Tag Archives | Quebec

Oui, Ski Mont Tremblant!

Mont Tremblant

Mont Tremblant

Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated. I mean, I only live a few hours from the Canadian border, and until this past week, I’d never, ever been to Mont Tremblant.

Sure, I’d heard about it for what seems like forever. I’d seen how time and time again, it gets rated #1 in SKI magazine’s annual round-up of Eastern ski resorts. But to get in my car and actually go? That was another matter.

Well, last week I finally made it. I’m a member of the Eastern chapter of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association, and this year our annual meeting was held in Tremblant. I’m so glad it was; now that I know what I’ve been missing, I’ll be sure to come back.

Mont Tremblant is the second-oldest ski resort in North America (Sun Valley, Idaho, is older). But the Mont Tremblant you see today is relatively new. The mountain was acquired by Intrawest in 1991, who has turned it into a world-class destination.

Yes, I said world class; Tremblant has so much to offer that I think it deserves that designation.

Why? Consider the following:

The mountain: For all of us Ski Divas, this is by far the biggest concern. Sure, good food and accommodations are nice, but if the mountain doesn’t delivery, frankly, we’re not interested. Never fear. Mont Tremblant has loads of great terrain for everyone. First, some stats:

Summit elevation: 2,871 ft (875 m)
Vertical drop: 2,116 ft (645 m)
Skiable area: 662 acres (268 ha)
Number of lifts: 13
Number of trails: 96
Longest run: 19,800 ft (6,035 m)
Ability levels: Easiest, 17%; More Difficult, 33%; Most Difficult, 40%; Experts Only, 10%

catr_trailmap

So what did I like? First, every part of the mountain is easily accessible. All the lifts go to the top. And once you’re there, you can ski the north, south, or soliel (sunny) side. So if it’s blowy or the snow’s not great on one part of the mountain, you can easily move to another and chances are it’s entirely different. Second, there’s literally something for everyone — lots of long, long trails with a good amount of pitch; super fun glades; great bump runs; terrific views; along with plenty of greens for those who’re just starting out. Some of the favorite trails: Jasey Jay Anderson, Duncan, Mcculloch, Taschereau, and lord knows what else; I just followed the guides around. It’s all good.

 

Le Cabriolet

Le Cabriolet

The village: Spread out across the base of the mountain is a pedestrian village, otherwise known as Quartier Tremblant. Constructed in the early 2000’s, it’s built in a style that’s reminiscent of Quebec’s Old City. And sure, it’s probably a bit Disney-esque. But it’s also very convenient and loaded with hotels, shops, and restaurants, all within easy walking distance of each other and the slopes. We stayed at the Ermitage du Lac, but others in my group stayed in the Holiday Inn Express and the Marriott Residence Inn. To get to the slopes, you can either walk or do what I did: take Le Cabriolet, the commuter lift that skims over the village’s rooftops to land you steps away from the gondola base (my husband said it made him feel ike Mary Poppins).

Quartier Tremblant

Quartier Tremblant

Old World Charm: Tremblant is French to the core; well, French-Canadian, anyway. So you get this Old World-I’m-in-another-country feeling without ever having to cross the Atlantic. It’s lovely, everyone speaks both French and English (which makes it easy for those of us who aren’t bi-lingual), and the food is terrific. Speaking of which….

Lots of dining options: The village has tons of restaurants. A few we had the chance to enjoy include Gypsy at the Westin (great tapas), Le Shack (try the burger), La Diable (wonderful beer options), and Windigo at the Fairmont (great atmosphere and menu). All were very, very good. But if you want to stop and warm-up while you’re skiing, I recommend The Refuge, an on-mountain on-trail cabin that’s positively charming. A great place to stop for hot chocolate by a wood stove.

The Refuge

The Refuge

And lots of non-skiing activities, too: Sure, I was too busy skiing to do anything else. But if you come to Tremblant and have people who want to do something besides ski, there are lots of great options: Ice skating in front of the picturesque St. Bernard Chapel; gambling at the Casino; dog sledding; snow shoeing; fat tire biking; cross country skiing, spa treatments….the list goes on and on.

