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(Sarah MacWhirter/The Globe and Mail)
(Sarah MacWhirter/The Globe and Mail)

Mont Tremblant: 40 hours, 5 sports Add to ...

You think you know Tremblant? You may know its 875 metres of vertical and 95 trails, and that it’s Eastern Canada’s hottest party spot (sort of a Vegas-north with a ‘what-happens-in-Tremblant-stays-in-Tremblant’ attitude) attracting Hollywood talent, NHL players, brides-to-be and their rocking girlfriends.

But there’s so much more to Tremblant. As I discovered last weekend, you don’t have to be a downhill wizard to fit into this panoramic pedestrian village: It lacks the scare factor of the big Western hills, but offers more thrill than the Ontario slopes. Hardly mediocre, Tremblant offers the middle. It’s an urban-dweller’s escape that’s brimming with fun-seeking families, decked-out skiers and couples in all stages of romance.

Within 40 hours, I repented my holiday sins on the slopes, on cross-country ski trails, on skates on a frozen pond, on a slippy inner-tube run, and in the snowy woods with a Kerouac descendant who knew a thing or two about mushrooms and attracting wildlife. All that, plus stretches, deep sleeps and two gourmet dinners, too.


I arrive via Porter mere steps from the front door of what just might be the world’s quaintest airport – it looks more like a ski lodge. Shuttle buses are at the ready to ferry passengers into the village, where we drop our suitcases at the Westin before wandering down to L’Avalanche. Owner Cedric Damani welcomes us, and we opt for protein-packed tapas to fuel us through the next day. We indulge in filet mignon in a sake and soy sauce marinade, a fabulous beef tartare, duck confit, rack of lamb, ostrich and a chef’s risotto with truffle-oil dusted mushrooms. The ostrich and mushroom dishes, in particular, send me to my happy place. It’s girls’ night out at a nearby bar and we hear the music thumping as we walk by, happily stuffed, but it’s time to rest up for the big day ahead.


I feel somewhat unCanadian admitting I’m not a solid downhill skier. I just learned last year (at Kicking Horse near Golden, B.C.), and was feeling apprehensive. So I decide on a refresher lesson: My office-mode legs need to relearn how to distribute my body weight without pitching forward, how to carve into the turns and how to find my ideal speed.

I’m not alone. Skiers, boarders, old, young, male, female, of all backgrounds – the beginner hill is hopping with enthusiastic wannabes. After an hour of relearning and practising the basics, we take to the chairlift. The top half of the mountain is shrouded in fog, the trees caked in a glistening snowy ice, and I’m as taken with the Ansel Adams photographic possibilities as I am with the prospect of being set loose to put my relearned skills to the test. I’m ready: The bottom half of the mountain is a piece of cake, but I’m hungry and eager to get on classic cross-country skis.


By afternoon, the fog has cleared and it’s a bluebird day. Outfitted with cross-country boots and skis, at the picturesque Ski de fond Mont-Tremblant I pick a simple looking route that takes skiers along River La Diablo. Naively, I think this will be an easy echo of cross-country skiing at Vanderwater Conservation Area along the river I grew up on. Gentle inclines and flat stretches pull us deeper into the woods. And then we turn a curve and I’m wiping out on a steep downhill stretch. I’ve got my downhill-ski legs on, and the skinny skis and groomed tracks – a first for me – have thrown me for a loop.

It’s been 20-some years since I last skied cross-country trails, and the scene has changed as much as on the slopes. While downhill skiers have become accustomed to snowboarders, cross-country skiers now share the trails with, and may even be outnumbered by, speedy skate-skiers. I assume the rules of the road apply on the trail (they do: the faster skiers go around the plodders), though some of the skiers (classic and skate) are quick to bark orders and cast disapproving looks if you slow their progress. My pride is a little bruised, but the sun is sparkling as the river burbles through the ice; my skis are shush-shushing as I glide. The most scenic moment comes at the end as we enter a long, arched corridor of evergreens so captivating even the diehards stop to snap a shot.


Back in the village, the outdoor skating rink beckons. My legs are a bit wobbly and I’m not sure they’ll take the switch from downhill to cross-country to hockey skates. But, when in Tremblant! I join the kids and canoodling couples and make my way around the chopped-up ice a number of times, gaining speed but knowing to stop before I get cocky. Besides, the tubing run is about to open. …

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