A high-octane getaway with European flair
The fairytale-like resort town of Mont-Tremblant, in Quebec’s Laurentides region, is just 90 miles north of Montreal and an afternoon road trip from Vermont or upstate New York. Yet it feels less like a ski slope in Canada, and more like Santa’s alpine retreat, high on a Swiss peak. The glistening powder, the fir and spruce forests dusted with snow, the crystalline air and bright sunshine— and four mountain slopes crisscrossed with trails—bring thousands of visitors to Mont- Tremblant every winter. Despite its international popularity, the resort and adjacent towns maintain a rural setting and easygoing attitude.
“Mont-Tremblant, and Canada as a whole, has always been one of the most LGBT- welcoming destinations in the world,” says Desiree Sousa, Owner and Editor-in-Chief of Out & About Travel and the Gay Travel Information Blog (gaytravelpros. com). “Tremblant is a truly romantic getaway. My wife and I were there roughly two years ago and plan on returning at the end of this month. I felt extremely comfortable holding her hand and being affectionate there.”
The convivial spirit begins at Tremblant’s charming accommodations, which range in style from cozy bed-and-breakfasts to vacation chalets to full-service hotels. The high standard of hospitality ensures that any of the 13 hotels in the resort’s pedestrian village would be a good choice. Sousa recommends Homewood Suites by Hilton (3035 chemin de la Chapelle, 819-681- 0808, hilton.com) and Tours des Voyageurs (151 chemin Cure Deslauriers, 514-764-7546, tremblant.ca), which feature affordable suites with fireplaces and full kitchens in an unbeatable central location. Both are steps from ski lift entrances, as well as restaurants and boutiques. On the high end of the scale, Westin Resort and Spa (100 chemin Kandahar, 819-681-8000, starwoodhotels. com) and the Fairmont Tremblant (3045 chemin de la Chapelle, 819-681-7000, fairmont.com), also in the village, provide an extra level of luxury après-ski. Unwind from a long day of extreme snowboarding in the Westin’s spacious rooms, which are decorated in a regal hunting-lodge vein. The onsite spa, a branch of the soothing Canadian chain Amerispa, will remedy any bumps and bruises you’ve suffered on the way downhill. At the northern extremity of the village, the Fairmont has unimpeded sightlines to the surrounding mountains and ski trails. Though the temperature may hover around zero in winter, don’t skip the hotel’s steamy outdoor hot tubs and heated pools, which remain open year-round. After a dip, stay for a glass of wine in the rustic yet refined Nansen Lounge.
If the alpine scenery gives flight to your imagination, complete your mental tableau at Cote Nord (141 chemin Tour du Lac, 819-688-6800, cotenordtremblant.com). The collection of more than 50 chalets and waterfront apartments, designed especially for nature lovers and outdoorsy types, are available to rent. Cote Nord gives guests peace and quiet in the woods—all the properties are bordered by forests and lakes—without forcing anyone to rough it. In addition to the log-hewn chalets and condos on the shore of Lac Superieur, Cote Nord offers an elegant clubhouse for relaxing in front of a roaring fireplace or warming up after ice-skating on the frozen lake. Guests can also access the fitness room in the unlikely event that a round of cross-country skiing doesn’t provide enough exercise.
This year, Tremblant Resort (1000 chemin des Voyageurs, 800-620-6928, tremblant.ca) is celebrating its 75th anniversary, making an already festive season in Quebec even more so. The resort’s pedestrian village is like a small, selfcontained city, with shops, dining, outdoor outfitters and services all within walking distance and offering special deals for the 75th winter season.
Tremblant’s 95 ski trails cover four mountain slopes and are designed for any skill level, from total beginner to expert. Downhill and crosscountry are the top events, but athletes can also take on the moguls and half-pipes at three different snow parks. Powder is never a problem, since the resort employs the powerful Avalanche snow-making system if Mother Nature isn’t forthcoming.
A diverse roster of winter activities appeals even to those who aren’t skiers. Consider the only-in- Quebec “initiation to trapping” course, where a native guide shows how Inuit and Athabascan hunters used traditional skills to survive in the wilderness. No animals are actually trapped, but you might spot bear and wolf tracks in the snow. Other options include snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice fishing, ice climbing, tubing, skating and dog-sledding.
The nearby Parcours Aventure Tremblant (1000 chemin des Voyageurs, 819-429-3307, parcoursaventuretremblant. com) further tests your outdoor skills on five obstacle courses. The treemounted systems of bridges, tightropes, tubes and rings, varying in difficulty, force competitors to confront their fear of heights as well as strengthen every muscle group. Check the website for the winter schedule, as icy conditions might affect the accessibility of the courses.
Swooshing down the mountainside boosts adrenaline, but Le P’tit Train du Nord encourages skiing at a slower pace. The 232-kilometer linear park, stretching from the town of Saint- Jerome north to Mont-Laurier, passes by Mont- Tremblant at about its halfway point. A former rural railroad built in the early 20th century, the P’tit Train du Nord is now a locomotive-free path offering superb cross-country skiing on an almost-flat grade in winter. The charming old depots along the way have been turned into cafes, boutiques and heated ski cabins for use by the public.
After an exhilarating afternoon on the slopes or trails, try your luck at the Casino de Mont- Tremblant (300 chemin des Pléiades, 819 429- 4150, casinosduquebec.com/mont-tremblant/en /home), which features 500 slot machines, poker, table games and Altitude, a steak-andseafood bistro. We dare you to try the poutine with shrimp, cipollini onion confit and smoked pork belly with brie sauce.
Speaking of traditional Quebecois food, what would a trip to Canada be without healthy helpings of maple syrup? Get the liquid gold at an authentic cabane du sucre, or sugar shack. No, they’re not rent-by-the-hour motels—sugar shacks produce maple syrup from the surrounding forest, in addition to serving hearty rustic fare; some even offer live folk music, tours of the syrup-making rooms or horsedrawn sleigh rides. The catch? Most are only open during the brief sugaring season, from early March to late April.
Two sugar shacks are in close proximity to Mont- Tremblant. Cabane à Sucre Arthur Raymond (444 chemin Avila, Piedmont, 450-224-2569, cabanearthurraymond.com) has been serving tire sur la neige (maple taffy poured in snow) and hearty Quebecois foods for almost 60 years in Piedmont. The log cabin-esque dining room offers a menu of meatball stew, pea soup and maple-smoked ham. Pure maple syrup products are for sale, naturally. In St-Hippolyte, Cabane à Sucre Nantel (312, chemin Lac Bertrand, 450-436- 4406, cabaneasucrenantel.com) specializes in oreilles de crisse (smoked pork jowls) and other ancienne cuisine, plus maple delicacies of every description.
The only thing Mont-Tremblant appears to lack is a dedicated LGBT ski week. Despite its gayfriendly factor and proximity to Vermont resorts, which host gay ski weeks throughout the year, Tremblant hasn’t quite caught up. Maybe the brains behind nearby Montreal’s fabulous Pride events can take on the challenge!
Mont-Tremblant is 144 km (90 miles) north of Montreal via Route 117. You could fly to Montreal and rent a car for the scenic drive, giving you the most flexibility for sightseeing and exploring along the way. Or, Porter Airlines (flyporter.com) offers direct, 90-minute flights from Newark Liberty Airport to the new Mont-Tremblant International Airport from mid-December to early April. The Mont-Tremblant airport is 35 km (22 miles) from the resort, but courtesy shuttles run frequently.