If it wasn’t enough that we fell in love with Mont-Tremblant this past winter, we’ve now experienced summer there and are more smitten than ever.
Well, mostly smitten — because despite spending four whole days going here, there and everywhere, we still didn’t have a chance to try everything. To be fully smitten, I suspect we’re going to need to return once or twice more. At least.
You may be surprised to learn that summer is actually Tremblant‘s busiest season. And that’s because aside from dozens of activities for families like yours, there are also Ironman triathlons, the Bluesfest and a culinary festival that turn an already-bustling village into a destination for athletes, music lovers and foodies alike.
But don’t take just my word for it. Welcome to summer in Tremblant as told in pictures…OK, and a few words, too.
But first, a few tips:
- If you’re driving in, be sure it’s during the day — unless you like the idea of meeting actual deer in headlights along your midnight drive. Seriously: nocturnal deer line the highway that lead you into Tremblant. And it’s scarier than you think!
- Buy the activity passes; they’re going to save you a lot of money. The more activities you buy at a given time, the more you’ll save. However, note that the luge is only accessible once per pass, so if you’re really into the luge (and you will be), it’s better to buy luge-only passes separately
- Speaking of the luge, if your kids are going to ride with you, don’t use up an activity pass for each of them. Instead, skip over to the ticket line and for just $3 per kid, they can ride with you on your activity pass
- If you’re staying at a Tremblant hotel or resort, your gondola pass is included with your stay — so don’t buy one! Talk to your front desk
- Make reservations for all of the restaurants you want to visit for dinner — just in case; it’s busy at night and many of the restaurants are packed
- Pack some appropriate duck and deer food and you may find yourself with some new friends eating out of the palm of your hands. Really!
- Don’t worry if you forget something. And I mean anything. There’s so much shopping to be had in Tremblant that you can easily buy whatever you forget
Where to stay
There are accommodations for so many different budgets in the Tremblant village. We’ve stayed at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Le Westin and Fairmont Tremblant — all of which are solid options. This time, however, we were invited to try something a little different: Ermitage du Lac. This boutique hotel has fewer than 70 condo-style rooms and includes a wonderful breakfast each morning of your stay that you can take up to your room if you choose. (They’ll tell you it’s “continental” but it’s much more than croissants and coffee, though they have those, too.)
Ermitage du Lac is located in the lower village, not far from the base of the Cabriolet that takes you (for free) to the upper village. We had a lovely two-bedroom suite with full kitchen facilities, a dining room with a table for six, living room with fireplace, a small balcony and two bedrooms — one with a queen bed and one with a king, and BOTH with ensuites. If you want to save a few bucks, this place has everything you need should you be bringing groceries along.
If you’re going during a festival or celebration that has fireworks, opt for a room with a balcony that faces the chapel. That way, when they’re finally set off between 10:30 and 11 p.m., you won’t have to leave your suite to marvel at them.
Where to eat
Every time we visit Tremblant, we eat at Le Shack. More specifically, we eat the pulled pork poutine and have at least one milkshake apiece. Because both are made with love. This is a casual, come-as-you-are kind of restaurant and although it’s a no-fuss atmosphere, you can expect excellent food — consistently. This is our fourth visit and it was just as fabulous as the last three. This time, we tried an appetizer we hadn’t noticed on the menu before — bacon-wrapped onion rings (see lower-right corner in the pic). They were, how-you-say, redonkulous. If all you do is have the pulled pork poutine and bacon-wrapped onion rings here, I’m good with that. Moving on, for our mains we had the shaved and smoked brisket sandwich, which was so big that I got through only one half of the sandwich and — dare I admit it — only a third of my poutine. The coleslaw that accompanied it was really tasty, too. Big B enjoyed a house-made burger on brioche; he loves these burgers because they’re made fresh, never from frozen. The kids spaghetti meat sauce is super-yum as is the grilled cheese; two thumbs up from my kids.
