Amazing Race – Canada Style – Episode Two

Although I’m not certain how many of you care to live vicariously through anyone…much less moi for that matter; I figured I’d post a BLOG of sorts on the experiences of a ski getaway outside of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic for those that may be thinking about doing one of your own…and for those that simply like to read travel stuff.  I received several emails from my first post so I figured since Sarah Davis is handling things for me over on the FirsTrax side of the website, I’d attempt to post up some (hopefully) interesting things about skiing in the Great White North. I’ll simply start today’s blog off with the notes from Day One, add some things about the end of our first day here and then update each day going forward.

(If I find that this is boring me to tears, then I’ll figure it’s boring YOU GUYS to tears and you may see an abrupt stoppage!)

Feel free to email me to put YOU GUYS out of your misery if I AM posting useless BLAB at [email protected] (If you like it, you can let me know as well.)

If you already read DAY ONE, skip below for the end of the day update and look for more in the days to come.

DAY ONE – GETTING HERE

Late on Christmas evening I received some not so good news. Our flights for our trip to Tremblant in Canada had been cancelled. It seems that Continental was being pro-active IN CASE the weather was bad in New Jersey where we were intended to land first before heading to Montreal. To make things worse Continental’s phone lines were only stating, "Due to high caller volume we can not take your call". It advised people to look at their website which only stated that the flights were cancelled. The tickets were purchased through American Express – don’t leave home without it – and they were having major issues getting anything resolved until Sunday morning (yesterday) when four of our group were rescheduled to fly out of Charlotte on Monday (today). The other five of us (me included) could not be scheduled to fly out until Tuesday (tomorrow).

So we did our best Amazing Race impersonations by scrambling to find airline tickets out of any close enough location to get us to Montreal. The other four of our crew are flying out today – first to Cleveland, Ohio (away from the storm) and then to Montreal. My guys scored a great last minute deal via US Airways out of Charlotte directly to Montreal. We found this deal at 11am and had to scramble to pack up and get to Charlotte by 8pm last night. We had to redo all of the baggage configurations, redo all of the passport configs for US Airways, but we made it happen and were on the plane at 7:30pm. After what seemed to be an amazingly short two hour flight we landed in snowy, frozen Montreal.

By the way – THANKS TO US Airways for making that deal because the tickets were originally $660 per seat, and due to some last minute cancellations due to weather our plane became much less full and much cheaper as we picked those tickets up for $330 each.

To add to our Amazing Race episode, while we were driving to the airport, we got a call to say that BECAUSE we were not going to be on our Tuesday flight to New Jersey, Continental would be cancelling our return flight tickets. So we scrambled to get US Airways to make our one way tickets round trip ones, but apparently THAT flight was nearly full and would ADD $1700 PER TICKET to our cost. At those costs we’d be walking back or more likely NOT GOING to Tremblant.

We parked at the airport and headed to the Continental counter since they STILL were not taking any calls. Unbelievably there was NOBODY in line and within two minutes the Continental peeps converted our tickets to ONE WAY tickets back home on January 2nd.

PROBLEM SOLVED…

We landed in a NEARLY EMPTY, HUGE Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL) at 10:15pm or so, and collected our baggage in m-a-y-b-e another two minutes…seriously…and met with our agent to declare…which took m-a-y-b-e another ONE minute and then headed to our hotel.

Oh yes. While at the airport in Charlotte I hopped on my iPad and made reservations for a hotel in Montreal. US Airways was recommending several nice options, but I found out the the Montreal Airport had a brand new Marriott connected to the airport itself. Found that out because lucky for us, one of our flight attendants was sitting next to me waiting to board the plane. Crazy good luck, huh?

That little "find" prevented from having to take a shuttle from the airport to lodging – hauling luggage and skis etc – to the hotel and then back to the airport again because we could not get our rental car until Monday morning.

So we land at the airport and I swear for a moment I thought the pilot was going to taxi the plane right up to the front of the hotel. We pulled over what m-i-g-h-t have been 100 yards from the hotel. After getting our baggage and doing the "I’m a US citizen visiting your country for a one week ski trip" thing…we walked maybe two minutes to the hotel – all indoors. We checked in and had a great night’s rest and here I am posting this report.

