Snow King of the Canadian East
In 1938, Philadelphia millionaire Joe Ryan visited 3,001-foot Mont Tremblant, liked what he saw, bought it, and built the second real ski resort in North America, after Sun Valley. The highest peak in the Laurentians, Tremblant derives its name (Trembling Mountain) from an Algonquin Indian legend in which the angry god Manitou gave the mountain a good shake whenever humans disturbed nature in any way.
Perhaps Vancouver-based Intrawest (owner of Whistler/Blackcomb and other North American ski resorts) had the god’s wrath in mind, then, when in the early 1990s they spent $800 million on a massive rebuilding project that specifically sought to blend man-made structures with nature, to provide intimate glimpses of the mountain and surrounding country at every turn. The resulting Mont Tremblant Resort has been called the best in eastern North America, with more than 46 miles of trails (broken up into ninety-two runs) attracting skiers from across North America and farther afield. Fully 50 percent of its trails are classified expert-grade, including the daunting double-black-diamond Dynamite, with its 42-degree incline, the steepest in eastern Canada, The 3¾-mile Nansen Trail is its opposite number, a gentle slope that takes in the resort’s entire 2,131-foot drop.
At the base of the mountain’s five high-speed lifts lies Mont Tremblant village, a pedestrian-only area designed to resemble Quebec City’s historic district, right down to its cobbled streets, wrought-iron balconies, tin roofs, and old-fashioned signage. More than eighty bars, restaurants, and shops line the ground floors of the quaint, brightly painted buildings, while the top floors are filled with privately owned condos managed and rented by Intrawest. Le Shack, located on the St.-Bernard Plaza, is Tremblant’s largest and most popular après-ski spot, with a continental menu, rustic decor, sports on the big screen, and a relaxed, completely nonglitzy feel that’s shared by the whole resort. Scene seekers need not apply.
The resort’s activities center offers a range of nonski activities, including dogsledding and evening sleigh rides that come complete with storytelling and hot chocolate. The resort’s own La Source Aquaclub offers heated indoor pools, a eucalyptus steam bath, whirlpools, and a full fitness center.
The area’s best hotel is the ski-in/ski-out Fairmont Mont Tremblant, located on a crest above the village. Pleasantly scaled, homey, and harmoniously integrated into its natural setting, the hotel has the feel of a country inn, its north-woods decor drawing from the tradition of Quebec’s 19th-century Provençal-style residences and its lobby warmed by the requisite huge stone fireplace. In summer, Tremblant transforms into a destination for canoeing, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and climbing, with miles of trails and two world-class 18-hole golf courses, the par-71 Le Diable and the par-72 Le Géant.