One of the best parts of the trip was that I had the chance to ski with two other members of TheSkiDiva.com. (Ski Divas are everywhere!) They gave me a local’s tour, as well as their own thoughts on why they love to ski Tremblant:

Three Ski Divas

Three Ski Divas

Judy: There are many reasons I love Tremblant. It’s an easy hour-long drive from my house, and we can park very conveniently on the North Side (not the main side of the mountain), just steps from the lodge. Often the car is so close we use it as a locker. As for the skiing, there’s plenty of choice and you can ski all day never doing the same run twice. There’s also plenty of variety: lots of groomers but also fun ungroomed stuff and glades. And because of the various “versants” (sides) to the mountain, you can stay in the sun all day long. Snowmaking and grooming are excellent. Some people complain about flat runouts at the bottom but you can make use of these – this is where I learned to carve. As passholders who park on the North Side we tend to avoid the busy-ness of the South side, but should we want to enjoy a longer lunch or browse some shops, we can head down to the pedestrian village for a totally different experience. Oh yeah, did I mention the views are great?

Jill: Here’s what I love about Tremblant…
The vertical: There’s over 2,000 feet, compared to places near me in Ontario. Most of these have only have 300 to 400 feet. Even Calabogie only has 760 feet, and that’s the highest in Ontario.
Terrain: There are lots of choices for everyone.
The people:  I have so many friends who ski here.
Things to do beside skiing: Lots of stuff, spas, shopping, dog sledding, tubing, XC skiing, snowshoe….
Conditions: They do try to make it great. Mother Nature can play games, but management makes the best of it.

 

Are there any downsides?
Depends on your perspective. I’ve heard some people say they don’t want to ski in Quebec because it’s cold. Yes, that’s true, there can be cold days. But you know, it is winter. Skiing is a cold weather sport, and yes, it gets cold everywhere. If you dress warmly and take a break here and there, you’ll be fine.

I’ve also heard some people say that it’s hard to get to. If you’re not within driving distance, Mont Tremblant has an airport with direct flights to New York and Toronto. And there’s an airport in Montreal, too, an hour and change to the south.

All I can say is that it’d be too bad if you let any of this get in the way of a great ski trip. So go to Tremblant. You’ll have a blast.

IMG_5496

 

 

 



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Oui, Ski Quebec (an encore presentation)

I originally posted this last February. But with the start of the new ski season, it’s definitely worth a re-run. If you’ve ever considered attending Winter Carnivale in Quebec, I encourage you to make plans. The 2016 dates are January 29 to February 14. Don’t miss out; it’s that good.

And now, encore!

——————————————————————————–

Bonjour, mes amis.

Pardonnez-moi if I practice my French, but I can tell that it’s something I’m going to need in the years to come. You see, I just came back from Quebec, and I am positively smitten.

What was I doing there? Oh, just attending Winter Carnaval, staying in the gorgeous Chateau Frontenac, eating great food, and skiing at both Le Massif and Mont Sainte-Anne. I was in Quebec as part of the annual meeting of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association, and Quebec City Tourism rolled out the red carpet for us lowly ski writers. The result was a trip I’ll never forget, and a destination I’ll be sure to visit again.

Why stay in Quebec City if you want to go skiing? 
Sure, it’s not a ski-in-ski-out location. But if you only rely on that, you miss a lot. I can’t recommend staying in Quebec City highly enough. My husband came up with what I think is the perfect tag line for the city — Closer than the rest of Europe — because more than any other city I’ve visited in North America, Quebec has a distinctly European flavor. And it’s not just because the people speak French (though yes, that’s part of it). The architecture, the winding streets, the culture is loaded with Old World charm. It’s a totally different vibe than you get anywhere else in North America. What’s more, Quebec is beautiful. Perched high on a bluff above the St. Lawrence, you get sweeping views of the river, made even more dramatic in the winter thanks to piles of heaved-up ice. The restaurants are great, the accommodations lovely (like the iconic Chateau Frontenac), and really, hearing French spoken everywhere is just oh-so-much-more romantic. Trust me — it adds a completely new layer to the ski trip experience. Besides, the drive from the city to the ski areas isn’t really that bad.

