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(2014 - Winter Issue)


Despite frigid temperatures wellbelow –30 C, some 12,000 skiers and snowboarders showed up at Station Mont Tremblant on a bright and blustery Saturday morning in January.

So what lures so many people to the mountain on such a day? Simply, they’re celebrating winter the way it’s meant to be.

In my 7:45 a.m. rush to take advantage of my First Tracks pass, a complimentary perk for guests staying at participating hotels in the resort, I’ve neglected to properly cover my face. Not even 10 turns into the Supérieur run on the North Side, I realized the thin balaclava I wore under my helmet didn’t offer suitable protection. If I was to enjoy the day, I needed a proper full-face mask. By the time I was back to the summit, around 8:30 a.m., the regular guests were heading in droves to the top.

I did find the perfect face mask in the shop located in the Grand Manitou, the spacious day lodge built at the summit by resort developer Intrawest shortly after it acquired it in 1991. This was fortunate because it spared me having to ski all the way back to the village on the South Side.

Lift lines can be challenging on a Saturday morning at Tremblant and I had elected to stay on the North Side as long as my toes and fingers would allow it. A favourite pit stop on the hill is Le Refuge du Trappeur located on a third mountain side, the Versant Soleil. The cabin’s a little tricky to locate, being set off in the woods, but well worth the effort. Here, chilly skiers can sit around a wood stove enjoying a coffee and muffin.

As the name suggests, Versant Soleil actually faces the south. At times this sector offers good shelter from the prevailing wind and, strangely, hardly ever gets too crowded. As such, lift lines are practically unheard of. The sector was opened in 1999 and features a modern approach to ski trail design, with more narrow runs that exploit pitch and direction changes. As a result, skiing is fun on Versant Soleil. Had I missed the turn-off to the Trappeur cabin and skied all the way to the base, I could have gone to the Casino de Mont-Tremblant instead of returning to the top. Being only mid-morning, I decided against it. Besides, I didn’t think they’d be too happy to see me walking in with my ski boots.

Off-the-Slopes Action

Research shows that on a typical winter’s day at a destination resort there are six hours of skiing, eight hours of sleeping and many hours of “what am I going to do now.” The casino and numerous other venues, such as the Aquaclub La Source, the conference centre, the movie theatre, live acts on Place Saint-Bernard, a skating rink and tubing centre, form part of Tremblant’s solution to ensure guests have multiple positive experiences during their free time. In addition, Tremblant’s purpose-built four-season village is spectacular and boasts enough restaurants, bars, cafés, retail shops and countless additional venues to sustain excitement for days on end.

At lunch time I joined a group of adventurous types at the Activity Centre to catch a 40-minute bus ride to a local dogsledding guided tour operator, Expédition Wolf. Based on a previous experience, I had mixed feelings about this outing. However, it turned out to be a very well-orchestrated event where participants were actually assigned to a team and participated in harnessing the dogs. Mid-point during the hour-long ride along a winding trail through the forest, driver and passenger trade places. Everybody gets a turn.

Activities such as skating at the rink in the lower village by the Chapelle Saint-Bernard and tube sliding at the Équilibre area next to the Fairmont Tremblant are included with the Tremblant Privileges pass. These evening activities start at 6 p.m. and are very popular with families with young kids as well as teenagers. I must admit tubing was fun but, by then, after a full day outdoors, I was ready for some sustenance.

There are almost 40 restaurants and food outlets at the resort. During my stay, I had the chance to dine at Coco Pazzo for progressive Italian cuisine where I ordered the osso bucco made of Québec veal shank. On my second night I enjoyed salmon at the Altitude Seafood and Grill restaurant at the Casino. The last night, raclette was on the menu at La Savoie restaurant. Although they were a little pricey, all met my expectations. There are more affordable options in the village.

Normally I drive from southern Ontario to Tremblant for my annual visit, however last January I took Porter Airlines’ 65-minute direct flight from downtown Toronto to La Macaza’s Mont Tremblant International, just 40 minutes from the resort by shuttle. Luggage was delivered right to my hotel. Although the airline didn’t charge for an extra ski bag, I opted to rent skis, however I did take my own boots. The performance skis I reserved at Centre Aventure came with a fresh tune-up.

For a complete hassle-free experience, there’s even a ski valet next to the gondola base. Customer service reigns supreme at Tremblant.

Travel Planner

For more information, visit:

Mont Tremblant Resort: tremblant.ca

Casino Mont-Tremblant: casinosduquebec.com/mont-tremblant

Expédition Wolf: expeditionwolf.com

Porter Airlines: flyporter.com

Tourisme Laurentides: laurentides.com

Tourisme Québec: bonjourquebec.com

Expert Tips

Mont Tremblant features 95 runs over 79 kilometres of trails and the vertical drop is 645 metres. The Nansen, the longest run, is about six kilometres. Fourteen lifts service 268 hectares of terrain and the lift capacity is 27,230 skiers per hour.

Consider a midweek stay as weekends can be quite busy. Newcomers should take one of the free twice-a-day guided tours. Ski the top to mid-mountain and, when it’s busy, use the singles’ lift lines. Plan your meal breaks before or after the noon rush hour.

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