WINTER MAGIC AT QUEBEC’S MONT TREMBLANT
An active winter ski escape has quietly become an annual tradition for us – not surprising, since my wife is passionate about skiing. I’m okay with that, with the tiny proviso that every year we experience someplace different. Whether east or west, I want a new unique and charming locale. So this year we are off to the premier skiing destination in Eastern Canada, Mont Tremblant, in the Belle Province. Only 130 kilometres north of Montreal, Mont-Tremblant is a beckoning oasis carved out of the Laurentian mountain range.
The “trembling mountain”, so named by the indigenous Algonquin, (and not, as my wife might try to have you believe, by the state of my shaking legs as I stand looking down the ultra-steep double black diamond run called The Edge), offers up 662 acres of diverse skiable terrain, 14 lifts and an impressive 96 runs on 4 different faces. You can literally follow the sun around the mountain. Since the first chairlift was installed in 1939, Tremblant has grown into a highly regarded family-friendly ski resort, offering diverse slopes ranging from steep groomed runs to long, winding paths, like the six-kilometre Nansen. Skilled skiers and boarders will be challenged with glades on the north side’s The Edge.
We rise early to take advantage of “first tracks” and head up the mountain when the ski lift opens to see the sun rising above the peaks, casting its soft morning glow on the surrounding snow-covered mountains. Then it is an amazing run down, carving fresh tracks in the virgin powder. Even if you don’t ski, it’s worth a trip up the gondola to Grand Manitou, the summit lodge, for a spectacular panoramic view of Lake Tremblant and the village below.
If you live on the wild side, the hill offers three separate snow parks, including the aptly named Adrenaline Park. My wild side doesn’t tempt me to perform acrobatic tricks in my skis, but rather to head to the village for a lunchtime break at the Microbrasserie La Diable for a flight of beer, chased down by a smoke meat sandwich and the best poutine in the Laurentides. I could have sampled all day, but my wife soon had me back on the gondola heading to the summit.
Snuggled into the base of the mountain is the resort’s delightful pedestrian village with its narrow cobblestone streets lined with brightly coloured buildings. The slope-side village mimics an alpine ski town in France or Switzerland, with plenty of cafes, pubs, restaurants and boutique shops to keep visitors entertained. Many of the original chalets that were perched on the mountain before Mont Tremblant’s development into a resort were relocated in the village. These heritage buildings include a wooden church with steeple in the lower village, the religious haven is surrounded by an ice skating rink.
A complimentary cabriolet lift whisks you from the bottom of the village to the top, while giving you a bird's eye view of the whole area. Vieux Tremblant is one hip, hustling and bustling place; visitors gather around the many wood-burning fire pits, stroll along the brightly lit laneways or sit out on outdoor terraces catching the setting sun's last rays.
Those who don't want to spend their entire time on the mountain can still be entertained by the resort's variety of activities, which include spas, pools and family-friendly entertainment. Take a snowshoe and fondue tour, a three kilometre guided twilight trek through the snowy mountain terrain. A hearty fondue and wine dinner is served at a mid-mountain log cabin, the Refuge du Trappeur, followed by an hour-long moonlit snowshoe stagger back down to the village. If you’d prefer an activity off the mountain, Domaine St-Bernard is a pastoral paradise for cross-country skiers, with trails that follow the Rivière du Diable.
Just north-east of Mont Tremblant, at Vals des Lacs, is the nature refuge and adventure centre called Kanartha-Aki, meaning “guardian of the boundless earth” in Algonquin. Kanartha-Aki offers ice fishing, snowshoeing and a chance to mush your own team of huskies through the Quebec woods. We meet the friendly and enthusiastic huskies and then are off with an eight-dog team down the narrow winding trails. It is a surprisingly tranquil activity. Once the huskies are running there is silence, save for the creak and crunch of sled runner over the packed trail and the frosted breathing of the dogs. We stop for a break to visit the refuge’s bison herd, and then enjoy lunch at a backcountry cabin, before the energetic canines take us home.
Quebec – where there’s nothing like a good winter adventure. The skiing was fantastic, the food exquisite, the activities exhilarating and the landscape magical.
IF YOU GO:
PLANNING A TRIP:
PHOTOS by Jamie Ross
1. Skiers are treated to a spectacular panoramic view of the charming slope-side village at Mont Tremblant.
All material used by Travel Writers' Tales is with the permission of the writers and photographers who, under national and international copyright law,
retain the sole and exclusive rights to their work. The contents of this site, whether in whole or in part may not be downloaded,
copied or used in any manner without the explicit permission of Travel Writers' Tales Editors, Jane Cassie and Margaret Deefholts,
and the written consent of contributing writers and photographers. © Travel Writers' Tales