Chateau Frontenac

Chateau Frontenac

Old City, Quebec

Old City, Quebec

Les femmes sont belle en Quebec.

Les femmes sont belle en Quebec.

Winter Carnaval
Another great benefit from staying in Quebec: you get to experience cultural events that you won’t find anywhere else. Winter Carnaval is a great example. The city turns itself into a celebration of the Quebec winter. There are a pair of night parades with amazing floats, incredible snow sculptures, tobogganing, ice bumper cars (yes, really. I definitely have to try this next time), and a canoe race on the ice-laden St. Lawrence that you’ve got to see to believe. People line the shore to watch competing teams push canoes across ice that’s been heaved up in great huge piles to (more or less) open water, then leap aboard and paddle like mad down the river, dodging ice floes and chunks along the way. It’s an incredible spectacle, and you can only see it in Quebec.

Canoe racing on the Saint Lawrence.

Canoe racing on the Saint Lawrence.

wolfhead

At the Carnaval night parade.

One of the many snow sculptures.

One of the many snow sculptures.

Le Massif de Charlevoix
And of course, we went skiing. We spent one day at Le Massif, about an hour northeast of the city. Le Massif is located on a mountain overlooking the St. Lawrence, and the slopes run right down to the river’s banks. Look at the views you get when you ski down the trails. It feels like you’re skiing directly into the water. It’s almost a safety hazard because it’s so hard to keep your eyes on where you’re going. Absolutely breathtaking!

Le Massif

Le Massif

In addition to astounding views, Le Massif has a terrific trail system. There’s something for everyone: long bump runs, fun glades, nice long groomers, and on the west side of the resort, more challenging terrain. Le Massif has the highest vertical in eastern Canada, and you can ski….and ski….and ski. Fun fact: Le Massif was developed in part by one of the co-founders of Cirque du Soliel.

Here are some stats for the mountain:

Trails: 52 trails and glades, on 307.6 acres
Ability levels: 15% easy, 30% intermediate, 20% difficult, 35% very difficult
Longest trail: 5.1 km / 3.17 milles
Vertical: 770 m / 2,526 feet
Base Elevation: 36 m / 118 feet
Top Elevation: 806 m / 2,645 feet
Skiable Terrain: 164.5 hectares / 406.3 acres

One cool thing that we did not get the chance to do: Le Massif has a 7.5 km sled run that looks absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately, it wasn’t operating when we were there. Next time, for sure.

From Le Massif, we took a 12 mile journey on the lightrail train along the St. Lawrence to the tres chic and very contemporary Hotel La Ferme. Although we didn’t spend the night, this is a great option for someone who for some reason doesn’t want to stay in Quebec. It’s fun and easy to take the train to the mountain and back, and the scenery along the river is stupendous. There are lots of great restaurants in the lovely town of  Baie-Saint-Paul, too.

Train

Mont Sainte-Anne
Another day, another fabulous  mountain. We spent our second ski day at Mont Sainte-Anne. Sainte-Anne is closer to the city and larger than Le Massif. And like Le Massif, it has spectacular views:

Mont Sainte-Anne

Mont Sainte-Anne

I absolutely adored it. There’s a terrific variety of runs, and the mountain is laid out for very easy access; you can get to just about everything from the top of the gondola. Mont Sainte-Anne features both north and south facing trails, so if you’re not loving the conditions on the south side, the runs on the north side can be completely different. A tip for families skiing with little kids — or just people who love all things maple — be sure not to miss the Sugar Shack off La Pichard, one of the green trails. On weekends and holiday periods, you can stop at the shack for some traditional hot maple taffy, served on a bed of fresh snow and scooped up with wooden sticks.