Pizzateria has a similar vibe to Le Shack in that you don’t need to get dressed up to eat here, and although the food and atmosphere is casual, you’re guaranteed a great meal. Any pizza — I repeat — ANY pizza you order will be delicious. We’ve tried probably six different pizzas here between our many visits and they’ve all wowed me. This is the real deal, wood-fired-oven kind of pizza with LOADS of toppings. If you’re looking for a starter reco, the melted brie is still the winner. We thought we’d give the goat cheese app a try this time, and although it was good it didn’t come close to the brie. GET THE BRIE. Oh, and the arugula with pear salad is incredible and made with some kind of magical dressing that will make you want to lick the bowl. Top it off with the tiramisu for sure, which is the perfect blend of mascarpone cream and drenched lady fingers.
St-Hubert is essentially Swiss Chalet for those of you from Ontario. The sauce is a bit different, and there’s chicken-covered poutine (HELLO!) but the premise is the same with rotisserie chicken at its core. And for those of you old enough to remember when Swiss Chalet chicken dinners were served with half a toasted hamburger bun, you’re going to love eating down memory lane here at St-Hubert. Because they still do the buns this way! This is the perfect quick pit stop when you’re in between activities and have too much on the go to stop for a meal with table service.
The night we arrived, we went to Casey’s for dinner. It’s in a really convenient location (at the base of the Marriott) very close to Ermitage du Lac where we were staying. And I figured Casey’s here would be like Casey’s at home.
This is Casey’s on crack. In a good crack kind of way. The menu is totally different from our local Casey’s and the food is much better. I had a beef short rib that brough tears to my eyes. In fact, it was so big and so good that I’m pretty sure all I ate for dinner that night was meat. My kids had this chocolate cake for dessert — in which I could not partake because of the meat sweats — and looked like they were about to pass into a chocolate coma of delight. Seriously — you have to eat here.
SoCal is less than a year old, but it isn’t showing any signs of growing pains. The mid-village location makes it easy for those staying anywhere in the village to find, and everything — from the energy and service to the food and its commitment to local sourcing — was just outstanding. Known for its oysters, I had to try two varieties they were serving the night we dined there, and I am not exaggerating when I tell you that they were the meatiest, most flavourful oysters that have ever slid down my throat.
But unlike the night before when all I ate was a hunk of meat at Casey’s, I figured I’d better branch out. So I also tried the sumptuous seared sea scallops with sticks of prosciutto darting out of them; a kale and blueberry salad that had a really interesting semi-soft goat cheese atop crostini; steak tartare that was out of this world and an ahi tuna tataki that I simply had to Instagram. Big B had been so jealous of my beef rib at Casey’s that he ordered SoCal’s version, which was also very good. I had the black cod for my main, which tastes about a thousand times better than it photographs. And I had to take a pic of The K Man’s chicken fingers dinner because all three of my French fry-loving family members unanimously proclaimed that the fries that came with it were “the best EVER.” Dessert was good but underwhelming compared to the glorious meal that came before it. I’ll add an app and skip dessert next time — because SoCal has savoury nailed.
You can’t go to Tremblant and not indulge in at least one truly French meal. In winter, La Savoie with it’s raclette and fondue should be your first choice. But in summer, there’s no question that you should make a reservation at Laurent Louis. It’s quaint and charming and you’ll need to dress up a little (friendly tip: leave the heels at home and opt for wedges so you can navigate the cobblestone village with relative ease). Nearly everything we ate for apps were specials that night and I’m salivating now thinking about how YUMazing they were; we had the quail and duck confit (one of the best-cooked duck breasts of my life, I might add) for mains; and all three — yes, three! — of the desserts we tried were so French that I’m not able to re-write it here because my French is so terrible. But see that one that looks like a doughnut sandwich? Yeah — have that. As soon as you possibly can.
Windigo at the Fairmont
I’m posting only one photo from our glorious breakfast at Windigo because I was too excited to be back at there and drown in its culinary delights during this visit to the mountain that I didn’t get too far beyond the most incredible croissants in the village. The foodie in me was overtaken by the photographer in me.
