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Domain:Laurentians, Quebec. East Coast Canada
Author: Furbag and his wife Gerb
Date: 16th Feb 2005 - 23rd Feb 2005 (USA Presidents week started 18th )
Our holiday:We are a UK couple aged 37 and 51 and have never skied before. We chose Tremblant due to good reports on skiing instruction and it was a mainly English speaking resort. Having said that, French is really their main language, they will greet you in French but will soon swop to English for you without any worries. It is worth noting that the resort is very low at just 875mtrs which means you have no trouble breathing due to the height, another big plus for my wife.
Website : www.tremblant.ca
Basics : Mount Tremblant is about one and a half hours drive north of Montreal airport in the Laurentian mountains. We booked with Inghams and flew Air Canada from Heathrow on a scheduled flight leaving about 14.00hrs. This meant a pleasant start in the morning instead of the usual early hours wake up call. The flight was 7.1/2 hrs and we had two good meals on board. The leg room on this flight was the most we have ever had on a transatlantic flight and being an Airbus rather than a Jumbo the seats were arranged 2-4-2 so nobody had more than one person to disturb if they needed to get up for anything. The 5 hr time difference and the 1.1/2hr transfer by coach from the airport meant we arrived in the resort in the early evening with plenty of time to settle in our hotel and then spend the evening exploring. We even had time to buy some milk from the local store before it closed. We went to bed early after a very long day travelling but woke up refreshed and ready for the adventure before us.
Lift system :South side: 2 x Gondola's, one 6 person stand up (Cabriolet) for moving up and down the village which is FREE and one 8 person fully enclosed mountian lift. 3 x high speed quad chairs, 1 x triple chair, 3 x magic carpets ( nursary slope moving walkways)
North side: 2 x high speed quad chairs, 1 x triple chair, 1 x quad chair
They say the system can run at a maxium of around 27,000 people an hour but personally I would not want to be anywhere near the place if it was that busy. When we went there was only one day when we had to queue for the mountian Gondola due to high winds shutting the high speed base quad and even then it was only for about 45mins. Within a couple of hours the queue was down to just 5 or 10mins. I never queued longer than a few mins at any of the other lifts and considering it was USA's Presidents week and everyone said it would get very busy, I found it to be fine. I must mention the hugh traffic light type board which is on the top of the summit, this will inform you of any delays on the lifts and hence you can choose which runs to go down and aim yourself at the lift with the least que but to be quite honest we never needed it and I only ever saw one of the lifts with a red light on it ( +20mins delay I think) and that was the time the closed one of the southside chairs due to the weather.
The terrain : The resort has a total of 94 pistes, 16 x green, 31 x blue, 37 x black diamond and 10 x double black diamond but I think this marking system maybe slightly different to European systems as some people were remarking about it. There are also 2 x snowboard parks. This was another reason we chose Tremblant as you can ski from the top of the mountain both north and south side on the easy green runs right to the bottom. These will take you about 20mins depending on your skill level. After 3 days from not even knowing what a ski was I could do top to bottom in just about 20mins on the greens, through lovely wooded areas. I managed to move on to do a few blue runs which were fun. I cannot comment on the blacks as my abilities did not get that far.
The snow : Tremblant had been a bit short of snow earlier in the 2004 season but had plenty over Christmas and then about 5ins of fresh powder a few days before we arrived. It all seemed perfect to us but we are novices remember. There always seemed to be snow fluttering in the air a bit especially at night and first thing in the morning but nothing very much. Then on the Monday it blew up a bit of a storm and snowed all day. That was the day they shut the chair lift on the south side (Flying mile) and recommended everybody ski on the North, which we did and it was fine. They do have snow making machines so I don't think lack of snow is a problem here. The surrounding areas were well covered and the journey from the airport was through snow covered roads so I think they had enough to go around.
Off-piste :Unknown as we did not reach that sort of level, but I would say it is limited due to the fact the mountian is covered with trees, it did look like some people were messing about under the lift runs which did not appear to be proper pistes.
The resort :Imagine Alton Towers (UK Theme park) or Disneyland and you won't be far wrong BUT don't let this put you off. It is, after all, a purpose built resort which does mean its laid out rather well, with the hotels and chalets being around the outside and everything else in the middle i.e. bars restaurants, shops etc. This means you should not get disturbed by noisy late night pubs and bars. Except possibly at closing time when people are returning to their rooms. Nothing is really more than a 5 mins walk away and with the village gondola running from top to bottom in 2 mins (which is free) you can get about very easily. Do remember that it can get very cold, while we were there it never got above about -11C at the base and -20C at the summit then add a wind chill to that and you could easily see -30C and according to some staff it had warmed up!! Having said that we were never really cold, as long as you dress correctly and I would definitely recommend a face mask of some sorts then you should not have a problem. I was particularly worried as I feel the cold very easily but certainly as beginners we were normally too hot, and to be able to easliy cool down quickly was fantastic. We never had to resort to hand warmers etc. The village contains Bars and Restaurants to cater for most, from small 30-40 seaters to large 300+ ones. It did seem to lack, from our point of view, bars on there own. Yes, there were bars with restaurants attached but bars alone there only seemed to be about 3 or 4. All the bars seemed very lively and full of all ages but we were too tired most nights to indulge. You will find people wandering about with large question marks on their backs, you can ask them almost any question like what time do the chairs shut, or anything about the resort, and they will be able to tell you the answer.
