Seventeen years ago, I had a terrible skiing experience. For an hour. And I swore I would never do it again.
Big B, who spent most childhood winters in ski lessons, begged me for years to try once more. Nope. But about nine years ago, I gave in and tried snowboarding. That went well. Heck, I found myself laughing and smiling — even when I was flat on my ass (or, as is as much likely in snow sports, flat on my face).
But, dang!, I hate the cold. So we didn’t go again.
Unfortunately, our winter woes rubbed off on our kids, who would also much prefer to play indoors near a toasty fire when there’s snow on the ground. Let me take that back; it’s not the snow with them either — it’s the cold.
Until this year.
In the fall, we decided as a family that we were going to take on winter. Embrace all her flurries and icicles with gusto. So Big B and I bought ski jackets (trusty Wheat Canada snowsuits for the kids), Gore-Tex mitts, helmets, goggles and even full-face balaclavas. I wasn’t letting frostbite win.
And then: we had the warmest November and December in recent memory. Some days, you’d see me out in flip flops, sending the kids to school in their spring jackets. Not a snowflake in sight.
So when we were invited to spend a weekend at Mont Tremblant, I still wasn’t entirely convinced we’d actually have an opportunity to wear any of the many hundreds of dollars’ worth of winter gear I bought, but I packed it all anyway and the four of us hopped on a quick, 65-minute Porter Airlines flight from Toronto to Tremblant.
As we descended, I was looking out the window and suddenly my vision went blurry. I shook my face (in that way that makes sense to you as you’re doing it but must look absolutely nuts to anyone who catches you doing it) and looked again. It was blurry because of…SNOW! It had just started to snow as we landed, painting a perfect picture of the weekend to come. It was magical.
What a setting Tremblant is. A friend commented on a photo of mine I took in the village (the little house below), writing “It doesn’t even look real.” My response assured her that it was, but that Tremblant is like a little European village made of gingerbread. It really feels like you’ve stepped into another country — one where everything is delightful and merry. Candyland springs to mind as you wander on foot. If the weather isn’t too bad (and, trust me, it’s instantly colder than home the minute you step off the plane, let alone get up on the mountain), exploring should be your first priority. Just be sure to check into your hotel first, even if just to leave your bags and lighten the load. Huge thanks to the beautiful and newly renovated Le Westin Resort & Spa for hosting us.
We did so much in just two days — indoors and out. And that’s the beauty of Tremblant. There’s something for everyone, no matter what it’s doing outside. Don’t feel like skiing, snowboarding or tubing? No worries. There’s shopping, eating, wandering, drinking, people-watching, more eating and crafting to be done. My kids really enjoyed their time painting pottery at Studio Créatif, and making a stuffed reindeer (whom Miss Q named, appropriately, “Red Nose Reindeer”) and stuffed snowy owl (given the moniker “Mounty” by The K Man) at Univers Toutou.
But of course, if you come all the way to Mt. Tremblant and Mother Nature graces you with the only snowflakes you’ve seen all winter, you’ve simply gotta ski. I won’t lie — I was nervous. And I don’t get nervous very often. Off we went to get fitted for rentals at Centre Aventure, which is a huge building that houses hundreds upon hundreds of skis, boots, poles, helmets and goggles. Their skilled and efficient staff had our family of four ready to go in less than 30 minutes!
Our ski lessons were key. There’s no way I could have helped teach my kids to ski when I was clueless myself. We all started slowly, with our instructors (Jacques and Louise on day one, and Jacques and Michel day two) giving us step-by-step information as we got more comfortable. We learned to snowplow and slide around a bit on these foreign things attached to our feet before heading up the magic carpet.
Gone are the days when you use a T-bar to get to the top of the bunny hill. This is an uphill moving sidewalk with enough grip to make your skis stick the whole way up.
I can’t say enough about the quality of Tremblant’s Snow School team. Both we and the kids felt comfortable and at ease, putting us in the right frame of mind to learn everything we could during our lessons. By the end of day one, Miss Q told Louise that she wanted to go by herself, and Jacques told us that The K Man was making some really good turns for his first day. By day two, we left the kids in the instructor’s very capable hands and ventured off to the gondola with our new instructor who ultimately took Big B and me down a six kilometre run from the top of Mt. Tremblant — which is nearly 3,000 feet above sea level. The scenery is, well, beyond spectacular:
It was exhilarating. It was fun. I loved every minute of it — even the wipeouts. And it’s 100 per cent thanks to ski lessons. Finally, we’d found something we could all learn to love so winter wouldn’t feel so darn long.
In between activities and sleeping, much eating happened. From yummy made-to-order omelettes and fresh pastries each morning at Gypsy Restaurant and one of the best scallop dishes I’ve ever eaten at Coco Pazzo, to my favourite-ever-from-a-restaurant spaghetti and a rockin’ rocket salad from Pizzatéria, to poutine that would make you cry at Le Shack — we seemed to be eating unless there were ski poles preventing us from doing so.
But perhaps my favourite foodie experience was at Cabane à sucre de la Montagne, where each of us hand-rolled our own maple syrup taffy “lollipop.” Poured hot onto a bed of shaved ice, you get a popsicle stick and after 45 seconds, you start a-rollin’. Warm syrup under cold ice for the win. It was a wow-er.
We capped off our getaway with a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the fresh snow, hosted by a Frenchman (not pictured) who told local stories, provided a history on the area, played the harmonica and ukulele, sang folk songs and made every family on board laugh for nearly an hour. We enjoyed hot cocoa under warm(ish) blankets. It was the right kind of send-off.
Three days after we got home, we started planning our next visit. Big B and I decided to head to Tremblant on our own — sans bébés! I can’t wait to tell you what it’s like after dark, when you don’t have go to bed at 8 p.m.
Until then, I’ll end with some of my favourite photos of Tremblant details: crisp snow sitting on the evergreens, the early-morning fog giving way to snow machines and daybreak, log piles awaiting the brave job of keeping guests warm — and that view. One of the best of all time.