The inside line: Tremblant, Quebec
By Peter Oliver
(Skiing Magazine) -- A modest-size mountain in Canada's frost belt? Doesn't exactly give you that warm and fuzzy feeling. But Quebec's Mont Tremblant has got it going on.
The reason: Corporate giant Intrawest has devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to turning Tremblant into the "Whistler of the East." Skeptical? Well, it works.
With trails on all sides of the mountain, there's more terrain, and more variety of terrain, than on any mountain of this size in North America. And the village -- thoroughly modern but with Old World, neo-Parisian overtones -- rocks.
Cobblestone walkways wind past upscale shops and restaurants, low-key juice and coffee bars and just plain bars. Along with ski trails, the walkways converge on a slopeside plaza that's made for kicking back with a beer in hand under the sun.
Elevation: 2,871 feet
Vertical drop: 2,116 feet
Snowfall: 150 inches
Getting there: Tremblant is about two hours northwest of Montreal. Head north on Route 15, which merges into Route 117. Take Exit 119 for Tremblant.
Powder day: Drive around to the north side of the mountain for the earliest lift opening, usually around 8:30. After that, hit the area called Edge -- Tremblant's steeper terrain -- for the 10 jumpoff.
Three days later: Countless lines through the trees in the Edge represent your best bet for post-storm freshies after the rest of the mountain has been tracked out. Start exploring.
Marquee route: Buffed, steep and wicked fast, Kandahar is the run where rising Canadian race jocks such as Erik Guay and Julien Cousineau cut their teeth. Spectators on the Expo Express chair will be watching you. Bring your edges and some extra quads.
Off-Broadway: Hit the glade runs of the Versant Soleil (translation: Sunny Side). The steepest and tightest is Brasse-Camarade, where even the smallest misjudgment can literally turn into one giant headache.
Weather: January temps can be brutal, but Tremblant's multiple exposures almost always let you find a run in the sun and out of the wind. Days warm up in March -- when the snowpack hits its zenith.
Apres: On a sunny afternoon, pick up beers from Le Shack and chill on the plaza, where live bands play, alfresco, in the spring. On foul-weather days, head down the road a couple miles to Le Scandinave, a riverside spa with various pools, a sauna and a calming aura of backwoods cool.
Fuel: Hit cottage-like La Diable and fill up on pub grub, French Canadian-style: fat sausages and 8.5 percent beer. And when everyone around you is speaking French, you can't help but get in the mood for fondue at La Savoie.
Up all night: Le P'tit Caribou is where the freeskiing crowd comes to drool over top-shedding, bar-dancing women. On weekends, skip the Caribou for cheap beer at Cafe d'Epoque.
Digs: With everything pretty much brand-spanking new in the last decade, it's hard to go wrong anywhere in the mountain village. Save a few bucks and stay at the moderately priced Le Lodge de la Montagne, a modern-hotel take on the piney, dormer-windowed ski lodge. Or splurge and go for the five-star Westin, where services like valet parking and turndown service at night make you feel like a big shot.
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