I learned more things about Canada today. I already knew they were a laid back people, but we found out just how laid back on New Year’s Day…
First we all woke early; me to get the snow report handled for SkiNC and SkiSoutheast and the rest to get ready for some dogsledding at 9am. We hurried and arrived at the Tremblant Activity Center prior to 8am as we were instructed. I layed down $750 for the five of us that were in my clan, and my brother from another mother, Bob, dropped another $600 (Canadian) on the counter. By the way, for the last couple of days, the US and American dollar was pretty much 1:1. When I cashed in $500 US at the airport’s Currency Conversion counter it lost me $40+ immediately. Just as an FYI, when travelling to Canada (or at least this part of Canada) it really isn’t necessary to convert U.S. money as they take both anywhere and they’re always aware of the rate. You should also know that while the resort takes all major credit cards, many Montreal businesses DO NOT accept U.S. credit cards…so carry cash for those instances.
So we got to the center at 8am and paid the $1350 or so for the pleasure of looking at the back end of fiesty dogs for a couple of hours…ONLY to be told after we paid that the outfitter had decided they weren’t going to run the dogs afterall.
Let me further set the stage by saying that when we got up earlier it was simply a little wet, but not raining whatsoever, and not threatening to do so. However, our little guide informed us that she was sorry (she was kind of cute so her apology was easily accepted) and she quickly refunded our monies and we stepped outside at 8:45am or so wondering what to do next.
I have to be honest – only one or two of our group was even vaguely disappointed at missing out on this adventure. Apparently we parents will do most anything to spoil our kids. While I was ready and willing I have to be honest that I was all too "okay" with losing the chance at making this particular "life memory".
It took us all but two minutes to make a plan of action for the rest of today. We decided on the fly that we’d go do some turns on the slopes for a couple of hours and then hop in our rental SUV and head to the second largest, French speaking city in the world – Montreal (pronounced by the locals as "Mon’t-re-all" (rhyming with don’t-re-all)).
We were all stunned to see NO lift lines whatsover and I mean ZERO! The lines at the bottom of the village and the gondola lift had been HUGE all week long even though lesser so on Friday. Today we skied right onto the gondola area, clicked out of our skis and went right on. Ditto ALL other turns down the mountain to ALL other lifts. ZERO lift lines and often we were the only five or so people on any trail we skied. We almost had the entire mountain to ourselves. It was almost spooky how few people were on the hill.
One veteran Mont Tremblant visitor mentioned that she had NEVER seen so few people at the bottom of the lifts.
We made several turns and honestly the light overnight moisture and temps around 35° made for perfect riding conditions. We hit up a glade run, but the snow in the forest was so sticky and allowed you to sink into the wet pack that it made the glades too much work. However the rest of the hill was as good as it gets minus true powder skiing, which we didn’t see at any point in the week.
To be clear, on a scale of 1-10 with POW being an 11, the conditions today were in a very high 8 to 9 range. However I will say that Mont Tremblant needs some snow soon as I’d bet there’s more snow on the slopes of any of the ski areas in the Southeast with the exception of perhaps Sapphire and Ober.
So we hit the mountain up for a couple of hours and then changed to head to Montreal for what we all envisioned to be a wonderful trip to a romantic and cultural experience that we’d all enjoy. Here’s where we learned ANOTHER lesson about Canada and their laid back peeps. Number one, ALL of the shops and stores were CLOSED or fermé as the French say. Apparently ALL of the shops, outlets, malls and most everything in downtown Montreal was fermé for New Year’s Day. When I say MOST were closed I mean there were only a handful of restaurants open…period.
The second thing we learned about MONTREAL is that is might be a wonderful, cultural visit with supposedly outstanding museums and such – however it is also ONE DIRTY, trashed filled, graffiti covered city. We thought for awhile that we might have just hit the wrong streets but we covered most of the city-center and garbage was strewn on most all of the streets and I am not exaggerating when I say that many of the downtown sidewalks were littered with tens of thousands of cigarette butts. Really.
We looked up "things to do in Montreal" and of the top ten EIGHT were museums. I might like a museum visit on an odd occasion here and there, but not when I’m on a ski vacation. So we looked for FUN things to do. We found a lot of skiing…and since we were looking for something ELSE to do on the lightly rainy day, we were on our own.
After wondering if we had time-warped into WATTS in California for a while, we DID end up finding one little French Restaurant called Cafe Supreme. It was in a word – phenomenal. Only two of the people in the cafe spoke a bit of english and we clumsily ordered a late lunch. It is crazy how much French you can pick up relatively quickly and it didn’t hurt that one of the teens in our crew (Carrigan) has excelled at three years of French in the last three years in high school. Having her and Koty (another French-smart teen) in our crew certainly helped. We knew "poulet" was chicken so we were safe ordering some baggets with "poulet" and two side choices (all sides were either salads or fruit). There is no question why these people are more fit than most Americans, because you could eat most all day in this place and not gain any weight to speak of. Okay, that was only partially true because they had some desserts that were killer. I had a slice of what was THE BEST Pecan Pie that I have EVER tasted.
I have to also interject here that Canadians WALK E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E and that has to also add to the fact that I saw more thin-to-small legged people walking around this week than on any vacation I’ve been on in years. Come to think of it, I might have been one of the larger people I saw all week and I’m not exactly fat by any stretch.
After a great lunch we headed back to Mont Tremblant for a movie and some down time before we pack up and fly back to good ole Banner Elk, North Carolina, USA.
All in all, the skiing was really, really nice although I doubt I’ll ever visit Mont Tremblant again for the skiing side of things. It was a fun-filled trip and a bit of a cultural vacation that I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed. Tremblant’s unique shops, amazing village and the area’s many activities make this a ski destination that is wonderful for families. The ski terrain is diverse with many of the blacks that are pretty easy for most intermediate skiers. They do have some double blacks that were sketchy on this particular trip due to the icy conditions and lack of base on a few trails. (I used my recently reinjured knee as an excuse whenever possible. Truthfully I’m hoping for a full recovery where I can get back to not giving a flip what I’m skiing down, however I have to admit that after five days of skiing my knee was "singing" on any kind of compression.
Tremblant is also RICH in lodging choices and unlike some of our vacation destinations (winter or summer) this place has more restaurants and shops WITHIN the resort than any place we’d been before. It is also obvious that Mont Tremblant gets great year-round vacation traffic and that has funded quite an infrastructure that you will only find at the best of the best resorts. There is no doubt why Tremblant has won the top award for Eastern North American ski resorts for several years in a row with several top ski mags, etc.
If you’re looking solely for an onsnow experience where the snow is deep and trails are your only real concern, Tremblant is probably not the place to head to. If you’re looking for a family-friendly, entertaining, dining and shopping rich getaway then Mont Tremblant is the place for you. You and your family will have a cultural experience that will add to the fun and enjoyment. We’ve had a blast but I’m ready to get back to a country where most everyone speaks my language.
Unless something crazy happens on our flights back…
Avoir un bon dimanche sur les pentes et THINK NEIGE!
Here’s some comments from each day of the trip…
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