Those of us living in the “Lower Forty-Eight” who want to stretch the skiing and snow-country dollar are charting courses north of the border. Big Mountains, consistent skiing and riding, amazing food and lively bars make up the winter sports scene in eastern Canada. And the U.S. dollar right now, buys over 35 percent more in lift tickets, lodging and meals. You don’t even have to exchange dollars for “Loonies”. Use your dollars or a fee-free credit card (more on that later) and get the rate break. Drive in around 9 hours or fly to Montreal and then drive. But do go. Where? Here are a few favorites. – Jay Lloyd
Mary and I first rode to the peak of Mont Tremblant 40 winters ago and have often returned. The mountain rises more than 2,100 feet above a compact village of hotels, boutiques and clubs. The view in the crystal clear air at the top is a dramatic vision of pristine mountains where roads and villages end. Skiers and riders can put together nearly 4 miles of sliding in a single run from summit to base. Skiers are rocketed to the trail heads in heated gondolas and aerial trams. While the mountain offers both cruising and learning trails, almost half of the terrain here is carved for advanced and expert skiers. With nearly 100 slopes and trails about 25% of the skiing from top to bottom is comfortable for intermediates. Beginners aren’t forgotten. A new skier with a few days of instruction can be riding to the summit for a long meandering run around the mountain’s imposing south face for a peak to base experience. Restaurants have a French lilt with a scattering of clubby pubs to sip and dine the nights away. Lodging ranges from classic inns, chalets and town homes to modern resorts
MONT SAINT SAUVEUR
The Laurentian autoroute (route 15) between Montreal and Tremblant cradles nearly 20 ski resorts and an unlimited number of cross-country trails. One of my favorites, both for mountain and village is Mont Saint Sauveur. The village of Saint Sauveur sprawls across a valley floor, set against the backdrop of the twin peaks of Avila and Mont Ste Sauveur. The mountains are of modest size, but their slopes and trails flare out over a cluster of chalets, condominiums and quaint hotels, dominated by a fortress-like 18th century church. It’s 30 minutes from Montreal and offers slopeside accommodations that lets you ski right from your front door to the lift line. There’s a rich variety of nearly 40 slopes and trails here that includes 3 terrain parks. Skiing and riding blends a mix of challenge and cruiser friendly runs. Mont Saint Sauveur is a full service winter sports resort with professional instruction and a well stocked rental shop. The town, just a few minutes walk from our rental condo is home to nearly 60 restaurants and clubs including my favorite steak house, Gibby’s. Packages for two including lodging, lift tickets and dinner can be had for about 200 U.S. dollars a da
The Eastern Townships of Quebec holds places with magical sounding names like Magog and Lake Memphramagog. Here on the northern border of Vermont and stretching eastward from Lake Champlain are the highest peaks of the Appalachian Mountains. A gem of a ski and snowboard resort is family friendly Mont Sutton. Sixty slopes and trails provide a rare opportunity for the thrill of glade skiing on cruising and black diamond runs. Nine lifts keep the traffic flowing. Mix and match trails to put together runs of over 2 miles. The region is rich in accommodations and pristine amenities. The cuisine is largely French. So is the language – and there are literally hundreds of stately Chateaus, resorts and quaint bed and breakfasts. We’ve stayed at the Hotel Cheribourg, a sprawling resort with rooms and Chalets near Orford. It’s a great central spot to reach Mont Sutton and nearby Mont Orford with a vertical drop of nearly 2,000 feet, or picturesque Owls Head ski resort.
MONTE SAINTE ANNE
Monte Sainte Anne is the giant of Laurentian Mountain skiing and riding. The peak rises over 2,600 feet with a 2,000 foot vertical. Seventy trails and a terrain park are weighted heavily toward challenge for advanced and expert skiers. But about a fifth of the runs are easily handled by advancing novice skiers and cruisers. The mountain is about 20 miles outside of fabled Quebec City and it’s old world charm that blends classic French architecture and culture with new world eateries, pubs and nightlife. Let your lifestyle determine whether you stay at the mountain or in the city. Now about those fee-free credit cards. Most credit and debit card banks charge a fee, usually 3% for processing foreign currency transaction. Over the years the number of cards without the fee has dwindled. I once had 3 and am now down to 1, Capital One. If anyone knows of others, I’d love to hear about them. U.S. dollars however are accepted at most Canadian locations at the current bank rate of exchange. A reminder, if you’re going to Canada, you will need your passport. And brush up on your French. It’s not necessary, but is helpful, especially reading road and other signs in Quebec.