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Why Bonhomme, bikinis and snow baths make for great entertainment

When you first hear the words ‘snow bath’ what comes to mind? For me, it’s a cold dip at a Scandinavian spa but for Carnival Festival goers in Quebec City the term has another meaning … just as literal.

About a month ago I found myself alongside fellow journalists Molly Watson and Kathleen Broadhurst, braving the chilly Canadian weather in nothing but my bikini and singing Bonne Fête (Happy Birthday) to Bonhomme, Carnival’s famous ambassador in front of a massive crowd of strangers.

Why you ask?

I had been invited to join the ranks of the Bain de Neige, a very exclusive club. Apparently stripping down to your bathing suit and rolling in the snow with 80 or so others is a Carnival activity for the privileged. Seriously though, people attempt to win their way into this premier event and others have simply waited years and years to get the chance to take part in the Bain de Neige. It’s that cool.

In our swimsuits at Snow Bath Carnival Bain de Neige

I think they wanted to see if us journos had the ‘snow balls’ to join forces with hard core winter lovers.

And lucky for us as visiting journos hosted by Québec City Tourism – we were afforded the grand opportunity to get half-naked and attempt to freeze ourselves to death.

But that isn’t the real intention of the event nor what happened.

So you may be thinking – what is the Bain de Neige and how exactly does one prepare?

Essentially, the Bain de Neige (snow bath) is an excuse to have a giant snowball fight. An excited crowd gathers to cheer on and laugh at the antics of brave participants. I am sure it’s very entertaining to watch as the view from where I stood was completely hilarious.

A bathing suit is mandatory but one must also be equipped with mitts, shoes and sport a special hat provided by the Festival. I chose to dress up my outfit with the iconic Festival sash.

Experience the fun as if you were there:

Thanks to Christina Pfeiffer of Travel There Next, for being so kind as to capture my glee and that of fellow journalists (and everyone else) with this short video she created.

Warming up – necessary (and smart)
Participants gathered together in a small trailer and took part in a warm up before heading out to play. The term ‘warm up’ however, is a massive understatement. After 45 minutes of compulsory Zumba in a ‘what became a rocking trailer oven’; sweaty bodied, winter loving folks were ready to hit the snow running. Dripping sweat and red-faced, I found myself begging for the cold.

Snowball fight Carnival Bain de Neige Snow Bath

Raring to go – I was in search of my first victim. Who needs a snow bath? Squeal!!

The first round lasted two minutes and immediately snow started flying. There were constant wipeouts as participants struggled to contain their excitement and gain their ‘snow leg’ composure. The women hurled snow, squealed – and repeated.

As you can see it’s true that we did some snow bathing – a LOT in fact, during the event. And there were some face washes (thanks Molly – sorry Kat!) and snow angels that took place … along with the (coldest) giant conga line I have ever been part of.

Bathing in the snow Carnival Bain de Neige snow bath

Cooling down after Zumba. Absolutely necessary.

Snow Bath Bain de Neige Carnival

Ah yes, Kathleen you look like you need some washing!

Brave souls dove into the fluffy stuff and made spectacles of themselves for the insanely large camera carrying crowd that had gathered.

Zumba resumed between rounds and by the second go skin was cold to the touch and in many cases red, but most people were still really warm and more than happy to up the ante. More obvious interaction happened between the strangers as the time went on. For fun, we actually started washing ourselves with the snow – making the act of bathing a reality.

Bathing in the snow bath Bain de Neige Carnival

Bathing in front of a crowd – yep this qualifies as a new experience to add to the list.

By the third round, all groups united (I believe there were three in total) and a dance party erupted. We sang Bonne Féte (Happy birthday) to Bonhomme and the Bain de Neige ended with everyone participating a spontaneous congo line.

Singing Bonne Fete to Bonhomme at Carnival

What a moment. I got to be with Bohomme to sing Bonne Fete to him! A moment I will never forget!

Since participating I have been asked some of the same questions more than once. Here are my responses:

Was it cold?
What was so pleasantly surprising was that I was actually quite warm during the WHOLE event. Thank you Zumba.

What was it like?
It was remarkable how instantly I felt like a part of this wonderfully crazy, spirited community of people. I was able to actually let my guard down and cut loose without fear of looking silly or doing something not in my nature.

Prepping a snow ball at Carnival, Bain de Neige snow bath


This event was FUN. It was like being a kid again!

The fun in the snow was crazy and silly and great. But the Zumba session really stands out as the most ‘unexpected’ piece of the experience. We really were all in it together – inhibitions were quick to disappear and everyone truly was lost in the spirit of the event.

Would you do it again?
Without question – YES. It was honestly a lifetime experience highlight.

What did I learn from it?
Ok truthfully, I wasn’t asked this but I am going to tell you because it’s important.
What I figured out from participating in the Bain de Neige was how much life I was not busy living. I know – DEEP.  But it’s true. If we don’t take the time to do something wildly silly and out of our comfort zone we truly miss out on amazing experiences.  Enjoying the moment is something I intend to focus on heavily in 2014.

Jenn jumping in the snow, Carnival Bain de Neige snow bath

Woohoo, who is into bringing the snow bath to Saskatchewan?

I also learned that Québec City does winter right. Period.

The Bain de Neige is one of the many fantastic events that take place during the two-week Carnival Festival. Learn more about Carnival here.

For a more behind the scenes look and to ‘see’ how we prepared, check out this video also produced by Travel There Next.

Question of the day
Would you ever take part in a snow bath?

My visit was supported by Québec City Tourism and Québec Tourism but as usual thoughts shared on my site are all my own. Thanks for the amazing hospitality especially to those involved with the Carnival Festival.

Also a giant thank you Christina Pfeiffer from Travel There Next for the video footage and to Lisa Goodmurphy (Gonewiththefamily.com) and Paule Bergeron (Québec City Tourism) for snapping the images above.

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8 thoughts on “Why Bonhomme, bikinis and snow baths make for great entertainment
  1. Wendy Butler on said:

    Looks like a frigging BLAST Jenn! Plus, look at how great you look in your bikini in the SNOW!!! This Californian applauded you!

  2. This was, without a doubt, the craziest thing that I have ever seen and the most fun to watch! I don’t like the cold much but a tiny part of me might have wished that I had done it too!

    • Let me clarify – I am not a cold lover myself! In fact, I love the heat. However, this was one of those times I am glad I went against my initial gut instinct. As it turned out, we really were able to stay warm – I know it’s hard to believe but it’s true.

      Glad you enjoyed it – it was a bit crazy! Thanks for stopping by Lisa!

      Jenn

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