a very different kind of surrounding to be in, and it was genuinely beautiful.”

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