Quebec’s Laurentians are enchanting and steeped in culture.
It’s nice to have the big city of Montréal in the rear-view mirror. Traffic eases, and I can relax and look forward to the fun of a return visit to the ski slopes of the Laurentian Mountains.
About a half hour north of Montréal, Autoroute 15 leaves the St. Lawrence River valley and begins its ascent into the rolling Laurentians (or Laurentides, as the Québecois call them). There are a dozen or so ski areas along the way, ranging in size from small to midsized, and at night their illuminated slopes line the highway like a string of holiday lights leading up to the big one, Tremblant.
One of the oldest Laurentian ski areas—and still one of the most beloved by Montréal skiers—is Sommet Saint-Sauveur, which was actually founded by a well-known American. Saint-Sauveur was the very first ski venture of Fred Pabst, the Milwaukee beer baron, who would go on to build North America’s first ski-area conglomerate way back in the 1930s, with Vermont’s Bromley as its flagship. Today Saint-Sauveur is known for its skiing nightlife, with kilometres of lighted trails and plenty of convivial action in its base-area bars.
Another notable destination is lively Mont-Blanc. Though its over 6,800 feet of vert may not rival that of its Chamonix namesake, Mont-Blanc’s extensive and imaginative terrain parks are highly regarded among Laurentian freestylers. Freestyle is big up here, and like Mont-Blanc, most Laurentian resorts have top-notch pipes and parks, many of which are well-lit for nighttime action.
Of course, most folks who come up this way are headed to Tremblant, the Laurentians’ biggest resort. And they come as much for the famous Tremblant Village as they do the skiing.
Tremblant’s base village, with its unmistakable sense of place, is regarded in the ski industry as an exemplary model of slopeside development. Visually, it’s emphatically Québecois, reminiscent of one of the historic neighborhoods of Montréal or Québec City. Its red- and green-roofed buildings are closely clustered, creating narrow pedestrian-only alleys that open onto broad plazas—shops, cafes, and restaurants at street level, residences above. From the windows of your cozy condo, the nighttime view of a warmly lit streetscape bustling with happy skiers rivals the summit’s daytime view of Lac Tremblant and the surrounding mountains.
The village garners a lot of attention, but the quality of Tremblant’s skiing is also paramount. If you want to relax and cruise, zoomy corduroy groomers abound. If you want to get after it, head for the back side, or Versant Nord, for bumps and glades.
But trust anyone who’s ever been to the Laurentians: Where you really want to get at after it is at the table. Even in the summit lodges, cafeterias, casual bars and cafes, Quebec’s love affair with good food is on display. And in the candlelit dining rooms of the Laurentians’ many fine restaurants and boutique inns, the culinary experience typically rises to the sublime.
Consider bringing a European approach to your ski vacation here. Ski a little, eat a little, relax, repeat.
A trip to Québec feels very much like going to a different and exotic country in the best way possible.