In the past I have visited Europe on many ski trips. There is something about skiing there that is different than skiing in North America. Some differences between skiing in Europe and the US are bigger mountains, differences in the pace of the Europeans lifestyle, skiing is less expensive and the areas are vast, the food and Après-ski kicks off as the lifts close.
Well I think I have found as close to European skiing near to our back door here in North America right across the border into Eastern Canada, an easy ride for all of New England. It is Mont Tremblant.
I have skied Mont Tremblant in the past but it was when their village was still in its infancy and not fully developed. I initially thought it was going to be more of a Disneyesque kind of duplication of the European village, but now after being away for quite a while I look at it as more matured and truly a good representation of the European ski town without being in Europe.
Firstly the Canadian dollar is good for the US buck. You are saving about 25% on the tariff. Secondly there are almost 2000 rooms to stay in if you want an extended vacation (and you should) rooms can be had for reasonable to not so reasonable. You get what you pay for but most of the rooms do come with breakfast of some sort.
You also lose track that you are just across the border because people are speaking French. Don’t despair most people are bi lingual and everything is printed in both languages.
Your first approach if you are staying in the village or are a day tripper is to take the Cabriolet from the lower village and day parking area to the main base of the Gondola. The trip takes about 3 minutes and fly over the entire length of the village which you would not want to walk up with your skis and in your boot to get to the base of the lifts. At that point if you are there for an extended stay you can check your skis and never have to schlep them again back to where you are staying until you are ready to leave. There is no carrying your skis from the parking lot to the lodge which in some cases can be a substantial walk in the US, even if there is a shuttle from the remote parking areas.
Most of the lifts on the mountain are high speed detachable lifts. That can make a lift line very short and if you choose not to take the gondola up and take the lift you probably won’t have much of a wait even on the busiest weekend and it can get busy! But even on the busiest day I am sure that you can find some less busy trails that are out of the way that few people ski on.
Mont Tremblant boasts 96 trails many of the easier trails go on for 3 miles or more and are nicely groomed. You can even buy a first tracks ticket for an extra $20 Canadian ($15 US) and get an hour extra of groomed corduroy at 7:30 in the morning. That’s an hour before the lifts open. The vertical is 2116 feet and there are 4 distinct areas to ski. We found the north side to be the best with regards to snow quality due to its orientation. While we were there the winds were from the west and the fresh snow that they received was blown off on the south side but the north side was more protected from the wind However, people seem to gravitate to the side with the gondola so many skiers just stay on the south face, It’s understandable since in Canada it can get very cold and riding a lift can be a bear on those kind of days but the 3 days we were there two were not windy. With the cold temperatures, the only caveat was to cover your exposed skin from getting frostbite, ride the protected lifts out of the wind and you can still have a great ski day as we did.
Another indication of European flare of Tremblant are the lunches and dinners , with restaurants all over the village not as much on the mountain other than their main lodge at the top but lots of choices from some 30 plus restaurant for dining pleasures, anything that you might want from Sushi, to French to tappas, to Italian, pub food and more. The menus are very varied and even the pub food was substantially more than burgers and fries ( which I might add I would not order because they would only cook it medium well yuck! ) Lunches went on for a long time and dinners went on forever with numerous courses and great foods
The First night we were there we had a tapas meal at the Gypsy in the Westin hotel where the food just kept coming, the next day lunch was at Microbrasserie La Diable, a quaint micro-brewery. That evening dinner was in the Fairmont hotel at the Windingo restaurant and our final lunch was at the base of the mountain in le Shack Bistro – Bar that reminded me of the Rainforest Café in downtown Disney with a tree in the middle and a blue ski on the ceiling. Fortunately there were no singing animalatronics .
Like in Europe, eating (and drinking) is a big part of the experience. Not like ski areas here in the states where the cafeteria line is the staple. However there are a few areas that are making strides in that direction. I will make mention of them in another article.
In the US there are ski areas that are few and far between that have a town or village associated with them so when you leave a ski area at the end of the day it is mainly a barren place with little or no night life. Not so in Tremblant people are out and about walking the main promenade of the rue des Remparts and having dinner in one of the many restaurants, going to a late night dance club or bar for some après ski partying well into the night as the Europeans seem to do.
To add the icing on the cake, Tremblant now has a casino on the premises. Although I had planned to get there and participate in a little Blackjack, my schedule while we were there was so jam packed and full from the long dinner that exhaustion overtook the desire to get over there late at night. So I am saving that for the next trip that I think will be very soon.
Yeah Canada! Yeah Tremblant!