We just returned from March Break in Mont Tremblant. My parents graciously gifted us a week's stay at a cottage near Sainte-Agathe-des-monts in the Laurentiens, about a 30 minute drive from the ski resort of Mont Tremblant.
We took a bit of a scenic route north-east of Ottawa, and the entire trip was 2.5 - 3 hours. There had been significant snowfall the day before, so we were held up by icy roads and snowplows. The more straightforward route along highway 50 to the 15 in Quebec would make the trip about 2 hours. A perfect length of time to be stuck in a car with little ones.
Where to Stay
Our cottage was fantastic - there was a beautiful view of (frozen) Lake Manitou from the porch, and we could warm our feet by the stone fireplace. It was everything that I like in a cottage - not too fancy, chock full of antiques, and that cozy cottage smell. And the price of renting a modest cottage is affordable. The hotels and condos at the base of the mountain can run you hundreds of dollars per night.
That said, there are disadvantages to staying outside the ski resort area. The main one is all the driving you have to do. With young children, I could definitely see the benefit to staying at one of the resort condos, and being able to hit the slopes right outside my front door. If cost is an issue, Tremblant runs flash sales and packages, so getting on their mailing list is a good idea.
The second disadvantage to this cottage was that it wasn't very pedestrian-friendly. The road was small and windy, which made going for walks slightly terrifying when cars whipped around the corners. I think summertime would have made outdoor play much easier, with close access to a beach, playground and the cottage property (knee-deep snow was not great for trudging around with a 2 year-old!)
What To Do
What isn't there to do? If you're outdoorsy, a winter vacation can be fantastic - our daughter tried three different activities for the first time - cross-country skiing, downhill skiing and snowshoeing. There are many trails located at Saint-Bernard but my parents discovered an even better (and closer) location in Sainte-Agathe, where the town's campground has been turned into cross-country and snowshoe trails in the winter.
And of course, the downhill skiing is fantastic! Our tiny hills in Ontario are no match for this mountain. After realizing that it had been 16 years since I'd strapped on a pair of downhill skis (and after taking out a poor kid on a snowboard in my attempt to get off the chair lift), I got some tips from a friend and stuck to the easiest green hills.
My daughter and I also checked out the Aquaclub, where you can find indoor pools, a hottub, and slides for the little ones. Some hotels on-site will include free passes to the pools, but we paid a whopping $24 to swim for 3 hours. That said, it was a great indoor activity for those who aren't keen on skiing every day.
- The "village" at the base of the mountain is pedestrian friendly, so no cars allowed. You need to park in one of their three (free) parking lots, and then catch the (free) shuttle bus into the village. It's here that you can buy lift tickets, rent ski equipment, get some lunch, shop or check out the Aquaclub. Just remember to tack on lots of extra time to your trip for parking and the shuttle runs.
- There's also the actual village of Mont Tremblant (with an old and newer section), where you can find shops and restaurants. When they say "Tremblant," they really mean the entire area including both the mountain and the town.
- If I were to do it again, I would want a bag like this. Walking around in your ski boots for even a short period of time is painful and really tiring for kids. There are lockers available for $2 to store your stuff.
- Alternatively, you can take a longer drive over to the North side of the mountain, where the parking lot leads right up to the ski lifts. Much easier when dealing with kiddos, but alas, the bunny hills (and magic carpets!) are on the South side.
- We brought lots of snacks, but found it easier to just buy a meal while skiing. It's pricey, but the food is REALLY good. And you can even enjoy a beer or wine with your lunch!
- Don't want to ski? Our friends tried dog sledding, and as I mentioned, there are many snowshoe trails. Or just go shopping in the quaint little shops you can find in the older part of town on Lac Mercier. Unfortunately, we didn't get around to checking out the snow tubing, and the outdoor skating rink was closed for the season.
We'll definitely go back to Mont Tremblant one day, and we've all been bitten by the skiing bug. Later this week I'll be writing about our experience skiing with younger children - what worked and what didn't.
Have you ever been to Mont Tremblant? Did you enjoy yourselves?