Morin Heights History

Skier B Basler


Arrival of the train

Like many Laurentian municipalities, the area known as Morin Flats (1855 1875) was relatively isolated until the arrival of the train, which propelled the development of its wood industry. Furthermore, tourism began to flourish once the train began to run to Morin Flats, whose name was changed to Morin-Heights in 1911 because the latter was deemed more appropriate and attractive to potential tourists.

Bellevue Ski Center, 1957

Easy access afforded by train gave birth to a swath of cottages around Lac Écho. As the years passed, the area became a popular ski destination with the English middle-class, thanks to the interest of the Montreal Ski Club, whose members started skiing in the region in 1905.

Bellevue Ski Center, 1959

Throughout the region, families wishing to supplement their income turned their farms into boarding houses, usually managed by women. Morin-Heights boarding houses included Mrs. Charlie Seale’s, Mrs Annie Kennedy’s, Watchorn’s Farm and Strathcona House. They were known for their long, wooden porches, ideal for strolling and passing the time, and Saturday night dances.

Bellevue Ski Center in the 60's

At this time, people skied down the streets of the village, thanks to a horse-drawn roller to pack down snow after a snowfall. Skiers, equipped with a picnic lunch, made a day of it and skied to Val-David or Val-Morin.

Skier passing by train in 1954

In 1934, in the midst of the Depression, an engineer and ski lover named George Binns came to Morin-Heights to recover from an injury. Looking for something to do, he purchased a plot of land on Lac Écho and built a log cabin.  He sold it and built another, again and again, unwittingly establishing Lac Écho’s Log Village.
 

Bellevue Hotel view from Bellevue Ski Center

In the 1940s and 1950s, most of the villages in Argenteuil county were experiencing a decline in population as people moved out west to farm in Manitoba or were attracted to industrial centres, such as Montreal. Only Saint-Adolphe-d’Howard and Morin-Heights, both with burgeoning tourist industries, were the exception.

Hotel Bellevue's pool

In 1951, brothers Albert and George bunny Basler, whose family originated in Bâle, Switzerland, purchased a small ski resort on Mont Bellevue with the intention to develop. With a hotel near the base of the summit and a ski jump built in 1953, the Bellevue offered a much-appreciated family atmosphere which attracted professional ski jumpers and cross-country skiers from the Viking Club.

Return of Skiers on Morin-Heights's streets

Not far away in Christieville, John Elder operated Mont Christie on his family farm, a working farm with horses and dairy cattle.

The following decades were hard on family ski resorts in the Laurentians and surrounding areas.

Chalet Mont Bellevue

In addition to the construction of Highway 15 and changing tourist habits due to the rise in automobiles, operators were obligated to conform to new safety standards and modernize their equipment in order to stay competitive. As a result, many ski resorts were forced to close, including Bellevue and Christie in the 1990s.

Advertising of the Bunny Ski shop

Despite these challenges, Morin-Heights maintained its reputation as a leading cross-country ski destination, with over 160 kilometres of trails. Mont Bellevue was converted into Basler Park and the former CN railway route became the Aerobic Corridor, extending 58 km to Amherst. No less than 80% of the area’s trail network crosses private property, with public access granted by property owners.

Bellevue Hotel

Bellevue Hotel view from Mont Bellevue.

Bellevue Ski Center

Bellevue Ski Center, 1971.

Credits

Historical and iconographic research, text:  
Marc-André Lapointe and Samuel Mathieu

                 
Sources (Morin-Heights text) :

Serge Laurin, Histoire des Laurentides, Institut québécois de recherche sur la culture, 1989.

Sandra Stock, Histoire de Morin-Heights en bref, 

Jean-Pierre Bourbeau, Laurentides : la belle randonnée, Québec : GID, 2005, 210 p.

Jean-Pierre Bourbeau, Les Laurentides au temps du train du Nord, Québec : GID, 2013, 208 p.

Michel Allard, Le cœur des Laurentides, Montréal : Septentrion, 2017, 240 p.
Municipality of Morin-Heights.

John M. Nolan, Les Vikings, http://vikingskiclub.ca/.


Pictures:
Collection de l’Association historique de Morin-Heights
Collection du Musée du ski des Laurentides
Collection de la Société d’histoire et de Généalogie des Pays-d’en-Haut



Excerpt of
The Pays-d’en-Haut: a Jewel of Leisure and Recreation

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