It Feels Just Like Home

Quebecois monster truck driver Cynthia Gauthier gets some serious R&R in the snowmobile-friendly town of Hearst, Ontario.

Monster Truck driver Cynthia Gauthier travels all over the planet participating in competitions. She's been a TV host for several years and she runs a welding workshop, Pin Metal Up, in Pointe-Calumet, Quebec. She works hard and she plays hard.

But from January to May, when things get crazy busy with Monster Truck competitions and TV filming, finding some space for this thrill-seeker to clear her head is crucial. “My way to relax during my off time is to burn fuel in Northern Ontario,” she says. It's become a tradition.

The best snowmobiling destination

Gauthier already knew Ontario—at least the southern part. As a child, her father would bring her to attend motocross races, and she'd been camping at Wasaga Beach.

Later, she competed in provincial and national motocross competitions in the Toronto and Ottawa areas. Now, Monster Jam gives her the chance to discover the world. But nothing compares to home. “When I have a few days of vacation, I love to discover Canada. Our country is so diverse,” she says. “We’re lucky.”

Northern Ontario is a recent revelation for her. Gauthier realized early in her Northern Ontario escapades that motorsports are part of the local vibe. “There, you learn to snowmobile and play hockey before you learn to walk,” says the world traveller, laughing. 

French cousins in Hearst

In recent years she's visited Cochrane and Temiskaming Shores with Jessi Combs, an adrenaline enthusiast (the world's fastest woman, who died in August 2019 while breaking a speed record). She also accompanied country singer Larry Berrio on an ATV-quad adventure in Elliot Lake. Then, in March 2020, Hearst—where French is the predominant language, and the trails are like snowmobile highways—was calling her.

And on every visit, motorsport enthusiasts gave her a warm welcome. “In the North, the locals tell you where to go, and they suggest trying this or that trail. The community is all about the sport,” she recalls.

In Hearst, moreover, the Francophone community made her feel at home. “I could speak French, Québécois. It’s the same culture! They really are our cousins!”

This attachment is mutual. Upon returning to the Greater Montreal area, Cynthia realized how well-known Hearst is in the snowmobiling community.

Quality Snowmobile Trails

Northeastern Ontario is one of the best snowmobile destinations in the world. Gauthier can attest. “Hearst's Club Voyageur is one of the best clubs in Ontario. The volunteers are really passionate about the quality of their trails. I took a ride in a groomer, and at the slightest flaw, the driver backed up so that it would be perfectly even.”

She enjoyed the gentle trail experience that the wide and wondrous trails provide, as she testified on Instagram: “You can ride for miles and miles without getting tired or having a sore butt.”

Massive snow!

Gauthier was also able to enjoy some wild snow. “I had snow up to my waist. In the Laurentians, in early March, there was almost no more snow. When I got to Hearst, it seemed like it was in the middle of the snowmobile season,” she enthuses (in the Hearst region, the season often stretches into April).

Accompanied by local snowmobile guides, she went off-trail and zoomed around on frozen lakes. She was living in the moment and put away her phone while she was playing in the powder. Her 114,000 Instagram followers had to wait! “We really appreciated the moment,” she says.

She recommends the experience and hopes to come back for more. “In Hearst, there are many off-trail possibilities. The trails are mostly on public land—you can go out without disturbing anyone.”

Everything a Snowmobiler needs

Throughout her travels in Northern Ontario, Gauthier noted that all accommodations are designed for snowmobilers to have the best experience possible. In Hearst proper, motels such as Companion Hotel & Motel, Villa Inn and Suites, and Queen's Motel provide parking spaces for trailers. There's even a heated garage at the Companion.

One restaurant, Pizza Place Bar & Grill, sets up a shuttle service between its dining room and a motel for those who don’t have a vehicle or want to have a drink.

Menus are always an issue for Gauthier, as she’s often on the road, and her job is physically demanding; she's wary of the excesses that restaurants often lead to. But in Hearst, in every restaurant she visited during her stay, she easily managed to eat healthily.

In three days, Gauthier got her battery charged. She met a welcoming women’s riding group that took her all around the well-groomed snowmobile trails, made some new friends, ate delicious meals, and slept in amazing hotels made for sledders. An all-around perfect trip.

As she heads home, Cynthia Gauthier has to shift back into competition mode and pack her bags. Soon enough, she’ll jump in her Monster Truck and show off to over 50,000 spectators at a time how she’s mastered the art of riding.

About Staff Writer, What A Ride

What A Ride covers stories, events and perspectives from the worlds of motorcycling, snowmobiling, ATVing and boating. Motorized adventures, full-tilt, 24/7.

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