Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Mont-Tremblant | Québec

And here we are at Mont-Tremblant - the third and final destination on our Quebec ski mountain road trip! From Château Bromont we headed Northwest through Montreal and two and a half hours later arrived at the Marriot Residence Inn Manior Labelle situated at the base of Tremblant's vibrant pedestrian village. A few minutes later we were barside at Microbrasserie La Diable with some excellent craft beers, a cauldron of poutine and a toasty, cheesey croque monseiur. I'm glad we discovered this chill microbrewery first-thing as it wouldn't be our last time here.  

We settled comfortably into our one-room suite situated on the on third floor of the front tower; with a small balcony overlooking the ski trail below. The living room decor and color scheme felt outdated while the kitchen was fully updated with stainless steel appliances and black granite counter tops. Steps away the Cabriolet lift was a two minute ride up and over the village to the gondola base, while Voyageur trail looped around the village directly back to the hotels front door. Ski racks are appropriately placed here and locks are given at check in so you can be sure to secure your gear overnight. Cabriolet-out / ski-in accommodations could not have been more fun and convenient! 

Other hotel highlights included the dueling outdoor hot tubs and easy-access underground parking reached by the hotels central elevators. The only thing I found to be lacking was the continental breakfast. While there were plenty of options, the food didn't stack up and each morning when we arrived it was smokey / someone was burning something in the kitchen! We stuck to the waffle maker. If it wasn't complimentary I would have gone out for crepes. 
We stocked the fridge with our favorite local goodies collected over the past 4 days: St-Ambroise Double IPA (Montreal), Archibald - La Matante Blonde Ale (Quebec City) +  Domaine Pinnacle Ice Cider (Cantons De L'est).
We skied two full days - the first with local ambassador, Norm, who knew the mountain ins and outs, the history, and the meaning behind each trail name. I loved having our own personal concierge and the fact that he kept referring to me as a "reporter"! Day one was foggy with low visibility and some rain in the afternoon, while day two brought sunshine and blue sky with deceivingly chillier temps. The snow coverage was terrific with packed powder conditions. It was key to follow where the sun hit on day two, it made all the difference between soft moguls and chattery, icy slopes. Tremblant has a great variety of terrain on both north and south facing slopes (Versant Nord, Versant Sud). My favorite runs included: Zig-Zag and Haut Tension for steep bumps, Nansen Haut for a long green circle cruiser, and La Griffe and Laurentienne for fast blacks.
For après be sure to check out La Forge or Le Shack where the top of the village meets the ski slope. A Bloody Caesar on Le Forge patio in the late afternoon sunshine hits the spot. The lower section of the village is defined by old rustic wooden lodges turned restaurants (O Wok, Savoie), bars (La Diable, Le P'tit Caribou) and even some chic nightclubs (Jackalope Lounge). Back in the day these adorable little buildings were actually situated trail side and where skiers would spend the night. 

Featuring Thai and Chinese dishes, O Wok has seamlessly blended a modern Asian aesthetic into their rustic lodge. We had lunch here in our ski boots, which consisted of a Hot Sake Carafe, Steamed Pork Dumplings ($9) and flavorful, toothsome noodle bowls. I couldn't get enough of Le Pad Sew au Boef ($19) loaded with tender savory beef, thai basil, mushrooms, pepper and onions. Bob enjoyed a traditional Le Pad Thai Au Crevettes ($22)

One evening we had dinner at Gypsy, a Mediterranean Tapas bar located at the village's Le Westin Resort. The urban chic atmosphere of the glorified lobby restaurant didn't quite mesh with the vibe of a ski village or resemble a Spanish inspired Tapas bar, so the whole thing felt confused. It simply read like a well designed lobby space that might - and in fact did - serve a nice cocktail so we started with Dirty Martinis. 
I was disappointed to see only three wines by the glass - inconspicuously listed among the bottles. Tapas bar or hotel lobby bar, identity crisis or not, I'd expect a few more choices either way. As far as the tapas themselves go the patatas bravas were underwhelming, but, fortunately, the rest of the dishes were a success. Shrimp a la Grand Mariner, soft grilled pita and red pepper hummus, perfectly seared scallops with avocado mousse, the lamb burger and the pork shank all proved satisfying!

The restaurant truly not to miss in Mont-Tremblant is La Savoie - an authentic Swiss Fondu and Raclette eatery. It is popular with families and makes the top of my must visit list in Tremblant thanks to a combination of the warm, cozy Swiss Alpes inspired atmosphere, our all around excellent server and the incredible experience of eating piping hot, bubbly, rich, tangy and creamy melted raclette cheese scraped off the wheel over potatoes, dill gherkins, pearl onions and dried meats like Parma Ham and Salami. La Raclette Savoyard ($50pp) includes all of the above as well as a lightly dressed green salad to balance out all the cheese and meat. A visit to La Savoie is not complete without Chocolate Fondu for dessert. A platter of marshmallows, shortcake, sliced bananas and strawberries are provided for dipping in a warm bowl of silky, smooth, melted milk chocolate. 
There were quite a few large groups and families in for an early dinner (6pm), and I know there was a second dinner seating around 8pm (as we were unable to push our reservation back when we inquired). They obviously book up fast on weekends so make sure to get a reservation in advance.
In the heart of the Lauretians, Mont-Tremblant is a destination worthy ski resort for everyone from couples like us, to families, to large groups of friends. With a European inspired pedestrian village offering a wide range of cuisine, nightlife and shopping, you are sure to have a unique and memorable experience if you make the trip!

