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Welcome! My main blog is Notes to Self, where I write about my big, little life. This is a place in the margins to jot down reviews, finds, and ideas worth passing along. I only post about things that are of genuine interest and relevance to me, whether suggested or discovered. I disclose all gifts, sponsorships, favors owed, blood bonds, and other vested interests. Contact me at kyranp c/o gmail.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mont-Tremblant: If You Go


Tourisme Mont-Tremblant is your first stop. Here is where you can get information on getting to Mont-Tremblant, where to stay, and what to do. And there is a lot to do.

Under Activities and Attractions, you can choose a la carte from a wide array. Pricing information is here as well. Depending on how much skiing you want to do, and how much equipment you need to rent, I would plan on about $100 a day, per person for the level of activity we did. Dogsledding will put you over, tubing is well under. Outdoor skating is next to nothing. The snow, tons and tons of glorious snow, is included with your airfare. My boys would probably have been thrilled to do nothing but roll in it for three days. If you stay on the resort proper, there are numerous other free activities, like curling, hockey, giant inflatables and sliding.

As I said earlier, I think the cost is comparable to Disney World or other major theme park/attraction. As with Disney, you have the choice to stay on or off the resort. There are accomodations at every level, many with kitchens. We stayed on-site, at the Fairmont Tremblant, in adjoining rooms with a kitchen and living room. It was definitely at the luxury end of the scale. The outdoor pools, steaming hot and surrounded by snow, were an activity in themselves. The service was impeccable. I was hardly travelling undercover, but other guests seemed to be getting the same star treatment.

But of course, the hotel, however fabulous, was not the main attraction. Mont-Tremblant is. As you can see from our photographs, the resort is a pedestrian-only storybook village. A story in which you can spend a lot of money. There is nothing chintzy here. The apparel and gear shops are top of the line: Roots, Columbia, Helly Hansen. Souvenirs are also upscale and tasteful. As for food: continental, international, pub—you crave it, they seem to have it. There is also a general store on site if you don't want to pay $4.00 CDN for a single serve box of Rice Krispies and a half-pint of milk at the hotel.

There is a lively nightclub scene that I can't tell you a thing about. But I'd be happy to investigate it for you thoroughly on a separate, no-kids, moms-getaway with my sister in the future (HINT HINT).

You'll want to make the Activity Centre at Place-Bernard in the pedestrian village one of your very first stops, after checking in. This is where the buffet of winter fun begins. Brochures and wall displays make it very easy to see what recreational opportunities are available and at what price. From here, you can book the spa, the dogsledding (ours was "Mountain Adventure"), the tubing and a bunch of other things we never got to (Snowmobiling, anyone? Ziplining?). Everything but the skiing. Activity Centre staff were very helpful with giving directions and answering questions.

Okay, the skiing. I've never skiied out west, so I don't have a basis for comparison as to elevation, trails, etc. But it's hard to imagine a better set up than Mont-Tremblant for a family of beginners with three young kids. The place is extremely family friendly. My four year old said his favorite thing on our ski day was the day care (thank you, Annie! Vous-etes tres gentil!) Sixty dollars CDN for an afternoon. I paid for it out of pocket and was happy to. We all had a much better time for it. As well as enjoying the spacious, bright playroom, he and his international playmates went outside for playtime in the snow. He gave two thumbs up to the "ice slide."

We rented all our equipment from the resort. Instruction is always worth the time and expense, in my experience, though if it had been on our dime, we'd have gone for group rather than private lessons. A morning of instruction was plenty to school us in the basics. Coming down Nansen Bas together is something our family will never forget.

If you look at the trail map, you can see that Tremblant is clearly not just for beginners. But I think their greatest success could be as kind of winter "dude-ranch" for snow-deprived southern families like ourselves. I mean, in three and a half days, we DID winter. In style. I don't know if I was able to convey adequately to our hosts what a thrill the snow was for us. And they are set up uniquely to let visitors get the maximum possible enjoyment out of it. Their season runs from November through March.

And no disrespect to Disney World, or Paradise Island, or cruises, or any other upscale family resort/destination (anybody needs a resort blogger-in-residence, I'm your gal— Mickey, CALL ME), but Tremblant has something different. As in, vive la difference. It wasn't just an immersion in a different climate; it was an immersion in a different culture and language. My boys got to practice their bonjours et mercis. We got to sample french cuisine. We learned about french Canadian culture. We were there less than four days, yet we felt like we'd really gone somewhere.

It wasn't just a good vacation. It was a bon voyage.

I feel like for credibility's sake, I should tell you something sucked, but nothing did. We didn't care much for lunch in the very crowded summit cafeteria Grand Manitou, but it was exactly like the lunchtime scene at the only other ski resort I've ever visited. That's ski resort cafeteria lunch as far as I'm concerned. We weren't up there for the french fries.

Our favorite meal, far and away, was at Hotel du Lac. Dinners at Grand Lodge and Fairmont's Windingo were not as excellent from first course to last, but they each had their gems. Entrees were all in the $40-$55 CDN range. As I said in an earlier post, if it were all our tab, no way would we have dined that extravagantly every night. A dinner at Hotel du Lac and breakfast at Catherine's Creperie would have been plenty gourmet indulgence for a three-night stay. Rounded out, of course, by maple snow taffy and the occasional croissant or eclair from the boulangerie.

I guess the only hesitation I have at all is in knowing that not everyone can afford a vacation like this, especially now. Even though our airfare, lodging, food and activities were sponsored, we still spent a lot (for us) on incidentals and outdoor gear. But if a special destination is in your budget (or grandma and grandpa's), I think you'll get a lot a value for your money from this one. It seems unbelievable that we were there just four days, considering how much we experienced.

I'm still sorting through photographs. I'll be uploading them to my Notes on Ice flickr set and adding captions where appropriate.

In the meantime, I'll be launching a new series for this blog tomorrow. So check back!

C'est tout.



Blogger J said...

Glad you had a nice time. I'm going to temper your glowing review, however. I've been twice, and the second time was just a week ago.

1. On renting equipment. Our older son is a tall 12 year old. The rental agent tried to charge us adult prices for him even though the rates are based on age, not size. Watch that closely!

2. Ski school is a highly variable experience. Some instructors are great, some are not. Our younger son ended up with a less than wonderful instructor - took him around the mountain, yes, but didn't actually teach him a thing. More like a babysitter than a ski instructor. As was our second less than stellar experience with the ski school, we'll avoid it in the future.

3. When you book your hotel, if you book through the main Tremblant site, make sure you are clear on policies. We booked one hotel, but were bumped to another. Although the rooms were comparable, the target clientele of each hotel was different. We ended up at a hotel that took more groups - groups that included some very loud and disrespectful young adults. It made our first night rather awful.

Overall, we still had a great time, but there are some things to watch for. We'll go again, but probably not until we can avoid the ski school altogether.

March 2, 2009 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Kyran said...

Thank you!! There's the "cred" I was having a hard time coming up with! All very good to know.

March 2, 2009 at 11:08 AM  
Blogger Joy! said...

These are fun to read as a travelogue too, even for this not-so-snow-deprived southerner.

March 2, 2009 at 11:27 AM  

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