If you’re yearning to ski in Europe but can’t quite afford it this year or don’t have the time off from work, why not consider Mont Tremblant? A trip there is certainly easier, and so much more affordable: you can either drive there in seven to eight hours or take a connecting flight via Air Canada or Porter Airlines, which is just an hour from Toronto and an hour from Montreal in the Laurentian Mountains. In addition, the exchange rate currently works in Americans’ favor, averaging around 1.4 U.S. dollar to one Canadian dollar (at the time of this post). Also, you certainly feel like you’re abroad, from the French speakers that dominate the area to the offerings of croissants, fondue and crepes offered every which way. Located in the heart of Quebec, Mont Tremblant is a city full of stunning architecture, gourmet restaurants and 662 skiable acres across four mountain tops. The combination is fulfilling, to say the least and you’ll most likely come back to the U.S. feeling like you’ve entered a world far, far away but was actually very close to home.
Opened in 1939 by American Joe Ryan, Mont-Tremblant is the second-oldest ski resort in North America (Idaho’s Sun Valley nabs the No. 1 title). It’s an easy trip to take in a weekend. You can easily leave on Friday morning, get there by lunchtime and spend the weekend, returning on Sunday night. That gives you a whole day of skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding or just moseying around the lovely European village, which is full of shops, boutiques and cafes. How do I know all of this? Well, I just recently spent a lovely weekend in Mont Tremblant and I’m so excited to tell you where to stay, where to eat and what to do. We spent time in Whistler in British Columbia fifteen years ago right around this time of year and this trip reminded me so much of that one- it’s another world-class ski destination that is mindful of Europe in so many wonderful ways.
Stay at Fairmont Tremblant Hotel
Our stay at the lovely, five-star Fairmont Tremblant Hotel was perfect for our short stay in Tremblant. The hotel is the centerpiece of the village, offering ski-in, ski-out access, an outdoor, oversized hot tub and onsite dining that includes a buffet breakfast at Windigo Restaurant that is out of this world. The French glass of wine I had in the bar also clenched the experience.
The hotel itself is classic and tasteful in its decor, full of rich paneling, stained glass and stone fireplaces. We had a room with a mountain view and plenty of space to place our ski equipment at the end of a long day. We were delivered a daily newspaper and were given complimentary transportation to venues within 5 miles. There is a fee for Internet service, something to keep in mind when booking your reservation at the hotel but there are online specials offered often that include it and other perks, so be on the look out. Lunch at Windigo was equally rewarding, serving up plenty of vegetarian options including a yummy orange soup I had not tasted before.
I also must comment on the service at Fairmont. It’s first-class. From the front-desk attendant who made sure we knew where everything was and what services were at our disposal to the room cleaners to the young guys working in the ski storage, it was all very top notch.
Skiing and More in Tremblant
Staying at Fairmont makes a ski vacation in Tremblant so easy. You can easily rent skis on the premises and then store them downstairs right near where you come in and out. There are runs for all levels, including glades, moguls and easy to hard slopes.. They offer a great ski school. We skied right to the Duncan Express chair lift in the morning, which took us straight to the top, giving us various options to get down to the bottom. Sometimes I’d take the green, my husband took the blue or black trails, and we’d meet for coffee in a restaurant on the mountain. There is nothing better than a ski vacation for the exercise and opportunity to see the world from higher up – in this case, the views of the Laurentians took my breath away.
If you’re not a skier, there are other ways to quench your snowy and outdoorsy side in Tremblant. There’s snowshoeing, dogsledding, ice climbing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, skating and tubing. Check out the Tremblant Activity Center for sign ups. Our stay at Fairmont included access to tubing and skating, and if you have kids in tow, you won’t want to miss these activities. We also indulged in a two-hour snowshoeing tour that took us through the woods and partially up a mountain. It was cold enough so that our tour guide actually sat down and built a fire out of wet sticks. To top if off, we roasted marshmallows and practically slid down a hill.
And the Spas…Ahhh, the Spas
In addition to the hot tubs and sauna offered at Fairmont at Amerispa that were necessary for a day after skiing, a must trip a mere 10 minutes away from the hotel is Scandinave Spa, a Nordic spa situated in the most beautiful, tranquil natural setting imaginable. When we got out of our cab, our walk through the woods and down a snowy path only half-prepared me for what lied ahead. Even after I put on my bathrobe, I still had no idea what kind of unique experience I was about to have. If you haven’t been to a Nordic spa, I strongly suggest you get to one right away! It’s a thousand-year tradition of Scandinavian baths based on a sequence of hydrotherapy that goes from hot to cold therapy to relaxation every ten minutes. The impact is so utterly relaxing that we both felt like jello walking out. Scandinave also offers massages of all kinds, and I can only imagine that they are just as dreamy. They also have a location in Montreal, and I must seriously find out if such a thing exists in NYC and go there every month.
Where to Eat
We loved venturing out to Mont Tremblant Village for the majority of our meals, as it was a hop, skip and a jump. Cobblestone streets line the restaurants and shops, and a big, communal fireplace sits right in the center. There are some very French restaurants and also some very non-French ones, but all delicious options.
If you’re looking for traditional French cuisine, don’t miss Laurent Louis. For the two of us, it was romantic and the food was sublime and uniquely French. From a starter of brie and salmon to grilled salmon with red sauce to a slice of sugar pie at the end of the meal, the food was divine. And yes, my diet must start tomorrow.
We also had a delightful meal at Altitude in the town’s Casino, a cab ride from Fairmont, that was equally as extraordinary culinary-wise. We were sat in a lovely lounge with live music and presented with drinks, appetizers, a main course and a special dessert made by the chef himself. The surf and turf was excellent, as my husband’s beef flank steak. I’m not the biggest casino person, so I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. We spent a bit of time in the casino after dinner and I must admit, it seemed slightly less tacky than the ones I’ve been to in America. Must be the French influence.
We grabbed lunch one afternoon at Fluide Juice Bar, another great choice for me as a vegetarian. Fresh from a morning of skiing, we enjoyed curry lentil soup, veggie wraps and freshly squeezed juice. It was so much more ideal than the usual fried food you get on the ski slope.
Our last lunch was spent at O Wok, an upscale Chinese restaurant where I delighted in salmon tartar and Tom Yum Tofu Soup whilst my husband indulged in a bit of Pad Thai before departing Tremblant. Coming from NY where the Asian food is so good, we were both pleasantly surprised at how tasty our fare was. I also liked the restaurant’s loungy vibe.
While the weekend went much too fast and now feels like a bit of a dream, I am so glad we took the time out to explore Tremblant. Did I mention that skiing there was on my husband’s bucket list? Our visit meant a great deal to him, and it also gave us time to reconnect and experience some things on our own terms, and not our kids. While I love traveling with them, a trip on our own from time to time is exactly what the doctor ordered and Tremblant was pure bliss.
Disclosure: I was a guest of the Tremblant CVB, but all opinions are my own, as always, and I’d definitely recommend a trip to Tremblant.