1000 Chemin des Voyageurs
Mont-Tremblant, Quebec J8E 1T1, CANADA

*our accommodations, ski tickets, and most meals (not including alcohol or tip) were covered by Tourisme Quebec. Prices listed are in CAD. All opinions are my own*

La Savoie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Mont Sutton | Eastern Townships, Québec

We had the BEST day skiing Mont Sutton. A smaller mountain with 60 trails, however, her pistes offer up 204 junctions plus legendary glade skiing, presenting the skier a larger number of runs to play with. The trees are unequivocally the way to my heart, ever since my first day on skis at Pico gliding through a sparkly evergreen trail - I was ten years old and hooked for life. With a consistently snowy microclimate (Vermont skiers think: Jay Cloud - Mont Sutton is just 45 minutes North) the weather here delivers. On this quiet Tuesday the first week of March, the endless glades and hidden mogul trails far skiers right were playful and abundant with fresh tracks thanks to a snowstorm the day before.

Mont Sutton's richly wooded, rustic chalet-lodges are genuinely steeped in time. Named for the number of metres at which they sit - the one at the peak is "Chalet Alt 840m". Here, a sprawling deck offers panoramic views, the round stone fireplace radiates warm and cozy, and cold Carlsberg flows on tap. Bar Le Tucker on the second floor at Chalet Alt 400m (the base lodge) draws the crowd for aprés with plenty of draft beers and locally inspired cocktails. We never actually experienced the food at the mountain - were so full from breakfast at the hotel, we kept right on skiing! (Which is a rarity. I'm pretty sure we missed out.)

We loved the vibe in its entirety and were clearly enamored with the trails and conditions. Mont Sutton's proximity to the border makes it even more appealing for those living in the states. We didn't have time to explore the local communities of Glen Sutton and Sutton Junction, but it did seem like they had small town village charms to offer. (So many reasons to plan a return trip!) That evening we were off to Balnea in Bromont-sur-le-lac where a traditional thermal-spa experience awaited. With Finnish saunas, a Turkish Bath, outdoor hot tubs, a sweat lodge and a solarium, to name a few key elements, we savored ultimate relaxation time. After two full days and two nights of skiing and many miles of road-trippin', this was perfect. 

671, Chemin Maple
Sutton, Québec, J0E 2K0

Balnea Spa
319, Chemin Lac Gale
Bromont-sur-le-Lac, Québec, J2L 2S5 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Bromont | Eastern Townships, Québec

The next destination on our Québec road trip was the small city of Bromont in the Cantons de L'Est (Eastern Townships) region. We drove three hours south from Mont-Sainte-Anne to our accommodations at Hotel Château Bromont located at the base of the mountain. When arriving to town we stopped at the Musée du Chocolat cafe where we sipped exceptional cups of thick and frothy dark hot chocolates alongside fluffy crepes loaded with ham, asparagus and Gruyere cheese. The cafe hit the spot and is one not to miss if you are in town. Our late lunch fueled us up for what else but another evening of skiing!

I'm getting used to this road trip during the day - check into a new hotel - immediately hit the slopes at night-routine. (The savvy folks who put together our itinerary were clearly onto something.) With 100 lit trails, Bromont actually offers the most night skiing in North America. It was fun to explore lots of new terrain!
After many a solid runs and a 1 beer aprés at the mountain we retreated to the classy Château Bromont and had an elegant meal at their restaurant Quatre Canards. We tasted wines of the region alongside excellent local cuisine - an appetizer of creamy Trout Mousse ($11) with a homemade crouton, and for main courses: Lac Brome Duck Confit Breast ($33) in frontenac sauce and an Old Fashioned Braised Beef ($31) in Quebec whiskey sauce with pink pepper mashed squash. 

The view from Quatre Canards as well as our third floor room lent a pretty picture over the valley and the edge of the ski trails. Our room offered a well appointed, spacious one story loft. We spent the rest of the evening curled up on the couch watching hilarious Canadian sitcoms and drinking more of that lovely local Québec wine - a bottle of 2013 Orpailleur Rouge which was provided in room (for purchase - a reasonable $26). I'm feeling really comfortable and settled here in Québec - and it is such a wonderful place to be.

Quatre Canards also offered a well rounded breakfast buffet - made to order crepes with local maple syrup and fresh fruit were my go-to. 

Next up on our Eastern Townships adventure - our day skiing at Mont Sutton and evening at Balnea Spa.

150, Rue Champlain
Bromont, Québec, J2L 1A2

*our accommodations, ski tickets, and meals were covered by Tourisme Quebec. All opinions are my own*