April 2017. Ski Independence Ski Specialist, Karen Moodie, sums up her recent trip to Eastern Canada:
I was lucky enough to head over to Tremblant with a group of UK tour operators and agents to explore both Tremblant and the Laurentian Moutains. This started off with upgrades to Club World with British Airways and it was amazing to say the least! The champagne welcome drink and three course dinner with your feet up, while watching one of the latest movies, was an experience I never thought I would get the chance to do on a plane, never mind the fully reclining bed for a comfortable sleep. Now I understand what all the fuss is about travelling business class! Arriving in Montréal late evening we were whisked up to Tremblant which took about an hour and a half along a main road - there are no winding roads to upset your journey at all. It is a smooth ride, what's more you are on your way before you know it with the very efficient airport system. Upon arrival at the luxury 5-star Fairmont Tremblant, where we spent two nights, we were shown to our rooms then treated to canapés and fizz in the Nansen Lounge, including miniature confit duck poutine, a posh version of the Canadian favourite! Being my first visit to Canada and to a Fairmont property I was bowled over by the friendliness of everyone and we had only been in the country 2 hours...
The Fairmont Tremblant is the perfect base for a trip to Tremblant whether you are a couple, friends of family, there was a great range of guests around all looking very comfortable either chilling out in the lounge area beside the restaurant or in the pool and spa on the lower level of the property. The outdoor pool looks right over the slopes so a great spot to hang out if you take some time off skiing to relax. It was a fantastic place to stay and the breakfast was huge but amazing! But don’t worry if you don’t fancy the full breakfast every day, there is a Grab & Go area on the ground floor beside the rental shop to have a quick something before you head out skiing.
Skiing Mont Tremblant
After a very comfortable sleep and huge breakfast, we collected our ski gear and met our guide for the morning who showed us around the mountain. In his words, Tremblant is a ‘little, big mountain’ and I definitely see what he means. Nearly all the ski lifts come to one meeting point at the top of the mountain and there is always an easy way down which is perfect for families with children who want a little freedom. Along with the great selection of slopes there are some lovely on-mountain spots to grab a snack, or it's very easy to head down to all the restaurants in the village for lunch. We dined at Le Shack (below) which serves everything from club sandwiches and burgers to French onion soup and poutine, something for everyone and a great terrace to eat out in the sun.
After a morning skiing on the wide open trails (pictures below) and a few property inspections we spent the evening at Scandinave Spa Mont-Tremblant, just half an hour from the village. With hot pools, relaxation areas and full service spa facilities it is a great place to head for an evening away from the village for some chill out time. To get here you would need to call a cab or organise a transfer but it is so worth the visit!
image from: Scandinave Spa Tremblant
The following day we had another morning of skiing in Tremblant and enjoyed a hot chocolate by the fire at Grand Manitou which is a huge chalet style building at the top of the main gondola. That afternoon we experienced E-Fat bikes with is ran by D-Tours. Due to snow conditions we weren’t able to take the snow track but got to ride around on them close to the main hub. They are fitted with an electric motor which you have control of and they allow you to bike a lot further than you would normally. These E-Fat Bike tours are set up on snow tracks which are used by cross country skiers during the day so through the forest and by the lake back towards the Tremblant area so is a great afternoon activity for families and friends alike. That night we had dinner at Restaurant La Forge which was super! La Forge sits right at the top of the village and at the base of the mountain, so is in ideal location for skiers during the day and people heading out for dinner at night. The second floor is the main restaurant which serves an amazing selection of meat and fish with a brilliant wine list so you would be sure to find something to take your fancy here. We had a lovely meal and I can’t recommend it highly enough! After dinner and a few after drinks at The Q.J., we changed accommodation to experience Le Westin which was delightful! With a full 1 bedroom suite to myself, the space was huge and most certainly suitable for a couple or small family (see pictured living room). The spacious living area has a fireplace and looked out over the village and a small kitchenette and dining area would easily allow you to stay in for dinner. Le Westin has a lovely outdoor pool and hot tub which are open well into the evening and is a lovely spot to chill out after skiing.