Here’s the most important thing you need to know about brunch at Windigo: wear loose pants. And if you don’t pop a button or two by the time you leave, you’ve done something wrong. Because there are so many food stations that you’ll need to lounge for two hours to get through them all. I spent half an hour with the croissants alone (with and without chocolate). Enjoy a fancy coffee while you’re at it — they make an awesome latte.
What’s been a party staple in the village for years is now a wholly reimagined space with lakeside views that’ll have you sipping tart mojitos there all afternoon. We managed to sneak into the newly renovated P’tit Caribou during our stay before it was open to the public, so we didn’t have the opportunity to eat its bar fare — instead we were treated to superlatively creative sausages and smoked chicken from a local butcher who does all of the catering for P’tit Caribou when it hosts a large function.
What to do
During winter stays, there are heaps of things to do — but if you spend most of your time on the hill using only a lift ticket, you might find summer pricier when it comes to keeping busy. Because while you can wander, people watch or enjoy your hotel pool for free, everything else in Tremblant is pay-to-play. And there’s SO MUCH to do that, like I said, we didn’t even get to try everything this summer paradise offers. What we did try, though, was amazing:
This was one of the activities that we were most looking forward to, and it didn’t disappoint. After a short hike just beyond the village, including a fun run on a short suspension bridge, a falconry expert (whose education is in biology) introduces you to one of the dozen birds it works with for this experience. We learned a lot about Onyx — our bird friend for the day — and how birds of prey have worked alongside humans for hundreds of years, helping gather food. There were seven of us in our group and we all had three or four opportunities to call Onyx and have him land on our arm. We watched him catch food thrown 20 feet into mid-air and we watched him fly silently through the sky and swoop down and careen mere centimetres from our heads! The experience is about 1.5 hours and one that you and your kids will never forget.
Important to note is that these birds, while considered in captivity, have longer life expectancies than in the wild and are not tethered to you so are free to come and go as they please. They are, of course, motivated by food, so come to your hand easily when the trainer places food there. It all feels very humane.
Birds of Prey Show
Because we hadn’t had our fill of birds at Tremblant, we went to the Birds of Prey Show. What an amazing, closeup look at owls, hawks, eagles and more! Eagles are way, way bigger than I thought (with enormous talons and snakelike skin on their feet), owls are even cooler in real life and I’m not just saying that because I was selected from the audience to call one to my arm. My kids loved this experience as much as the Falconry Apprentice, which is good news if your budget doesn’t allow for the pricier apprenticeship.
A word of warning: you need to be at the top of the summit and head down the mountain to the left when you step off the gondola. Walking down is steep but easy — but walking back up requires some stamina and may be too challenging for toddlers who can’t be carried, people with bad hips or knees or those who become short-of-breath easily.
Cruise on Lac Tremblant
I could live on a boat. I often say that while I’d never buy a cottage, I’d buy a boat in a heartbeat if I could afford one on which we could all sleep. So hopping onto a double-decker boat for a liesurely tour of Lac Tremblant was a nice way to catch a breeze, relax and see how the other half live. The lovely greenery was matched only by sprawling homes set into the side of the mountain or perched lakeside.
Fun in the village
There are plenty of activities for your family to enjoy without ever leaving the village. And your activity card is the key to all of them (note that these passes are 10 per cent off if you book them in advance). My kids’ all-time-fave is the Euro-Bungy — think mega-trampoline; they’re harnessed into climbing-like equipment and hoisted up while attached to super-stretchy bands that help propel them dozens of feet into the air. You couldn’t wipe the smiles off their faces all day! But lineup alert: arrive early to avoid waiting for up to an hour to ride. It was busiest between noon and 5 p.m. so we went before or after and rarely waited more than 15 minutes.