Here’s some stats on Mont Sainte-Anne:

Altitude at the summit: 800 meters [2625 feet]
Vertical drop: 625 meters [2050 feet]
Skiable terrain: 222 ha [547 acres]
Gross acreage: 868 ha [2145 acres]
Natural snowfall: 480 cm [190 po]
Number of trails: 71 trails covering 73 km [45 miles] on 3 different sides
Night skiing: 20 trails, covering 15.5 Km [9 miles]
Trail breakdown: easy: 23%, more difficult: 18%, difficult: 45%, extreme: 14%
Longest trail: Le Chemin du Roy – 5.7 Km [3.6 miles]
Average length of season: 148 days

Hotel de Glace (The Ice Hotel)
Located about five miles north of Quebec, this is something you really shouldn’t miss if you’re in the area. The first and only ice hotel in North America, Hotel de Glace is re-built each year and is open the first week of January until the last week of March. The hotel boasts 44 rooms and suites, a bar, an indoor ice slide, and a chapel, all made entirely out of snow and ice. Yes, you can stay here if you wish, but be prepared: The ambient temperature varies only by a few degrees between 23°F and 26°F, no matter what the outside temperature.

Ice Hotel Entrance

Ice Hotel Entrance

A Hallway Entrance

A hallway entrance

A room in the Ice Hotel

A room in the Ice Hotel

I think it’s pretty clear that I loved the entire Quebec experience; honestly, it’s hard not to be swept up in its Old World charm. For a ski vacation with a European flavor, there’s no place like it in North America. Go see for yourself.



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Oui, Ski Quebec!

Bonjour, mes amis.

Pardonnez-moi if I practice my French, but I can tell that it’s something I’m going to need in the years to come. You see, I just came back from Quebec, and I am positively smitten.

What was I doing there? Oh, just attending Winter Carnaval, staying in the gorgeous Chateau Frontenac, eating great food, and skiing at both Le Massif and Mont Sainte-Anne. I was in Quebec as part of the annual meeting of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association, and Quebec City Tourism rolled out the red carpet for us lowly ski writers. The result was a trip I’ll never forget, and a destination I’ll be sure to visit again.

Why stay in Quebec City if you want to go skiing? 
Sure, it’s not a ski-in-ski-out location. But if you only rely on that, you miss a lot. I can’t recommend staying in Quebec City highly enough. My husband came up with what I think is the perfect tag line for the city — Closer than the rest of Europe — because more than any other city I’ve visited in North America, Quebec has a distinctly European flavor. And it’s not just because the people speak French (though yes, that’s part of it). The architecture, the winding streets, the culture is loaded with Old World charm. It’s a totally different vibe than you get anywhere else in North America. What’s more, Quebec is beautiful. Perched high on a bluff above the St. Lawrence, you get sweeping views of the river, made even more dramatic in the winter thanks to piles of heaved-up ice. The restaurants are great, the accommodations lovely (like the iconic Chateau Frontenac), and really, hearing French spoken everywhere is just oh-so-much-more romantic. Trust me — it adds a completely new layer to the ski trip experience. Besides, the drive from the city to the ski areas isn’t really that bad.

Chateau Frontenac

Chateau Frontenac

Old City, Quebec

Old City, Quebec

Les femmes sont belle en Quebec.

Les femmes sont belle en Quebec.

Winter Carnaval
Another great benefit from staying in Quebec: you get to experience cultural events that you won’t find anywhere else. Winter Carnaval is a great example. The city turns itself into a celebration of the Quebec winter. There are a pair of night parades with amazing floats, incredible snow sculptures, tobogganing, ice bumper cars (yes, really. I definitely have to try this next time), and a canoe race on the ice-laden St. Lawrence that you’ve got to see to believe. People line the shore to watch competing teams push canoes across ice that’s been heaved up in great huge piles to (more or less) open water, then leap aboard and paddle like mad down the river, dodging ice floes and chunks along the way. It’s an incredible spectacle, and you can only see it in Quebec.

Canoe racing on the Saint Lawrence.

Canoe racing on the Saint Lawrence.

wolfhead

At the Carnaval night parade.

One of the many snow sculptures.

One of the many snow sculptures.