Le Westin - Living area-Kitchen
Le Westin Tremblant
The following day, we left Tremblant and spent the day at Kanatha-Aki Nature Centre is Val-des-Lacs which is about a 40 minute drive from Mont Tremblant. Kanatha-Aki Nature Centre has lots of outdoor activities going on in the winter and we got to try out a couple including dog sledding and snowshoeing. Dog sledding was fantastic and such an amazing group experience! Along with riding in the sled we also got a chance to help steer which was very exciting while flying through the forest!
After the dog sledding a brilliant lunch was prepared of fresh trout which was caught through the ice in the surrounding lakes in the area and by far the best fish I have ever had!
The afternoon after an exciting morning we headed on our way to the next ski area and town, Saint Sauveur. This is not a resort we feature but was great to get an insight into the surrounding area and get a feel for what other ski areas can offer. It is definitely smaller but is amazing that the people living in Saint Sauveur have this right on their doorstep. After being dropped at the edge of the town we look a horse-drawn carriage to the hotel which made it a lot easier to get a feel for the town and check out a few sights along the way.
Horse & Carriage ride - Saint Sauvuer
Night skiing - Saint Saveur
We stayed at the Manoir Mont-Saint-Sauveur hotel which was very centrally located and from here was just a 5-10 minute drive to base of the ski area and a 5 minute walk to the Main Street with bars and restaurants. The hotel was beautiful with fantastic areas on the ground floor for chilling out as a family and great restaurant to have breakfast in the morning. They even serve freshly baked breakfast pizzas! That evening we had the opportunity to try out night skiing (pictured above) in Saint Sauveur which was great fun! The views over the town were amazing and the slopes were virtually empty so we packed in lots of fast laps in the short time we were out. It was around -15 degrees Celsius so we didn’t entertain this for too long and retired to the après bar, T-Bar 70 (below) at the bottom of slopes for a few warming drinks before heading for dinner.
Après-bar at base of Saint Sauveur
With just one night here it was a flying visit but before we started our journey back to Montreal, we had a chance to try out the snow tubing here. There is a huge tubing area which is almost like a resort in itself with a great range of activities. Along with the single tubes, you could go in groups in large raft like rings and bobsleighing too! We could have stayed here all day, it was just a big kids playground!
Snow tubing - Saint Sauveur
Bobsleighing - Saint Sauveur
Bobsleighing - Saint Sauveur
We arrived in Montréal in the afternoon and after checking into Le Centre Sheraton Montréal Hotel we went to the new Au Sommet Place Ville Marie which has a 360 degree observatory giving amazing views around Montréal. As were only here for a short time, it was great to have all the sights pointed out from a far because it gave you an idea of where all the main areas are. On the level down from the observatory there is a further viewing floor but it is set up more as an interactive museum. They have iPads situated looking over the city and on them the information relates to what you can see. When you pay your entrance fee you are given a card which you can scan over the iPads and save the sights you want to go and see when you leave which I think is a fantastic idea! Today was our last night of the trip so after a brilliant dinner at the Intercontinental Montréal we tried out some of the nightlife on Rue Crescent where there are tonnes of bars and restaurants. This area was recommended by the hotel and I can certainly see why, definitely lots going on! The following morning we took a walking tour of downtown Montréal and explored part of the underground city and Old Montréal. In -17 degrees Celsius weather we were very happy to explore the underground city for as long as possible. Mainly in the newer area of the city various hotels, shopping centres and entertainment arenas are linked by ‘tunnels’ underground meaning in winter when it is very cold you don’t actually have to walk outside for very long. This was brilliant to see, and certainly something that we could do with here to protect us from the Scottish weather. The walking tour was really the last activity on our packed schedule and after a lovely lunch at LaCoupole (at Hotel Le Crystal) we got our transfer to Montréal Airport. We were lucky enough to fly home in Business class too which, for an overnight flight, made the world of different being able to fall asleep comfortably after a delicious dinner. Montreal was a great addition to my East Coast trip and is certainly worth a visit at the end of your Tremblant holiday!