Winter Holidays in Mont-Tremblant
There are a great number of ski resorts in New Hampshire and Maine within two-to-four-hour drive from our home in a Boston suburb, yet for our annual family ski weekend this year we have chosen to cross the border to Mont-Tremblant resort in Canadian Quebec. Located in the Laurentian Mountains on the shores of Lake Tremblant northwest of Montreal, Mont-Tremblant is a good seven-hour drive away from Boston (that is not accounting for Montreal traffic and winter conditions – and we have encountered both). Yet, spending a family winter weekend in Mont-Tremblant was so worth the extra driving time and here is why.
Mont-Tremblant Pedestrian Village at the foot of the mountain differs from the ski resorts closer to home and (although I have never been) reminds me of a European ski village somewhere in the Alps. It has that “miles away” vacation atmosphere and all the entertainment a family on a ski vacation may need – within a walking distance from the mountain. Even if you don’t ski (and it was me during our prior visit some 11 years ago), you will find plenty to do, or – you can do nothing at all if you choose so and still enjoy your getaway. At least the Village has that effect on me in the winter, every time (the summers here are lovely too, but I am just too in love with our Cape Cod summer weekends near Boston).
Outside of dining, shopping and strolling, Pedestrian Village offers a variety of activities for family members of all ages: art making and questing, swimming, snow tubing and ice skating and a mysterious night walk. (There is even an adult night club, but we decided to leave something for next time!)
If you are lucky enough to book a hotel room in the Pedestrian Village of Mont-Tremblant (we used our Hilton points at Homewood Suits), you can ski in and out of your hotel and forget about your car for the whole duration of your stay.
I could tell you first hand that Mont-Tremblant’s summit (at 2,871 feet) offers a an exhilarating view over the Laurentian Mountains. Typically I do not ride gondolas to the top of a mountain and stick to the lower slopes. Having tried the 4-passenger chair lift at Mont-Tremblant and having made it down without a fall (my skiing goal of the last 20 years), I followed our Guide’s advice and next took the gondola all the way to the top of the mountain. There was a relatively easy “green” pass down that is approximately 7.5 kilometers. There was one trail that gave me a bit of a hard time, but I still made it down.
There are 96 ski trails and 14 ski lifs on Mont-Tremblant (47% very difficult, 21 % easy).
I recommend taking advantage of the free Info-Ski Guide service – they can ski with you and help guide you to the right trail based on your goals and abilities (they do not provide ski instruction, there is different service for that at the mountain). They can show you the most beautiful views (and possibly even take your picture?).
There are 4 distinct slope areas, including North and South sides and if you don’t take time (or use the service) to orient yourself, you could end up on the wrong side of the mountain. (But don’t despair. If you find yourself at the South side at the end of the day and your car is parked on the North side, the guides will help call a taxi for you).
Tip: if you stay in one of the hotels in the Village, your special privileges pass includes a 7:30am pre-open ski which my husband took advantage of one morning when he wanted to ski at his own pace; the privileges also include free snow tubing in the evening and ice skating at the Village (all day).
Tip: Find Info-Ski Guides in yellow jackets throughout the mountain to get you oriented (you can also inquire about them at the customer service counter).
THINGS TO DO
We spent three busy days at Mont-Tremblant over December holiday weekend 2017 and managed to include several activities outside of our daily dose of skiing. Yet, when I look at the brochure from the activities center, I realize that we barely scratched the surface of all the possibilities…Apparently, we missed dog and horse sledding, winter tree park adventure, snowmobiling, dune bugging, ice climbing and helicopter touring. But let me tell you about the THINGS WE DID – (outside of skiing down the Mountain):
DATE NIGHT: Spa Scandinave
In winter or summer I find that experiencing a spa together as a couple is a great date night idea and so wish we had them in Massachusetts. After a long drive from Boston, the first thing we did after checking into our hotel was visiting Spa Scandinave just outside of the village (you do need to drive or get a taxi to get there). It is open until 9pm daily so you can plan it into your day as a reward for all your hard work on the mountain! We experienced it all lit up at night, but in the light of the day it is no less magical as you can admire (or brave the dip into) the river and other natural beauty around.
In the Scandinavian spa tradition, you are supposed to follow the “heat-cold-relaxation” cycle (with many repeats). While we typically “skip” the cold part and go straight for relaxation after the heat, there was no “skipping” the cold part in the cold of the Canadian winter – so it worked out great!
Tip: Kids under 18 are not allowed in the spa, so if you don’t have a built-in babysitter in the family, you will have to plan this one (also remember to bring a bathing suit, with all its natural beauty, Canadian spas differ from European spas in that way).
Tip: Spa Scandinave just opened an entire new wing of water and relaxation installations that is even more expansive than the original spa! I can’t wait to go back and experience it!
SWIMMING WITH THE KIDS: La Source Club and our hotel.
Many hotels in the Village offer outdoor swimming pools and/or hot tubs for year-round enjoyment with your family (including the Homewood Suits where we stayed), but there is also an indoor (fee-based) public swimming club La Source you can walk to. There is an outside hot tub and (inside) steam room for adults only (this is where I spent most of my time), and swimming and water play area for the kids.
La Source has not taken up a huge space in the pedestrian village, yet the smart design provides designated areas for swimming, baby play, rope jumping and hot tubbing.
Tip: note the Club hours when you plan your visit, it typically closes at 6pm daily.
SNOW-SHOEING at Domaine Saint-Bernard
You can actually snow-shoe without leaving the Village but we wanted to check out Domaine Saint-Bernard conservation, approximately ten minutes drive outside of the Village. We did not have a chance to try cross-country skiing this time, but Den and I enjoyed our 2.2 km mom-son snow-shoe walk on Route 4 – Les Manics – considered “easy”. There are several easy, moderate and difficult snow-shoeing trails along with the many cross-country trails at this beautiful historical nature preserve.
MAKING OUR OWN T-SHIRTS AT T-BAR
Allow a good couple of unrushed hours at this design your own T-shirt place called T-Bar – to choose/create your T-shirt designs and color it (via a variety of techniques). Both my 8-year old and 18-year old enjoyed this activity in the Village (it was actually in the same building as our hotel); I probably would have enjoyed it too, but I went on a last minute shopping stroll on a mission to get some Canadian souvenirs. The place gets busy in the evening (I saw some parents using the establishment to give themselves a relaxing dining experience next door without the kids- and why not!).
DINING OUT IN STYLE
Homewood Suits where we stayed has a full-size kitchen which we used to make our own lunches, but for dinners we enjoyed the mountain-front La Forge (arguably, the best burgers we have ever tried) and gourmet Surf and Turf buffet at the luxurious Fairmount (loved everything but the price!). The Village is packed with dining options for different budgets and tastes, and to my liking, there is a proper coffee shop with delicious selection of espresso beverages.
We left the Village on Christmas evening and although we don’t celebrate this holiday in our family, the holiday spell of the village got through to us! We will be back!
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Disclaimers. This post has an affiliate link to a hotel booking site – booking via that link does not cost you any extra. We were guests of the Mont-Tremblant ski resort; for current ski rental and passes, check this link. We paid for our own lodging and dining.
We are linking up with other travel stories at Travel Notes & Beyond Blog.