Located about 130 km northwest of Montréal in Quebec, Canada, Mont Tremblant is probably one of the larger ski resorts in the eastern North America, and many skiers visit from Toronto, Montréal, New York and the various large cities around this region. The mountain is part of the Laurentian mountain range and while it may not feature rugged peaks or tall majestic summits of the West, this resort managed by Intrawest has a pretty neat village and is located close to the city of Mont-Tremblant itself.
The mountain itself was not that tall thus the summit was quite bearable in terms of temperature. With an elevation of 875 meters and total vertical of 645 meters, it is barely comparable to Whistler which has an elevation of 2,284 metres and a vertical of 1,609 meters on the Blackcomb side. It might be stupid to compare them since they are very different as ski resorts go, but it is interesting to note they used to have the same owner (Intrawest). From the base to the summit, skiers just need to board the express Gondola, while the top elevation in Whistler needs a transfer of chairlifts. For beginner and intermediate skiers, Mont Tremblant can be considered adequate and it is definitely very geared to families.
Mont-Tremblant ski resort can be accessed via a scheduled bus service from the Gare d’Autocars in Montréal. Groupe Galland operates a scheduled service all year round while some other bus companies operate a winter service for the snow sports enthusiasts. The bus service takes about 2 hours from Montréal with stops along the way and a final stop at the village bus stop. From there guests need to contact their individual hotels to pick them up or walk towards their lodging for the night.
For frequent fliers, the Mont-Tremblant International Airport (YTM) is another convenient option with regular services by Air Canada and Porter Airlines flying passengers in from New York, Toronto and Montréal. Most other international passengers would most probably fly into the larger Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Montréal (YUL).
CHAIRLIFTS & GONDOLAS
The lift system in the resort is anchored by the Express gondola that whisks skiers up to the summit in a jiffy. From the village there is also a Casino Express Gondola that ferries leisure visitors to the casino located at the base of on the eastern face of the mountain. From the eastern base, another four-seater chairlift called Le Soleil transports skiers to the summit.
Since the resort has a north side that is also skiable, there is the Duncan Express four-seater chairlift on that side. These 3 are probably the main chairlift and gondola that carries skiers up to the top from the base. Otherwise skiers could take the Flying Mile and TGV chairlift on the South Side, or the Expo Express and Lowell Thomas chairlift on the North Side. There is also another ski area called the Edge served its own quad chairlift but coming early in the season, many of the chairlifts have yet to open and even to get back to the summit from the south side requires a change of chairlifts.
The good part is that queues for the gondolas and chairlifts are rarely busy in the shoulder season and that meant I could always head back up fast. On the north side, I never had to wait in line since it was quieter with more advanced terrains. And because of the slight elevation difference between the lower village and the upper village, there is also a SkyCab lift system that ferries guests within the villages.
COST & VALUE
A 2-day lift ticket costs C$125 (~$100) which was a decent value considering the scale of the resort. It is basically the price of a 1-day Whistler lift ticket bought from the window. However considering many of the runs have yet to open, it was average in terms of value.
Most of the green-marked ski runs are around the Flying Mile chairlift in the lower half of the mountains though they merge to a steeper blue-marked Johannsen run right before the base of the village. One of the best views of the village can be seen from the top of the Johannsen run. There are also beginner and learner’s area around the Equilibre magic carpet area which I did not check out.
Other notable green-marked runs goes around both sides of the mountain, and there is also a green run leading to the North Side of the mountain. With that being said, there are no moguls here and all runs are groomed. I also found the blue-marked runs to be pretty suitable for novice skiers and snowboarders since the quality of snow was quite good and the resort have snow making guns lining some of the runs. Early in the season, many of the runs have yet to open though and I think only about 60% of the runs were accessible when I was there.
I started off the day with a few blue runs on the South Side which are accessed through the left side upon exiting the gondola. Some of these blue-marked runs leads to green ones and there are also some leading to steeper black diamond runs. Again these runs on the South Side are pretty mild and easily conquered by beginners who are getting comfortable with level 3 ski lessons and above.
