Mont Tremblant Review

Village of Mont Tremblant, as seen from the Cabriolet lift that goes over the village to the base of the mountain.

Village of Mont Tremblant, as seen from the Cabriolet lift that goes over the village to the base of the mountain.

Located approximately 80 miles north west of the cosmopolitan city of Montreal, in the Mont Tremblant National Park lies the year-round resort of Mont Tremblant.  In the winter, the resort is a popular destination for many skiers on both sides of the border.  In the summer, the area is popular for boating, golfing and IRONMAN triathlons.  Tremblant, as it is commonly referred to, is diminutive even by Laurentian Mountain standards, at only 2871 feet, it isn’t in the top 35 highest peaks of the mountain range and almost a full 1000 feet smaller than Mont Raoul Blancher which is the highest peak, although not a ski area, in the Laurentains.  However, good things come in small packages because Mont Tremblant offers up a few surprisingly challenging runs along with a distinctive village of shops, restaurants, bars and condos.

The skiing at Tremblant is done off all sides of the mountain, known as Versant Sud (South Side), Versant Nord (North Side) and Le Edge. The south side, is the side seen from the village, and has a mix of easy, intermediate and expert trails.  The expert trails are generally wide-open GS rippers that have been groomed for maximum speed. The best of these trails was Erik Guay, which is named after the Canadian speed merchant who won the World Cup season title in super-G in 2010 and was the world champion in downhill in 2011, as well as in the super-G in 2017. Guay grew up racing with the Mont Tremblant race club. However, Quebec is not really known for producing great ski racers, instead the province is a proverbial factory of mogul skiers, currently 10 of the 11 mogul skiers on the Canadian World Cup Team are from the province of Quebec, including the “Michael Jordan of Moguls” Mikael Kingsbury.  With that said, you would expect some trails littered with “bosses” (the term for moguls in French) and you wouldn’t be disappointed.  On the South Side the two places to get your bumpin’ on are Vertige and Zig Zag.  Vertige is an appropriately named trail, the appears to drop away from the top of Erik Guay at a dizzying rate into sea of moguls, however the trail in reality isn’t as steep as it appears.  The trail next to Vertige is Zig Zag which has a gentler pitch, but just as many moguls – you won’t be disappoint with either trail.

Vertige on the Versant Sud Side of Tremblant - photo by Robert Rousseau

Vertige on the Versant Sud Side of Tremblant - photo by Robert Rousseau

However, if true double black diamond skiing is what you are looking for then head to Versant Nord and ride the Expo Express and you’ll find yourself with access to three very good trails, they are Cossack, Expo and Dynamite.  Cossack and Expo are run of the mill double black diamond trails, but Dynamite isn’t run of the mill.  La Dynamite is infamous terrain for countless skiers in the United States and Canada. The trail is situated on the Nord side of Tremblant and can be accessed via the Expo Express Chair.  Dynamite is the crown jewel of all Quebec steep skiing – the trail has the steepest sustained pitch of any inbounds trail in the 527,079 sq. miles of Quebec.  It is one of only three trails in Quebec that have sustained pitches over 30 degrees, the others are Alexander Dispatie at Mont Chantecler and La S at Mont St. Anne.  Dynamite can be divided into two segments the upper half is a “simple” double black diamond mogul run, the lower half of the trail is as difficult as they come on the East coast, to say it is a valid double black diamond is not an exaggeration. The lower segment of Dynamite, carries a pucker factor that will put butterflies in the stomach, of all but the most skilled skiers.   To make matters worse, if you get past the headwall (err…frozen waterfall) you will still have mogul after mogul to deal with before the trail ends at the intersection of Expo.  Dynamite is very similar to Rumor at Gore Mountain in NY.  They both have very steep headwalls followed by a mogul field, although Dynamite is 25 feet narrower than Rumor.  The trail is appropriately named – Dynamite will unleash an explosion of demolition if you don’t have your “A” game. However, if you ski it, really ski it – you will be quoting Jimmy Walker from Good Times (if you are younger than 45 you may need to Google that reference)!

The headwall of Dynamite encountered half way down the slope.

The headwall of Dynamite encountered half way down the slope.

USA citizens frequently state that when they go to Tremblant it is like going back to the old country, since it has a very European feel to it, although the colorful buildings resemble Reykjavik, Iceland more than the buildings of Chamonix, due to the various colors of all the buildings. Some say Interwest went too “Disney” when the village was created, but I’m not in the camp.  When I’m on ski vacation I want many après ski options and Tremblant fits the bill with various  restaurants, shops, night clubs and activities for the kids such as the water park (more a pool with a rope swing), ice skating and tubing.  If you plan on staying at Tremblant for at least a night it is highly recommended that you make reservations at La Savoie.  La Savoie is a fondue/raclette restaurant, and while a bit pricey, is fun to do with the family or a date.  The raclette (a Swiss cheese dish) is served at your table via a half of a wheel of cheese that you melt onto bread with various meats and veggies.  It is delicious, although you will leave the restaurant smelling like a wheel of cheese. 

Raclette!

Raclette!

If you are in your twenties or early thirties and looking for something a little more exciting then P’tit Caribou is where you should head.  The bar has been voted by Ski Canada and Freeskier magazines as the best après ski destination in North American and Men’s Journal and Forbes both listed it as one of the top 10 après ski destinations in the world!  In the write up by Men’s Journal it says, “P’tit Caribou lures in skiers early with a dirt cheap 2 p.m. happy hour that escalates in price until 4:30 p.m. After that, things get…wild. The crowd doubles by the time the lifts close, and by nightfall, the once rocking après-ski bar has transformed into a full-on club, replete with visiting house DJs, cage dancing, and patrons dressed to the nines. Just how did all this happen in the span of an afternoon? No one really knows, least of all the guys still dancing in their ski boots at 3 a.m.” The drinking age in Quebec is 18, so the crowds at P’tit Caribou can skew to young.  Lastly, you can’t leave Tremblant without trying the maple syrup taffy sticks at Cabane à sucre de la Montagne, located by the base of the Cabriolet lift.  Heated Maple syrup is poured on snow and after waiting 45 seconds you roll it up onto a popsicle stick for a delicious, teeth rotting treat.

The start of maple syrup taffy.  Next step is to roll it up on a popsicle stick and then eat.

The start of maple syrup taffy.  Next step is to roll it up on a popsicle stick and then eat.

There you have it, Tremblant offers up skiing for all abilities and night life choices for all.  For anyone who lives south of the border and wants a genuine European flavor for a ski weekend, this is the place to go.

PROS

  • European flair in a francophone town
  • Plenty of condos available in and around the village
  • Varied terrain for all abilities in your group

CONS

  • Can be expensive, even with the exchange rate
  • Gets crowded, go during the week if possible
  • Can be “Canada Cold” bring toe and hand warmers