Le Massif de Charlevoix
And of course, we went skiing. We spent one day at Le Massif, about an hour northeast of the city. Le Massif is located on a mountain overlooking the St. Lawrence, and the slopes run right down to the river’s banks. Look at the views you get when you ski down the trails. It feels like you’re skiing directly into the water. It’s almost a safety hazard because it’s so hard to keep your eyes on where you’re going. Absolutely breathtaking!

Le Massif

Le Massif

In addition to astounding views, Le Massif has a terrific trail system. There’s something for everyone: long bump runs, fun glades, nice long groomers, and on the west side of the resort, more challenging terrain. Le Massif has the highest vertical in eastern Canada, and you can ski….and ski….and ski. Fun fact: Le Massif was developed in part by one of the co-founders of Cirque du Soliel.

Here are some stats for the mountain:

Trails: 52 trails and glades, on 307.6 acres
Ability levels: 15% easy, 30% intermediate, 20% difficult, 35% very difficult
Longest trail: 5.1 km / 3.17 milles
Vertical: 770 m / 2,526 feet
Base Elevation: 36 m / 118 feet
Top Elevation: 806 m / 2,645 feet
Skiable Terrain: 164.5 hectares / 406.3 acres

One cool thing that we did not get the chance to do: Le Massif has a 7.5 km sled run that looks absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately, it wasn’t operating when we were there. Next time, for sure.

From Le Massif, we took a 12 mile journey on the lightrail train along the St. Lawrence to the tres chic and very contemporary Hotel La Ferme. Although we didn’t spend the night, this is a great option for someone who for some reason doesn’t want to stay in Quebec. It’s fun and easy to take the train to the mountain and back, and the scenery along the river is stupendous. There are lots of great restaurants in the lovely town of  Baie-Saint-Paul, too.

Train

Mont Sainte-Anne
Another day, another fabulous  mountain. We spent our second ski day at Mont Sainte-Anne. Sainte-Anne is closer to the city and larger than Le Massif. And like Le Massif, it has spectacular views:

Mont Sainte-Anne

Mont Sainte-Anne

I absolutely adored it. There’s a terrific variety of runs, and the mountain is laid out for very easy access; you can get to just about everything from the top of the gondola. Mont Sainte-Anne features both north and south facing trails, so if you’re not loving the conditions on the south side, the runs on the north side can be completely different. A tip for families skiing with little kids — or just people who love all things maple — be sure not to miss the Sugar Shack off La Pichard, one of the green trails. On weekends and holiday periods, you can stop at the shack for some traditional hot maple taffy, served on a bed of fresh snow and scooped up with wooden sticks.

Here’s some stats on Mont Sainte-Anne:

Altitude at the summit: 800 meters [2625 feet]
Vertical drop: 625 meters [2050 feet]
Skiable terrain: 222 ha [547 acres]
Gross acreage: 868 ha [2145 acres]
Natural snowfall: 480 cm [190 po]
Number of trails: 71 trails covering 73 km [45 miles] on 3 different sides
Night skiing: 20 trails, covering 15.5 Km [9 miles]
Trail breakdown: easy: 23%, more difficult: 18%, difficult: 45%, extreme: 14%
Longest trail: Le Chemin du Roy – 5.7 Km [3.6 miles]
Average length of season: 148 days

Hotel de Glace (The Ice Hotel)
Located about five miles north of Quebec, this is something you really shouldn’t miss if you’re in the area. The first and only ice hotel in North America, Hotel de Glace is re-built each year and is open the first week of January until the last week of March. The hotel boasts 44 rooms and suites, a bar, an indoor ice slide, and a chapel, all made entirely out of snow and ice. Yes, you can stay here if you wish, but be prepared: The ambient temperature varies only by a few degrees between 23°F and 26°F, no matter what the outside temperature.

Ice Hotel Entrance

Ice Hotel Entrance

A Hallway Entrance

A hallway entrance

A room in the Ice Hotel

A room in the Ice Hotel

I think it’s pretty clear that I loved the entire Quebec experience; honestly, it’s hard not to be swept up in its Old World charm. For a ski vacation with a European flavor, there’s no place like it in North America. Go see for yourself.



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