As a tech person I am nevertheless impressed when I can sit in my hotel room overlooking Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport on my laptop – CONNECTED to my desk at my office in Boone, NC and handle reporting for the ski areas up and down the east coast. Crazy cool, I’d say.

DAY TWO – KIND OF:

Day one was pretty much just getting to Montreal. Mission accomplished there with little more than a couple of bumps in the road. Day two was waking up in Montreal, getting our rental car and making our way to Tremblant. We’d already reserved a HUGE Suburban for the trek figuring we’d need that space for nine of us and all the baggage and skis, snowboards, etc. Even packing light there would not have been room to get us all in that tank of a vehicle along with the baggage.

Thankfully (I guess) the other five in our party were coming into Montreal later in the day so I decided to trek our four onward to Mont Tremblant and get us settled into our suite and go back later for the other five.

First item of recommendation for those travelling to Canada. If your credit card is one of those that works as a credit card but it ALSO a debit card, unlike in the U.S. they cannot swipe it as security for things like car rentals. Problem one was solved because thankfully I carry a second credit card.

We headed to Mont Tremblant at around noon and the trek took about 1.5 hours. The roads in Montreal are VERY bumpy, and in poor shape. I’m certain that the wear and tear of all those sub zero nights and all the ice and snow pay a toll on them. I was listening to a Montreal talk radio show and the guys actually commented on how poor they were by saying that the roads are taken care of by the same people who built the Olympic Torch lighting thing where only three of five things worked.

The drive to Tremblant is gorgeous once you get about half way there. You pass by seemingly 3000 ski resorts on the way. Okay, there were probably eight or nine, but there’s a lot of them. Some were making snow in the 8° temperatures and some were not.

Another little recommendation/side note: Don’t EVER attempt to drive around Montreal without a NAV system. I am certain many thousands of travellers in decades past found themselves lost attempting to manage Montreal’s highway system. The car we rented which was a brand new Chevy Suburban only had 13,000 kilometers on it, but no NAV system. However we wanted to make sure that we continued to lead this "Amazing Race" of our own so we thought ahead and brought our own Garmin. (Yes it has Canada maps on it.)

We got to Mont Tremblant around 2pm, checked in in what probably took us two minutes. They had our lodging ready early which was a great help; they had our lift passes ready and gave us weeklong activity passes for tubing, ice skating, and some other stuff that I’ll cover later. So we were ready for primetime in no time at all. We’re used to VERY hectic check in days at some of the resorts we’ve been to so we envisioned a tough go of it here. Not so,.

The suite we’re renting in La Plateau overlooks the resort and has a piste run right behind our back door that takes you to the bottom of the mountain where you can ride to the top of everything else. Way cool…

Anyway, I made the trek back to Montreal and hung out in the airport to gather the rest of our crew who were coming in from Cleveland…since New Jersey was shut down due to the snow storm.

We made it to the rest around 8pm and unpacked them…then headed to the village for some eats. My wife and kids had "done the village for lunch" so they had already warned us about what I’m going to share with you right now as I end this DAY TWO BLOG…

WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT CANADA SO FAR…

1. The people do speak English as a second language, however they BARELY speak English. We’re finding that we each have to repeat ourselves often.

2. It is COLD as HELL here. So far the warmest temp I’ve seen was 8°. It’s -2° as I’m typing this.

3. The place is picture post card gorgeous and the village is Snowshoe’s on steriods. All good.

4. The food is GREAT as is the beer, but Canadians in this part of the Quebec LOVE their gold-laced food and drinks. It MUST be gold-laced, because check this out:

Lunch: 2 burgers, 2 chicken sandwiches, 2 beers and 2 sodas: $96

Dinner: 3 pizzas, 1 sandwich, 9 beers, sodas for the kids: $240

Just Saying…

Until Next time… Pensez neige et Bonne Année!

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Mike Doble
Mike is the Editor and founder of SkiSoutheast.com, SkiNC.com and ResortCams.com. Since September 1996 he has posted more than 13,000 posts, articles, photos and videos promoting all of the ski areas of North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.Mike is the father of four daughters, is an avid skier and enjoys golf, tennis, kayaking and hiking in the mountains. Winter snowsports and Summer boating on Watauga Lake are among his favorite pastimes.