UPDATE from our January 2020 Trip: New Video!
There are a great number of ski resorts in New Hampshire and Maine within a couple-hours drive from our home in a Boston suburb, yet for our annual family ski weekend we have chosen to cross the border to Mont-Tremblant resort in Canadian Quebec – for a third year in a row!
Located in the Laurentian Mountains on the shores of Lake Tremblant northwest of Montreal, Mont-Tremblant is a seven-hour drive from Boston (luckily for us, we have managed to avoid traffic this year).
Spending family winter weekend in Mont-Tremblant was so worth the extra driving time from Boston – and here is why.
Mont-Tremblant Pedestrian Village at the foot of the mountain is different from typical New England ski resorts and reminds me of a European ski village somewhere in the Alps. It has the right 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, you will find plenty to do, or – you can do nothing at all (if you choose so) and still enjoy your “atmospheric” winter getaway.
Our non-skiing Grandma came on the trip with us this year. She strolled and did some holiday shopping on her own while we skied and then joined us for the apres-ski activities.
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 also loved the flexibility in planning our day. My early-riser husband could ski for a couple of hours in the morning, then came back for coffee with me and art- making with the kids- before we all returned to the mountain for family skiing in the afternoon. This is a type of skiing vacation that family members with different interests (and skiing levels!) could enjoy!
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 decided to take the gondola all the way to the top of the mountain. From there I took 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. (Update: this year I sticked to the 4-passenger chair lift for even more comfortable skiing experience. My son, who does not like riding the gondola and carrying his skis in and out, made it to the top via two consecutive chair lifts).
There are 96 ski trails and 14 ski lifts on Mont-Tremblant (47% very difficult, 21 % easy).
There are 4 distinct slope areas on Mont Tremblant, including North and South sides and if you don’t take time to orient yourself, you could end up on the wrong side of the mountain.
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).
THINGS TO DO
We spent three busy days at Mont-Tremblant over December holiday weekends in 2018 and 2017 and managed to include several activities each day 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:
DATE NIGHT: Spa Scandinave
I find that experiencing a nordic spa together (in winter or summer) is a great date night idea and so wish we had them in Massachusetts. I could not wait to check out an added Infinity wing at Spa Scandinave just outside of the village (you do need to drive or get a taxi to get there) – and it did not disappoint!
The Spa 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.
New wing at Spa Scandinave Mont Tremblant
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 of the cycle 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: If you have not visited the new wing at Spa Scandinave (opened mid-winter 2018) be sure to go back and experience it!
Update: the Village Aquaclub just had a full remodel (winter 2020) and now looks like an indoor water park (gained slides, but lost the pool- see the video in the beginning of the post).
Tip: note the Club hours when you plan your visit, it typically closes at 6pm daily.
If you can’t venture out to Spa Scandinave, you could opt for a mini-date at the Village Aquaclub.
SNOW-SHOEING at Domaine Saint-Bernard
You can snow-shoe on the slopes without leaving the Village but on our holiday trip last year, we ventured outside of the village to check out nearby Domaine Saint-Bernard conservation, approximately ten minutes drive outside of the Village. My son 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.
Going gets a bit tougher on the trail. Now Den knows why we need the snow shoes!
MAKING OUR OWN T-SHIRTS AT T-BAR
Allow a good couple of un-rushed 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 9-year old and 19-year old (and their Dad!) enjoyed this activity in the Village (it was actually in the same building as our hotel). 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 a gourmet buffet at the luxurious Fairmount (loved everything but the price!). They change the buffet theme daily so it was Canadian night when we came back this year. 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.
HOLIDAYS AT THE VILLAGE
There are various music festivals and gatherings at the main Village square throughout the seasons. On Christmas eve this year, there was a parade and a photo opportunity with Santa (with toy gifts for all the kids). Costumed holiday characters added to the festive atmosphere.
We still have not visited the night club and casino. I have a feeling we will be back next year!
PIN FOR LATER:
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