A Quebec adventure
When you are considered Number One in North America, you really don’t have to try harder but the ski resort of Mont Tremblant, 90 minutes north of Montreal, Canada, just topped itself by adding a world class casino to its incredible range of activities. Mont Tremblant, named the top ski resort in Eastern North American for eight consecutive years by Ski Magazine, seems to offer just about every sort of diversion there is, all set against the backdrop of the spectacular Laurentian Mountains. Now skiers and summer tourists can spin the slots and throw the dice too.
In the winter, Mont Tremblant is packed with snow lovers from all over the world. The first chair lift opened in 1939 along with the first hotel. For the next 50-plus years, the resort was independently operated until purchased by Intrawest, the large Canadian resort corporation. They added new lifts and the charming gondola which zips visitors over the pedestrian village to the base of the mountains. Capitalizing on its great reputation and proximity to Montreal, Loto Quebec just opened a casino high in the mountains overlooking the bustling action below. At the same time, a new lift opened which takes gamblers directly to the casino. Mont Tremblant is riding high.
While the area is best known for its fine skiing, summers bring out another facet of fun. There is a lake where all sorts of water activities occur and two golf courses. This area was planned for enjoyment. Everyone from families with young children to honeymooners to weekenders will enjoy the multitude of diversions and the gorgeous scenery in which to enjoy it. The mountain and resort are part of the Mont-Tremblant National Park and are located near Mont-Tremblant, a quaint town in French speaking Quebec, geographically the largest province in Canada. Weekend home for celebrities such as Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, the atmosphere is casual and active.
Visitors enjoy hiking, boating, sailing, bicycling, golf, swimming, water skiing, canoeing, pedal boating and kayaking. There is a luge run, a ‘spider web’ designed for kids to climb, crawl and dangle. If that isn’t enough, visitors can horseback ride, paint ball, rock climb, take a helicopter tour, go rafting, play mini golf and tennis, There’s even a two-screen movie theater in the village when you need a small rest. Do a ropes courses complete with a zip line. Rent an ATV or a dune buggy or enjoy shopping in the pedestrian village or in one of the charming nearby towns. You should definitely take a ride on the panoramic gondola to the mountain top. Ask about the Sunday brunch at the peak. We loved our 30-minute sightseeing airplane ride which showcased the play land below. Summer visitors will enjoy free daily concerts and several music festivals. And, of course, there are fabulous restaurants, bars and clubs. Passes are available that allow for three or five activities for one low fee (family of four, five activities approximately $130).
Mont Tremblant also is home to enjoyable golf courses. The temperature was a lovely 72 degrees, the skies were blue and the mountains provided a fantastic backdrop. Golf in Canada is what we in Texas long for every day – perfect weather, fast greens and great camaraderie.
The Spa Scandinave offers a unique experience. Guests bathe in alternating warm and cool baths, accompanied by yoga, massage, saunas, steam baths and a waterfall.
We stayed at the L’Ermitage du Lac, a small boutique hotel that offers in-room kitchen facilities and a lovely breakfast every day. This is but one of the many choices. You will find everything from the Fairmont to Homewood Suites and most rates are incredibly affordable. Many hotels have old photos showing tourists skiing in the ‘40s. The casino provides complimentary transportation from many of the hotels but be sure to ask before booking rooms.
There are a huge variety of restaurants in the area and we recommend several. The Creperie Catherine (), in the village, is downright charming. Catherine spent years on a Merchant Marine ship until she opened her restaurant: 662 square feet housed in one of the original ski chalets. Dads will find it affordable and filling, kids will find it fun to watch the crepes being made before their eyes.
Patrick Berman () offers a fantastic French experience where everyone will find something memorable on the menu. This casual, yet chic, restaurant was lovely. Our steak and salmon en croute was perfect. The dessert featured fresh, local strawberries and watermelon. Prices are surprisingly affordable.
At Chez Seb (www.resto-seb.com), we dined al fresco and quite impressed with Chef Sébastien Houle’s nitrogen-infused delicacies – leave the kids at the hotel for this one. But what lovely service, delectable and, again, delightfully affordable offerings all in a rela environment.
The Casino de Mont-Tremblant opened in late June to rave reviews. It is a stunning setting, with huge windows and tall ceilings.
“A veritable jewel in the heart of the mountain, the Casino de Mont-Tremblant will be a complementary entertainment venue to the high caliber tourism, cultural, restaurant and hotel infrastructures that are already well established in the region,” said Loto-Quebec President and CEO Alain Cousineau at the grand opening.
Casino Mont Tremblant, says Santa Di Stefano, director of casino operations, offers slot machines, game tables and Texas Hold ‘Em poker. In wintertime, the casino is ski-in! Just dash over to shake the frost off and pop a few dollars in one of the 400 slot machines. Playing with your ski boots on is something you can’t do at Delta Downs!
The casino has a small bar offering beverages of all sorts although Canadian laws prevent gamblers from drinking while gambling. Perhaps the most unique aspect to the casino is the art; Loto-Quebec believes in filling the senses with stunning paintings and mesmerizing artwork. This is an elegant, yet laid back, casino. It isn’t the noisy, never-ceasing announcement-filled Louisiana casinos but there is definitely a joie de vivre which only the French can master. We enjoyed every second.
Getting there: In the winter, Continental flies directly from Newark to Mont Tremblant. In the summer, guests must go to Montreal and then rent a car. Casino officials hope that direct flights year round are in their future. Visit www.tremblant.ca for last minute package deals and complete information on the area.
Photos (top to bottom): The Mont Tremblant village, from the air. The Casino de Mont-Tremblant. Sidewalk cafes dot the pedestrian village. Santa Di Stefano in front of one of the new slot machines.
(This article was originally published on 9/2/09)