Mont Tremblant: More Than Just a Ski Hill

Tremblant village in January

As far as winter destinations go, Quebec’s Mont Tremblant is no one-trick pony. Sure, it boasts the biggest peak in the Laurentians and attracts downhill thrill-seekers from all across North America, but the mountain isn’t just for slope lovers. In fact, during my short, day-and-a-half visit, I quickly learned — with outdoor activities so plentiful, a village so charming and restaurants with food so delicious — finding time to sneak in a few runs is harder than suspected.

First up: dinner. After flying Porter Airlines directly to Mont Tremblant’s adorable lodge-like airport on a Friday night, my fellow travelers and I are taken by shuttle to the Westin in the heart of the village.

Famished, we pull up at chair at L’Avalanche where a smorgasbord of food awaits. Beef tartare, filet mignon, rack of lamb, ostrich and mushroom risotto are among the amazing offerings, and when the crème brûlée and chocolate-mess-gateau show up, it’s all I can do not to stuff my cheeks. I manage to conjure up some restraint, then head back to my room to turn in for the big day ahead.

Bright and early Saturday morning, I depart for the bunny hill. Having only ever attempted downhill skiing once before, a lesson is very necessary. I venture up and down the two-level hill at least eight times, perfect my snow plough and even learn a thing or two about purposeful turns. After an hour, my instructor decides it’s time to move onto bigger and better runs, so we head for the chairlift. To my surprise, I not only manage to get off the lift without taking anyone down, the trip down the hill is easier than I thought.

The view from halfway up Tremblant on a grey day

Next is ice climbing. By now it’s afternoon, my belly is full and the sun is shining. I head to the Activities Centre to gear up for my ascent of one of Tremblant’s frozen cliff faces. With my ski boots still on, I follow another instructor up a small hill with an incline so steep I’m winded 30 seconds in. The path leads me to a few sets of snow-packed stairs and I try not to tip over as I Frankenstein my way up them. Finally, we arrive. I gingerly add the spikes to my boots, and set to work as the holder-of-the-rope while a fellow writer climbs up and down the cliff. All goes well, so I’m up next. I try to make every spiked kick deliberate and every pick jab stick, but still lose my footing a few times. Once I reach the top, I lean back as advised — all of my spikes should be flat against the ice on the way down, my instructor says — and pray the rope holds. It does, and I spend the next two hours shuffling up and down the frozen cliff.

One of Tremblant’s frozen cliff faces

Adventure complete, I decide to take on skating, the one winter activity I’ve attempted more than once. I grab my skates and head for Saint Bernard’s Chapel, the location of Tremblant’s quaint outdoor rink. I underestimate my abilities on sharp skates, though, and quickly realize that slow and steady glides will win the race. I steer clear of the crowds and decide after a short 20 minutes that I should quit while I’m ahead.

Tubing is next on the agenda, and my legs can’t wait for the break. I head up to the top of the bunny hill and get in line to take a spin down. Riders are given the option of rocketing down on a GT or donut tube, and I choose the latter. We’re also asked if we prefer to coast or spin, and again, I choose the latter. The combination of being launched down the hill and spinning uncontrollably makes me feel like a kid again, so I happily make a few return trips.

To wrap up the day, dinner is at Aux Truffles, a five-star restaurant just seconds from the Westin. I try the daily soup — a mouthwatering onion medley — to start, and an unforgettable roasted guinea fowl stuffed with basil butter, goat cheese and honey sauce for my entrée. I save room for a bowl of delicious walnut stew with maple ice cream, and chat with Martin Faucher, the incredibly personable owner and chef of Aux Truffles and call it a night.

When morning arrives, I do the unthinkable and head to the chairlift. I make it down a few times without falling, and realize on my first descent that the mountain has done the impossible by turning me into an outdoor winter enthusiast. Though I didn’t take in all the activities Tremblant has to offer — dog sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sleigh rides and aerial games are just a few of the additional options available — they’re great reasons for me to come back.

Skaters in front of Saint Bernard’s Chapel.

If you go:

Mont Tremblant’s ski season typically runs from November to April. For information on rates, conditions or lessons for downhill skiing, skating, tubing or ice climbing, visit www.tremblant.ca.
Porter Airlines flies directly to Mont Tremblant from many locations, and to Montreal from all of its locations. Visit flyporter.com for information.
Le Westin Resort & Spa Mont Tremblant is a picturesque four-star resort located in Tremblant village. Visit www.westin.com/monttremblant for information.
L’Avalanche Bistro Lounge, www.avalancebistro.com
Aux Truffles Restaurant, www.auxtruffles.com

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About the author: Liz Bruckner

Liz Bruckner is a freelance writer and editor who, after 10 years of penning articles on beauty, health, fashion and parenting, is determined to see the world. She regularly contributes to many on and offline publications and when not in front of her computer, tries to maintain her sanity while mothering her two young trouble-making boys. Follow her at http://www.twitter.com/LizzieBruckner.


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