A slice of Quebec culture in an elegant, slopeside hotel that brings a new sense of style and class to the popular Tremblant ski resort.
Legend has it that for many moons, the Algonquin hunters explored the RiviÃ¨re Diable by canoe, growing ever more cold and weary in their quest for winter provisions. One night a Windigo spirit appeared and offered to transport them home for just one meal if they pledged to resume paddling by midnight. They quickly agreed, turning their canoe around, and it took to the air, flying back to their tribal village. A feast was prepared to greet them, and music, dance and drink were shared. At the first stroke of the 12 bells, the hunters knew it was time to return. By the ninth bell they were off to their canoes… too late. By the twelfth chime they were forever trapped in their canoe, prisoners to the pact they had made with the devil spirit. Today, guests entering the lobby of the Fairmont Tremblant Hotel are treated to a QuÃ©becois sculpture commemorating this legend: a First Nations canoe, filled with hunters, paddling together for eternity.
Full Service Snowsports & Pampering
The elegant Fairmont Tremblant is located alongside the base of the Mile High Express lift at QuÃ©bec’s Mont-Tremblant mountain resort. The Fairmont’s fine collection of Canadian art, attention to detail and respect for the region’s culture, in addition to a fabulous ski in/ski out location, make it an ideal family destination.
Guest-friendly services abound. The slate-floored lower lobby boasts a cafÃ©, a complimentary ski valet, and a Boutiques Tremblant rental shop that will pull your family’s preferred ski or snowboard equipment and hold it for your arrival. Next door is an attractive game room with foosbol and video games. Although the Fairmont doesn’t have a supervised children’s program, the Tremblant mountain has a nursery for ages 1-6, ski and snowboard classes for ages 3-16 years and many kid’s programs throughout the summer; and a Kids Club at the base for ages 1-6. Private babysitting is available through local services.
Adjacent to the learning hill, the Fairmont Tremblant’s grand fieldstone terrace boasts a heated pool, a communal and very social Jacuzzi, an especially hot Jacuzzi kept at 40° (104° F) and next to it, the chilled Bain Nordique, a plunge pool meant to restore the body’s balance after a soak in the heat. Behind a glass wall is another indoor pool with shallow areas designed for children, some chaises, a sauna that wasn’t quite large enough and a steam room. Nearby is the Amerispa with 18 treatment rooms.
Elegant Family Rooms: The Comforts of a Quebec Home
All the Fairmont Tremblant guestrooms display elements of the QuÃ©becois aesthetic found in public areas. The large bathrooms have polished granite countertops with rough stone slabs to hold soap and toiletries. Discreet signage urges guests to reuse their towels and help the environment – so we did – and it’s the first hotel I’ve been to (outside Europe) where the towels and soap were not automatically replaced by housekeeping.
In the very spacious corner room #400, our lofty king bed sported a pillow-top mattress, enormous down pillows of various degrees of firmness, a big white duvet and a lovely woven, Hudson Bay red-and-white wool plaid throw for chilly nights. Our son’s sofabed was unfolded and made up while we were out to dinner. Extra hooks, a large closet, a bureau of drawers and ample stone window ledges gave us plenty of room to dry gloves and other snowsports paraphernalia each afternoon. The hotel’s second and third floors are timeshare condominium units owned by various families, and rented out to those who requested multi-bedroom units with kitchens when available.
Dining to Our Hearts’ Content
One of the pleasures of such a fine hotel is excellent food service. The Fairmont has an extensive buffet in the Windigo CafÃ©; gourmet QuÃ©becoise cuisine at the casual, award-winning Loup Garou; and fresh sandwiches at the slope side WigWam. Each is decorated with a few items of First Nations art or contemporary Canadian paintings evocative of QuÃ©bec’s colorful history, with wrought iron banisters shaped like willows or wall sconces embellished with moose and evergreens. After trying all three venues, we can report that a teen was as happy with hot chocolate (accompanied by its own bowl of whipped cream), Mediterranean kebabs at the International Buffet, or the brunch waffles with locally produced syrup, as his parents were with the breakfast quiche, sautÃ©ed scallops, roast quail, or the smoked Lac Tremblant trout that we feasted on.
One evening we met other colleagues at the 7th floor Gold Lounge. This business-oriented concierge level was created during a recent renovation; its premium room rates include complimentary snacks and appetizers, and a continental breakfast each morning, along with an honor bar, free Internet access and other amenities. While mother and son played chess, we nibbled on fresh maki sushi, chicken skewers with sate sauce and various local cheeses. I soon realized that for the family with hungry teens, splurging on a Gold Floor room would be a good investment.
The Mountain Resort Beyond the Hotel
Although Tremblant (819/681-2000 or 514/876-7273) began as a commercial ski hill back in 1939, most of the development seen today dates to 1991 when British Columbia-based real estate developer Intrawest bought it. Unlike so many mountain resorts, most of the workers you meet at Tremblant are local, with generations of QuÃ©bec history and family lore behind them. Our excellent instructor, Pierre Mondor, told us how pleased the neighbors were with the resort’s enlargement, from the replacement of the original chair lifts with high-speed quads to the creation of a pedestrian village of shops and restaurants that is an Intrawest signature.