There’s also the mini Akro-Park, which is a hybrid ropes-trekking course for kids that’ll put their inner adrenaline-junkie to the test. The K Man got suited up, walked up the stairs and decided then and there he was already in over his head. Miss Q, always the braver of the two, made it across the ropes and along the high beam where she had to dodge punching bags bigger than her own body. She got to the tightrope and asked to come down.
The mini-golf course onsite is a replica of Le Géant — one of the nearby golf courses that Big B had the pleasure of visiting during our stay. It’s a challenging course, and the miniature version is, too. But the kids loved it so much that they played twice and The K Man decided that he wants to try real golf because of it.
Saving my personal favourite for last is the luge. You take a chair lift partway up the mountain — which is notably easier in shorts and running shoes than in full-on snowsuits with skis dangling unnaturally from your feet — and get some quick instructions on handling your luge cart (if that’s indeed what it’s called). I was able to fit in a cart with either of my kids quite easily, while Big B was only able to fit with Miss Q, and would have been most comfortable by himself. Your kids are allowed to ride solo once they’re eight years old, but some may not have the arm strength required to turn and brake. The luge track is FAST and will get your heart racing. This was collectively our favourite activity and we went back every single day.
Making tracks through the village is a must — and not only because it’s free. There’s so much to see that if you don’t just spend some time exploring, you might miss some of Tremblant’s gems. Like the ducks and deer who you’ll inevitably see walking through the lower village (neither are afraid of humans here, by the way). Or the four-tier waterfall down at the base of the Cabriolet that’s nice to sit beside with a coffee as the morning sun passes overhead. And the Besti-Buzz characters who roam the village every day, interacting and taking pics with any child who’s interested (and Miss Q was always interested).
Although they’re not free, two inexpensive musts during your visit to Tremblant have to be the juice bar (Fluide) where you can get the tartest, most perfect lemonade of your life, and Oh La Vache for homemade ice cream that’ll blow your mind.
I don’t have too many photos from our dune buggy experience because I drove most of the time — and it was a heck of a bumpy ride! Children five and over are allowed to ride, and the driver must have a valid license on-hand as well as a credit card to which a hefty sum is held in case you total your ride. But we received very clear instructions about what to do and what not to do and we were just fine. If you don’t like adrenaline-fuelled experiences and a lot of twists, turns and bumps, this might not be the right activity for you. But if you want to live on the edge of your seat and have the need for speed — you’ve gotta splurge a little and dune buggy in Tremblant! It’s about a 1.5 to two-hour ride and we laughed and squealed in delight nearly the whole time. At the halfway point, we stopped at this gorgeous clearing for a photo opp.
I am a thrill-seeker. I’m always drawn to activities that are fast, dangerous or both. I’ve done my share of zip-lines, both in Toronto (over the CNE grounds), at Horseshoe Valley and on vacation (in Honduras). But none compare to the Ziptrek experience in Mont-Tremblant. First, you take the gondola up nearly 3,000 feet before climbing a little higher until you reach your first of five lines. Some of these lines are so long that I couldn’t actually see where they ended. I’m talking 1.4 km in one case! They’re high, they’re fast and they’re nothing short of awesome. I even managed to flip upside down for a couple of the lines.
Four words of caution:
- There is some hiking involved. They will call it “light” hiking, but if you’re not someone who can walk uphill for several minutes with relative ease, or navigate trails that are pretty rocky, you’ll be saying “‘light,’ my a$$” before you’re halfway through.
- Because of that, wear good running shoes.
- If you lean forward and your sunglasses start slipping, don’t take them. Because you’ll lose them.
- If you opt for the GoPro rental (which is free but you have to buy a $25 micro SD card as part of the deal), and you don’t know how to operate a GoPro, be sure you find someone who really knows how it works to show you before you start zipping. The person at the desk really had no idea how it worked AND spoke very little English, so while I thought I was taking video the entire time, I really just took hundreds and hundreds of still photos.
We didn’t make it to the beach, do the non-motorized boats, go horseback riding, go rock climbing, try the Via Ferrata, rent bikes, play tennis or play on the floating iceberg. So, like I said — we’ll just have to return.