Struck by wanderlust after reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels, Joe Kowalski decided to kindle his own passion for adventure by exploring the uncharted rapids of the Ottawa River with a group of fellow college students. There they discovered a multi-channel paradise—the six-mile-wide river churned through dozens of islands, jutting rocks, secluded beaches, and gorgeous waterfalls, as well as calmer paddling runs. Their stories and videos attracted guests, spurring the loosely organized group to band together in 1975 to become Wilderness Tours. To date, they have guided more than one million people safely down the river.
Today, the guides spend most of their time on white water rafting day trips, pausing in their runs to lead body-surfing and cliff-jumping adventures at some of the river's calmer spots. A riverside lunch is also provided to refuel paddlers for the second half of their run.The main resort also makes use of the stunning topography and forests that surround the river during rock-climbing, bungee jumping, and mountain biking excursions. The Wilderness Tours Adventure Resort offers luxury accommodations alongside a restaurant and bar.
Mont Farlagne has sent skiers, snowboarders, and tubers soaring down its sides for more than four decades. At first, only four trails sliced through the pine and birch forests, but Mont Farlagne has since grown to feature 22 trails, 13 of which remain open during evening hours. From December through March—when the snow is swept up and packed into coolers for the summer—visitors challenge themselves on hills rated at four different levels of difficulty, taking breaks between runs to browse through the pro shop, refuel in the cafeteria, or warm up with daily drink specials at Avalanche Pub.
RiverRun Rafting & Wilderness Resort, a once humble 12-raft outfit, has grown into a 165-acre resort that accommodates all levels of outdoorsmen with a variety of lodgings. But whitewater rafting remains the focus of the resort, with guides leading trips ranging from high-adventure surges through foaming rapids to gentle floats down the Ottawa River's middle channel. And because the resort is located on a 4,000-foot stretch of shoreline, each trip ends on the resort's beaches, meaning that rafters get more time on the water since there isn't a second round of transport back to the resort.
River Run Rafting's staff of experts even pioneered a six-person sport raft dubbed the Ultimate Adventure Sports Raft, which is capable of turning back up river eddies, reentering rapids from the side, and suspending atop whitewater the way a surfer rides a wave. Upgrades are available for an additional cost.
After a three-year renovation by renowned course architects Graham Cooke and Stan Brigham, Gatineau Club de Golf unveiled a sleek new course layout in 2010. The site boasts championship-calibre credentials, including a total distance of more than 7,000 yards from the back tees and large bent-grass greens that punish poorly struck approaches with treacherous putts. Generous fairways reward precise bifurcation with excellent lies, but players guilty of errant drives will be pleasantly surprised to find plenty of room to make a bold go at the green. Water makes its omnipresence known as early as the 395-yard second hole, where players must tee off over a pond, negotiate with a creek that crosses the fairway 100 yards in front of the green, and avoid the water that buttresses the green to the left and rear. The 18th hole makes a 90-degree dogleg right around a massive reservoir and a pond stretching alongside the entire right length of the fairway, demanding the same precision as the moat around a driveway.
Carved through the tree-lined wetlands near the Mont-Tremblant Ski Resort, Golf Manitou's par-58 course showcases the artistry of architect Darrell Huxham. By design, each hole is a grassy homage to a different legendary golf course—the sand encircling the tenth green, for instance, recalls the Desert Highlands Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the towering pine trees around the third hole mimic North Carolina's legendary Pinehurst. Unlike the thick shag carpet covering other courses' greens, slick bent grass makes for fast putts at almost every hole—including the fourth green's two-tiered tribute to Ballybunion Golf Club in Ireland. Before rounds, golfers can warm up at the driving range, which sports both grass and synthetic hitting bays, or practice putting and chipping on a massive 18-hole, 30,000-square-foot practice green.
The experienced movers and shakers at Master School of Bartending impart the art of mixology on budding professionals with bilingual, hands-on libation-blending classes. A comprehensive four-hour course ($68) furnishes all necessary supplies, including alcohol, and delves into cocktail concocting by exploring various creations such as cosmos, martinis, mojitos, fancy coffees, and a number of fruit-infused shooters that students may sample. Learn to twist lemon or lime rinds into lively garnish or how to capture the eyes and interests of circus scouts by juggling bar tools and performing other dazzling tricks that fall under flairtending. With the school's advantage in job placement at many spirited establishments, recent grads are known to feel confident searching for mixology gigs or competing in grade-school science fairs after completing the course.