Chic-Chocs Winter Wonderland

Lyall Deep Snowpack

Chic-Chocs Winter Wonderland


Ski The East nailed it with their slogan.

The major part of New-England and Quebec just got buried under a thick layer of ice in a typical East-Coast weather pattern.

We started the first leg of our trip with Fatbiking & beer in mind, weather obliged. Vermont seemed to be the obvious choice.

Burlington Brewing Company, Vermont
St-Alban, Vermont

As it turns out, one region was save from the rain.

The Chic-Chocs.


We had no other choice but to drive the 800 km to get there.

We parked at the trail head.

It was cold on new year’s eve, -15F at some point. Nevermind, we barbecued and stayed warm in the van.

New Year BBQ Vanlife

We woke up and skinned up.

We were welcomed with absolute silence and a deep snowpack.

Lyall Deep Snowpack

Van Talk


It is pretty much useless during the short winter days… we got maybe 10-20Ah charge total from solar during the whole week (guesstimate). Even on a sunny day, mid-day, we got almost nothing coming in. We still cleared the solar panels from the snow that fell overnight and this is fairly easy to do with a ladder. This shows the importance of being able to charge while driving. We went with a 30A smart charger; I wish we went with 50A-60A charger (like the Sterling Power Battery-to-Battery charger) to charge faster (shorter drives). Also, we noticed that the smart charger will reduce the charge rate as the SOC is getting closer to 100%; it really take a long time to charge the battery from 80% to 100%. (see our Solar Panels Installation Post and our Electrical System Design Post)


We found that we use a bit more power in winter. Days are shorter, so we use more lights. We want to prevent the interior of the van from freezing (water supplies, beer bottles explosions…), so the heater runs continuously and draw around 1.7A approx on average 24h/24h (this varies a lot with the outside temps). The duty cycle of the fridge is around 10%, compared to around 35% in summer.


We got nights where the temps went down to -15F (-25C). The Webasto was able to maintain the temperature inside the van. However, it takes a long time (1-2 hours) to raise the temperature from, let’s say, 40F to 65F. On very cold nights, the heater was working on High mode continuously. The 3.7 gasoline engine heat up quite fast on idle; it could be used to raise the temperatures faster. (see our Webasto Installation Post)


All the Thinsulate was installed for the trip. The ceiling and one of the wall was finished; the other wall still had the metal exposed. We could feel a HUGE difference between the finished wall VS the other. The finished wall (thinsulate + ez-cool + wood paneling) was not cold to the touch. The unfinished wall was freezing near the floor and was sending us cold draft. This trip gave us confidence about our insulation choice. (see our Thinsulate Installation Post)


No surprise here, the Transit is not an off-road vehicle (we have the Limited Slip). It drives really well on snowy roads, but things get more complicated in ski resort parking lots and such. We found out that a semi-hard-pack snow layer over an ice layer will make the Transit rather useless. We did not get stuck, we went wherever we wanted, but we could feel the limitation of traction. We carried snow chains just in case.


6 thoughts on “Chic-Chocs Winter Wonderland”

  1. You guys rock, living the dream!!
    What did you think of the chic chocs, was it worth the trip up there?
    You must be from the east coast knowing of that place?
    I’m on Cape Cod, just bought a new 4×4 sprinter that I’m setting up and chic chocs was on my mind..
    Been following your site for awhile, thanks for all your iknowledge. If your ever on the Cape, you’ve got a nice place to crash here.
    Best, Dave

    • Thanks buddy,

      yeah we’re from the East-Coast (I’m actually from Ste-Anne-des-Monts, 30 minutes driving from the Chic-Chocs), but since we moved full time in our van we’re roaming the West-Coast since September and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!!

      We lived in Montreal for years and we would go to the Chic-Chocs at least once a year; we think it’s the best destination on the east coast for backcountry skiing. The terrain is nice, but snow can be a hit or miss. It’s definitely worth the trip! Here is the best guidebook we know (sorry it’s in french):


  2. Real life experiences with the Ford Transit or other van conversions are in short supply and it helps me and others make better choices!
    It has been a long time, that I’ve been in the Gaspé, but I get why you like it there, although I wouldn’t go there mid-winter. Great photographs!

    Van Williams

  3. Hey Guys,
    Looks like a great trip! (minus the Webasto issue) Thanks for sharing all the knowledge and experience you’re gaining with your build. After a weekend in my Westy last weekend in -3F temps with a propex, reading your trip report I was wondering if you wish that you’d went with a more powerful furnace? Also are you thinking that just using a B2B charger and solar system for power without a shoreline would fit your needs better? My wife are hoping to switch from an ’87 Westy to a Transit and being climbers our needs are very similar to yours.
    Take care,

    • Hey Gabe,
      I doubt we will use the shoreline, especially since we like to be out of bounds. But we installed in anyway, just in case.
      More powerful furnace? Good question. I think we chose the right size. We can keep the van the temperature we want really. Some says a more powerful furnace will run at lower settings and get carbonated (need to clean more often). Like i mentioned, you can use the van heater as a boost for a short moment; then the Webasto have no problem maintaining the temperature. I think when our insulation is completed, it will be a good match.


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