Despite a lack of fresh snow, we found the slopes well groomed and conditions excellent. Due to a spell of extraordinarily warm weather (“plus weather” as the locals called our sunny days of +1 or +2 above 0°C or about 34°F) that brought the crowds, the resort managed about 12,000 skiers per day with lift lines kept to about 15 minutes. Just one of many guest courtesies, the peak’s Grand Manitou Lodge has a time display indicating how long the wait will be at the various restaurants and lifts so skiers and riders can plan accordingly.
With 13 lifts, 94 trails, 18 acres of terrain parks and a vertical drop of 645 meters/2116 feet, Mont-Tremblant won’t satisfy the most extreme skiers or riders in the family. But as my family will attest, the fine grooming, gracious staff, friendly instructors and a fun village stocked with fine cuisine make the sportsman’s life especially pleasant.
The village is anchored by the lively Place St. Bernard, filled with performers in summer and boutiques year-round. Our family loved the cozy Felis et Canis pet boutique, found the Salomon rental shop less crowded than the equipment rentals at the base, snacked daily at the many patisseries, bought teen gear at Adrenaline and kids’ stuff at Atelier Toutou. The essential La Source indoor pool and water fun areas is in the center of the village, and the Cabriolet (people-mover), at the lower end.
Tremblant Village also boasts many evening diversions and great restaurants like the friendly French Bistro Parisien les Artistes (819/681-4606) for escargots, medallions of venison and a kids’ menu; Creperie Catherine (819/681-4888) for great breakfast, savory, or dessert crepes; a movie theatre; Brewerie le Diable (819/681-4546) for burgers and a brew; and nightclubs such as Le P’tit Caribou (819/681-4500). Les Rythmes Tremblant is Tremblant’s summer music festival; each weekend, a different genre of music is celebrated with outdoor concerts. The non-stop action in this car-free zone is the ideal situation for independent kids and contributes to Tremblant’s “No. 1 In the East” overall ranking in Ski magazine’s 2007 survey.
QuÃ©bec Beyond The Mountain Resort
Within a half-hour of the village are various non-athletic pursuits. Mom’s favorite was Spa Nature le Scandinave (819/425-5524), a creative evocation of the Scandinavian sauna culture said to foster myriad health benefits. Spa Scandinave staff admonish new guests (over 18 only) to spend “15 hot, 5 cold, 15 recover.” This roughly translates to 15 minutes in the dry Finnish sauna, Norwegian steam bath or thermal Jacuzzis; followed by a very brief dip in the frozen RiviÃ¨re Diable, cold waterfalls or shower; then a peaceful 15-minute repose in a forest-view solarium, outside hammock or Adirondack chair to recover. Following this routine (plus the amusing “Shhhh, No talking” mantra that had some Type-As hiding cellphones in their towels), we had an ultra-relaxing day away in just a few hours. You can shuffle barefoot or in swim socks through the wilderness and maybe spot some deer; bring a swimsuit and some enthusiasm. Massages for the aprÃ¨s-ski hours must be booked far in advance.
The boys’ favorite off-piste excursion was with Motoneiges Tremblant (819/429-6060), who led our group of novice snowmobilers on a three-hour tour of the countryside on long-abandoned railroad tracks. They provide the helmets, rugged gear, boots and how-to basic you’ll need; excursions are priced per length per driver with passengers about 60% less. Drivers must be at least 21 and have a driver’s license; it’s recommended that passengers be at least 7 years. Young children can do much more than enjoy being snowmobile passengers; there are horse-drawn sleigh rides, snowmobile-drawn tubing (for kids under 12); horseback riding; dog-sledding twice a week and best yet, the company office is in an old-fashioned train station with a station house restaurant next door.
A meal on the town is another fine QuÃ©bec tradition that we would have been fools to pass up. The charming 25-room Hotel Mont-Tremblant (819/425-3232 or 888/887-9755; 1900 chemin du Village, J8E 1K4) has the small Le Bernardin gourmet restaurant (no relation to Eric Rippert’s place) a short drive from Tremblant, in the old village formerly known as St. Jovite. The menu reflects the region’s French traditions with a Provencal flair and a friendly, kid-welcoming staff. Lunch is served on their terrace in summer, overlooking Lac Mercier.
In our case, getting to Mont-Tremblant was more than half the fun because we flew from Newark Liberty Airport straight to the adorable Mont Tremblant International Airport. (It’s about 40 minutes by bus from the mountain but some guests do arrive by snowmobile.) Since December of 2007, Continental Airlines has taken over the service from Voyageurs Airways, the tiny charter airline we flew; they only fly certain days of the week, so be sure to check before finalizing your vacation plans. Check your travel agent or the Mont Tremblant site for weekend packages because there may be some “kids fly free” and weekend deals, including air and lift tickets and hotel, available this season.
For more information or to book, contact the Fairmont Tremblant Hotel (800/257-7544); Mont-Tremblant, Quebec Canada J8E 1B1).
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