The runs marked blue seems to be quite mild compared to the resorts in the west coast, and merges to a green run at the lower half of the mountain. Since I visited on a shoulder season, the crowds weren’t here yet and the runs were still pretty empty. I imagine there would be more people on weekends and that could create a bit of traffic. There are some black runs at the lower half but I would say they are still do-able if you can do the blue runs here. Snowboarding down to the bottom from the top was a fast one, taking no more than 10 minutes for an intermediate skier, even with a bit of a rest in between.
Which means I was able to move on to exploring the north side of the mountain as it closes earlier. Ski trails on the North Side are definitely more challenging but they are again manageable for the average skier and snowboarder.
The Edge ski area which was closed when I visited holds one major double black diamond ski run while other more advanced runs can be found around both sides of the mountain. However these runs are usually shorter than the others. The general feeling is that they are not the most difficult or the most challenging so skiers looking for more thrills are better off elsewhere.
Up there is a large lodge called the Le Grand Manitou with dining establishments, a small ski accessories shop and an information desk. The dining area is average in size and it gets quite busy during lunch hour since it was the only lodge open at the time. There is another smaller on-mountain lodge called Refuge accessible via the Tiguidou and Toboggan run.
FOOD & BEVERAGES
Other options for food & beverages aside from the Le Grand Manitou is the ski lodge at the base of the North Side of the mountain called La Fourchette du Diable. The lodge here is slightly smaller that the Le Grand Manitou but it should be adequate since there are less skiers on the North Side.
However I did not have my meals on the mountain lodges since the food there were quite uninspiring for the wealth of Quebecois cuisine. Prices were also quite high for average fast food fare like hot dogs, pizzas and burgers ranging from $7-15 with one drink. Instead I chose to have it in the village where there are even more options with even less people. In fact I was the only skier having my meals at the restaurant and at Beavertails on both days for lunch.
At Mont-Tremblant, I chose to stay at the Fairmont, which is probably the closest to a ski-in/ski-out property in the resort. There are also other hotel chains like the Westin, Marriott and another 2 property within the Hilton and InterContinental Hotels group located around the village but the Fairmont was the closest to the lifts.
Aside from the big chain hotels, there are condominiums that are ski-in/ski-out though cost-wise, they are not exactly the bets value for money. For some added privacy and romance, skiers could also book the hotels around the lakeside which is further away from the ski village but definitely has a secluded and beautiful view.
One of the best times to visit Mont-Tremblant is considered to be in autumn when the foliage is most colourful and contrasts with the roofs of the village. The charming village has a pedestrian street and is very well designed to have a stroll in. At night the streets are very well lit. Though it was low season when I visited and thus the lack of vibrancy in the shops and restaurants. In the centre of the village around the gondola station is a huge plaza with things to see and a lot of places to eat so I can just imagine the hustle it would have been during a sunny springtime or during the peak winter holiday season over Christmas and New Year.
The unique Quebecois cuisine from flambeed tarts to tire sur la neige (maple taffy on snow) are what makes the village interesting and filling. The variety of food choices makes it easy to pick a different food every day eve if you stay here for one week.
However aside from dining and shopping, there does seem to be little else to do in the ski resort. Perhaps there might be an outing to discover the town of Mont-Tremblant proper but that did not interest me at all.
Cloudy weather and low vertical ascent meant the views were not that inspiring at the top, but it was decent enough. And the views of the village and the lake makes it worth it during the skiing down the South side of the mountain.
Unlike many ski resorts, the best views from the mountain are closer to the base when the lake and colourful village roofs become visible like an art piece.
As a ski resort, Mont Tremblant is very family oriented for the mild terrain and relatively easy access especially from Montréal. The wealth of accommodation and dining options also make it easier for families to plan their skiing holidays here. However thrill-seekers and those looking for variety in terrain might be hard pressed to find the magic here. Aside from a small terrain park, the rest of the ski runs I sampled were good but lacks any sort of greatness. The star of the resort has got to be the well planned village and the beautiful scenery around the resort.
With all that being said, I think the resort is a decent one for a winter sports experience especially for those living in the East Coast, but it would not stand as a skiing destination per se. As a weekend getaway ski trip, this resort definitely makes more sense.