SKI AND SNOWBOARD BUFFS have long placed Mont Tremblant (www.tremblant.ca) in Quebec's Laurentian mountains on their shortlist of the best vacation destinations in eastern North America. Last month, I was able to visit the resort town on the first-ever nonstop commercial flight from the New York area to Mont Tremblant International Airport. Continental Airlines is now flying nonstop to Mont Tremblant daily (except Tuesdays and Wednesdays from January 8 to February 13) from Newark, with connecting service from Cleveland, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. After the short 80-minute flight, it's a 35-minute transfer to Tremblant's base village. Our group hopped on snowmobiles right outside of the airport lodge and took them for a spin—not a bad start to the weekend.
While exploring this mountain community, I was impressed not only by its excellent terrain and snow conditions (so far this season Tremblant has received the most snow it has had in decades) but also by its wide range of seasonal activities and accommodations, as well as its base village, which has charming shops, restaurants, après-ski and nightlife, all with a distinct European/French-Canadian flavor.
Special events that draw large crowds include the Tremblant Film Festival in June and the Tremblant International Blues Festival in July, as well as skiing and snowboarding competitions throughout the winter.
New Village in the Works
The biggest news at Mont Tremblant is the construction of the Versant Soleil development, an additional base village that will initially include 54 Alpine-style condominium townhomes, 24 home sites and an entertainment/gaming complex. A gondola linking Versant Soleil to the resort's main base village will begin service this summer. The ride will take less than seven minutes, and the gondola will run until 3 a.m. to accommodate revelers and people visiting Versant Soleil's new Loto-Québec Ludoplex, which will open at the same time and feature virtual gaming. Restaurants and shopping will be part of the community eventually.
Le Westin Resort & Spa
Our group stayed at Le Westin Resort & Spa, Tremblant (www.starwoodhotels.com/westin), which has a prime location in the base village, about 100 yards from the chairlifts. The friendly, mostly Quebecois staff seemed happy to offer their recommendations for fully experiencing their hometown.
I stayed in a comfortable One-Bedroom Suite with views of Lake Tremblant, on which locals and tourists alike enjoy ice skating and kite boarding during the winter. All suites have fireplaces, and some are available with mountain views. Westin's double-headed Heavenly Shower and layered Heavenly Bed served me well after a day on the slopes. Two TVs with Internet access, a wireless keyboard, in-room movies and video games make this type of suite suitable for families who want to keep the kids occupied. The property is also infant- and pet-friendly: You can request a Heavenly Crib or a Heavenly Dog Bed for your clients. For groups and larger families, the Two- Bedroom Suites have the same amenities and views as the One Bedrooms but more space.
Westin guests can check their skis and snowboards at the front desk, and from the hotel's locker room they can exit directly to the village and the lifts. Other hotel amenities include shuttle service from the airport, dry cleaning, a small business center, a jewelry shop, a gym and the Amerispa, which offers a typical menu of massages, facials and pedicures, as well as a Spa & Stay package. I found that the sauna, outdoor heated pool and whirlpool hit the spot after an active day exploring the area. Yamada, the onsite restaurant, specializes in sushi and steak, and there is also a bar/lounge and 24-hour room service.
Le Westin's travel agent liaison is Sean Palardy, head concierge (819-681-5726, [email protected]). For weddings, contact Pascale Panneton (819-681-5467, ext. 15467). Book via the GDS or visit Starwood's Travel Professional Program portal at www.starwoodhotels.com/pro
Even closer to the mountains, the Fairmont Tremblant (www.fairmont.com/tremblant) has a slopeside location that provides its guests with ski-in/ski-out access to the lifts. The best rooms to book are the Fairmont View Rooms. At up to 462 square feet, Deluxe Rooms have the most space, and are good for big families and groups of friends traveling together. A Deluxe Fairmont View Room has a spectacular view of the colorful village rooftops and the base of the mountain. The most requested premium accommodations are the One Bedroom Suites with Kitchenettes, which are spacious and also have beautiful views. Approximately 150 rooms connect, so families can create a Two Bedroom Suite (with or without a kitchenette). Bathrooms have Miller Harris toiletries. Agent Advice
The property's general manager is Louise Champagne, and agents may contact her executive administrative assistant, Natalie Johnson, at 819-681-7601 or [email protected] All rooms can be booked over the GDS. Availability is scarce during the holiday season and the weekends before and after Presidents' Day. For those times, book as far out as possible.
Fairmont Tremblant's Amerispa has 18 treatment rooms, including a couples' massage room. The spa's most popular treatments are the Relaxation Massage and the Therapeutic Back Treatment. Kids can enjoy a Duo Massage with a parent. The featured product lines are Phytociane, Algotherm and Darphin. The property recommends that agents book treatments for their clients ahead of time. Call Diane Paquin, spa director, at 819-681-7680.
The hotel offers a romantic dinner escape by helicopter to the Italian restaurant Trattoria di Lago on Maskinongé Lake. Guests are served sparkling wine upon arrival, then treated to a romantic seven-course candlelight dinner.
Alternately, a private dinner can be arranged at the hotel's Windigo restaurant, where clients enjoy a personalized multi-course meal served by the Fairmont chef or sous-chef. The restaurant's Surf, Turf and Sushi buffet on Friday and Saturday evenings is especially popular with locals. Reservations are recommended; agents can make them by calling 819-681-7685.
Concierge Corinne Du Cap assists Fairmont guests in arranging babysitting, car rentals, shuttle transfers and private guides or instructors for skiing, snowboarding, golf, hiking and biking—and can provide shopping tips too. Agents should contact Vincent Thériault, head concierge (819-681-7689, [email protected]).
Fairmont Tremblant is a popular wedding venue due to its large ballroom and wedding packages, as well as its excellent catering and conference department.
For guests who want to bring their pets with them, the hotel allows well-trained dogs under 20 pounds in some room categories on the main floor at a charge of $25 per night.
One of the highlights of my trip was a sojourn at Spa Le Scandinave Mont Tremblant (www.scandinave.com, 819-425-5524), whose centerpiece is the Scandinavian baths, featuring a Norwegian steam room, Finnish dry sauna and two outdoor hot tubs—one with a thermal waterfall—plus cold rinse areas (a Nordic waterfall, Nordic baths and the Diable River). The spa also offers yoga sessions and Swedish, Hot Stone Therapy, Duo and Thai-Yoga massages.
Despite some trepidation, I followed the wellness ritual to a T, alternating hot soaks and cold rinses. The first cycle is always the most intense. After soaking in one of the 100-plus-degree hot tubs for 15 minutes, I forced myself to get out and make my way down the steps to the 35-degree Diable River. I stepped onto the platform and quickly plunged into an opening in the ice shelf that stretched along each bank, submerging myself completely in the icy cold water. My heart and head pounding from the shock, I hurried into one of the spa's relaxation solariums and stretched out on a recliner, enjoying the rush of adrenaline and subsequent euphoria.
The Spa Le Scandinave brand is expanding: A site just opened in Blue Mountain, near Georgian Bay in southern Ontario, and new locations are coming to Whistler, British Columbia, and Lake Tahoe, CA, in 2008 and Banff, Alberta, in 2009.