Food : There was one mountain restaurant at the very top but we didn't sample this as we were busy throwing ourselves down the mountain. At the bottom the resort has many places to eat and we tried PizzaTeria, Spag & Co, the Creperie, Oeufs & Bacon and the cafe attached to Les Voyageurs whose name we cannot remember. They were all delightful and good value for money. The Creperie got a bit full while we were there and people were queueing outstide as it was such a popular place to eat, especially families with kids. It was only a small place so you have to be quick if you want to eat there at the busiest times. We don't do mornings very well so my wife made porridge and coffee in the room most days for breakfast. On the days we didn't have ski lessons to rush out to though we did eat a later breakfast at the cafe attached to Les Voyageurs and also across the path at the Oeufs and Bacon chalet. My wife had a bacon, lettuce and tomato toasted baguette which was delicious and strangely came served with bits of fruit. She also tried a 'bowl' of coffee which came with a big pile of foamed milk on top. The coffee was beautiful and fresh and the froth was lovely, creamy and thick. Apparently the place to be in the evening is Le Petite Caribou but as we were in bed by the time it all kicked off in there so its difficult to say what went on. We did drink in there earlier in the evening for a couple of nights and you could tell it was the nightclub to be seen in, oh and they had a special support over one of the bars for the ladies to hang onto when they 'danced on the bar'.
Accommodation : We stayed in Le Tours de Voyageurs on the third floor in what they call a studio. This was the smallest of the rooms they offered and we weren't expecting much but we were pleasantly surprised. The room was ample for two although I wouldn't have wanted to be four adults in there, which it was supposed to accommodate. With the sofabed folded down and the double bed out, you could hardly move round the room. Still enough for us. It came with a fridge, microwave, toaster, kettle, coffee maker (you had to pay extra for the ground coffee sachet), sink for washing up and all the crockery and cutlery you would need x 4, including kitchen implements like pyrex dishes, sharp knives, can opener and cork screw. My wife had bought porridge oats, instant coffee and sugar with us so with the milk we purchased on the first evening we managed to survive all week quite well. We took the one dollar bus into St Jovite a couple of times to explore and go Tubing so picked up some microwave lasagne from the superstore for a couple of meals, which was handy and saved some money. Voyageurs has two spacious lounges with log fires, a small but well appointed gym room, sauna and outdoor hot tub with changing rooms. The cafe is run independantly but is attached by an internal door so you don't have to get all your outdoor clobber on to go to breakfast if you don't want to. It is situated at the bottom of the resort but because of that you are just a few steps from the Cabriolet which takes you straight over the rooftops to the base of the ski runs where all the ski schools and mountain lifts are.
Costs: Not that cheap, total trip cost for the 7 days inc ski-boot-lesson for 3 days was around £1400 for the two of us. Breakfast will set you back about 10 dollars each and a evening meal 25 dollars but it does depend on what you have and drink. But I think it was well worth the money and the accomodation seemed to be well above your europe stuff after showing friends the video back home.
Must do things Tubing is a great way to kill a few hours, its located about 30mins on the one dollar bus and costs about 15 dollars for 2hr pass but we found that if you book it through the Inghams reps you got 4hrs for the price of 2hrs. Its not just for the kids......
Snowmobiling, yep its a bloke thing but my wife did enjoy being a passenger, cost about 245 dollars for the two of us which included the transport fuel and clothing for about a 3hr trip on the machine, they are fast bits of kit and can easily get to 50-60mph !! Dont expect much off roading its more like driving along roads that are designed for the machines that run along the side of normal roads, if machines of the petrol veraity is your thing its still a lot of fun. We went first thing in the morning and were the only ones the guide had on that trip so we ended up with a VIP trip for the price of a group one.
Dogsleding, this was one for my wife, wasnt really my scene, and certainly you had to be animal friendly as you are expected to fetch the dogs from the holding areas and take them back at the end. On our trip we had 10 sledges with 6 dogs a sledge, meaning there were 60 dogs all barking there heads off waiting for us to get on and mush them off it all got very noisey but once on the move they all quieten down and its rather nice, as long as you keep an eye on the dogs because if they think your not paying attention they just seem to run out of steam and stop. Similar priced to the snowmobil but only lasted about hour and half which was enough for me.
Conclusion: A great place that I would recomend to anyone but not to die hard off piste people, also if you can ski very well you might find the runs a little restricting in there lenght, I was doing the complete mountain in about 15-20mins on the green runs but recon if you did a black you could be done in under 5mins. So this is a must for beginers I recon and if have not done it for awhile and want to get back into skiing. The resort very themed (Alton Towers/ Disneyland) if you know what I mean and as long as you realise this then you will be fine. The dollar bus will take you out and about to the local town for the supermarkets etc and is very good so dont think you are stuck there the whole time. All in all a great place that we are returning to in 2006.