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Carey Kish

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island has been adventuring in the woods and mountains of Maine for, well, a long time. If there’s a trail—be it on dirt, rock, snow, water or pavement—he will find it, explore it, and write about it. Carey is a two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, Registered Maine Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide (10th ed.), and has written a hiking & camping column for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since 2003. Follow his outdoor travels and musings here, and on Facebook/CareyKish. Let Carey know what you think at MaineOutdoors@aol.com.

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Posted: February 3, 2015

Skiing: The beautiful slopes of Quebec’s Mont Sutton are home to the best glade skiing in Canada

Written by: Carey Kish

It’s all about the trees at Mont Sutton, where the scenic forested slopes have earned the mountain consistent honors over the years as the very best glade skiing in Canada. Located just a few miles north of the Vermont border in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Mont Sutton is a must-ski destination that will truly knock your ski socks off with its awesome mix of trails, fabulous snow, natural beauty, happy locals and authentic charm.

“The mountain’s 204 junctions allow for an unimaginable possibility of descents,” said Mireille Simard, Mont Sutton’s communications coordinator. The many different trail intersections mean “each run is never the same.”

Mont Sutton is consistently rated to have the best glade skiing in Canada. Image courtesy Mont Sutton.

Mont Sutton is consistently rated to have the best glade skiing in Canada. Image courtesy Mont Sutton.

Mont Sutton features 60 trails, 45% of which are glades. Some of these glades are traditional, just like you would know them at most every other ski area. But a good many are quite unique in that the mountain actually runs a Tucker through these particular tree runs with different rollers attached to groom the skiing surfaces. The result is fabulous skiing through narrow passages in the trees on wonderfully corduroyed trails, a true Mont Sutton specialty!

“You feel truly surrounded by nature here at Mont Sutton,” Simard noted. And it’s true, attests this skier.

It's all about the trees and the beauty of nature at Mont Sutton. Image courtesy Mont Sutton.

It’s all about the trees and the beauty of nature at Mont Sutton. Image courtesy Mont Sutton.

The main Mont Sutton base lodge or “chalet”, situated about 3 miles up from the village of Sutton, offers a complete range of amenities, including a cafeteria and bar. The slopes above the main chalet consist mostly of beginner and intermediate trails, a variety of both open groomers and groomed glades. This area, with a top elevation of 2,230 feet serves as a great introductory warm-up to the mountain. A detachable quad and two double chairs serve the skiers here; two other doubles provide access to the lower novice and family slopes.

Start the ski day at the main "chalet" at the base of the easy and intermediate slopes. Photo © Carey Kish.

Start the ski day at the main “chalet” at the base of the easy and intermediate slopes. Photo © Carey Kish.

The upper part of the Mont Sutton ski resort reaches over 2,800 feet. Two quads and a double chair transport skiers on this slope. The bulk of the black diamond trails and glades are located here, as are a mix of intermediate trails. A second base chalet offers amenities and a place to get in out of the cold; the French onion soup and stone oven-cooked pizza are specialties.

Both summit areas on the mountain feature chalets with fireplaces, restaurants with full food and drink service and restrooms, plus fantastic vistas.

Warm up and enjoy good food and drink at one of the summit chalets. Photo © Carey Kish.

Warm up and enjoy good food and drink at one of the summit chalets. Photo © Carey Kish.

“Good skiers like the upper part of Mont Sutton,” said Nadya Baron, the mountain’s marketing director. “They don’t have to worry as much about skier traffic.”

Challenging enough for this reasonably good skier, the tree runs did indeed seem to thin the crowds alright, not a bad thing. Who doesn’t like to feel like they’ve got the slopes to themselves after all!

Groomed trails, groomed tree runs, regular glades - Mont Sutton has it all. Photo © Carey Kish.

Groomed trails, groomed tree runs, regular glades – Mont Sutton has it all. Photo © Carey Kish.

MORE THAN 50 YEARS OF SKIING HISTORY

Mont Sutton opened in 1960, a long held dream of its founders Harold and Real Boulanger, father and son, and Francois Levesque, family friend, attorney and advisor.

The Boulanger family moved to Sutton in 1945 and founded Sutton Dairy Products, which produced butter, skim milk powder, protein and pasteurized chocolate milk until 1980. The dairy business kept the family and its employees busy for four or five months a year, but come winter they had to lay off people. This eventually got the owners thinking about ways to keep everyone gainfully employed year-round, and the idea for a ski area percolated.

Local skiers had been taking to the slopes of Mont Sutton since the 1930s, and it didn’t take the Boulangers long before they too got into the sport in the wooded wilds of Mont Sutton. It wasn’t until the late 1950s, however, that the family skied at areas with ski tows in northern Vermont, “a ha!” moments for sure.

The Boulangers knew a good thing when they saw it at Mont Sutton. Photo © Carey Kish.

The Boulangers knew a good thing when they saw it at Mont Sutton. Photo © Carey Kish.

Finally in 1959 the Boulangers formed a company and bought land on Mont Sutton but left the logging rights to the former landowner. The Boulanger brothers, Real, Robert, Benoit and Hercule, surveyed and studied the mountain, then marked and cleared the trails.

Real Boulanger was a visionary who wanted a unique mountain, Baron told me.

“He left the trees on the trails so people could enjoy skiing under a canopy of branches. He wanted to use the natural elements of the mountain while preserving nature,” said Baron. “The glades became the hallmark of the resort.”

Mont Sutton has been welcoming skiers since 1960. Photo © Carey Kish.

Mont Sutton has been welcoming skiers since 1960. Photo © Carey Kish.

Work began on Mont Sutton in June 1960. The ski station, as ski resorts in Canada are often referred, opened for business in December of that year. The rest, as they say, is history.

“We continue to fight the current of tree and trail cutting by planting trees,” Baron noted. In fact, Mont Sutton plants thousands of trees each year to help ensure that the special glade skiing is maintained.

Mont Sutton crews use a Tucket to groom the narrow passages between the trees for a unique skiing experience. Photo © Carey Kish.

Mont Sutton crews use a Tucker to groom the narrow passages between the trees for a unique skiing experience. Photo © Carey Kish.

A DELIGHTFUL SKI EXPERIENCE

This skier got quite a fill of tree and trail skiing during my day at Mont Sutton, thanks in great part to the good company of Simard, who showed me around the place from late morning through early afternoon. The skiing, the scenery, the trees, the views, the food, the general ambiance of the mountain—all added up to a delightful day on the slopes. And I hadn’t even gotten to après ski yet!

natural beauty abounds on the slopes of Mont Sutton. Photo © Carey Kish.

Natural beauty abounds on the slopes of Mont Sutton. Photo © Carey Kish.

Some technical notes… Of the 60 trails at Mont Sutton, 15 are considered easy and another 18 are rated difficult, which translates to intermediate on this side of the border. Eleven runs are rated very difficult and 16 are said to extremely difficult. Snowmaking covers 55% of the mountain, but with an average annual snowfall of some 200 inches and an average season spanning 142 days, good snow is not an issue.

I can tell you that a good chunk of the mountain is available to most every skier, despite the green, blue and black ratings. Go “color blind” and just have fun, that’s my best advice. This place is a hoot, get here and see for yourself.

A fine day amid the Mont Sutton trees demanded a cold beer, and the Bar Le Tucker upstairs in the main chalet didn’t disappoint. A couple beers later, it was time to bid adieu to the mountain and trundle down to Sutton for the night.

Bar Le Tucker is the on-mountain apres ski for a frosty cold one. Photo © Carey Kish.

Bar Le Tucker is the on-mountain apres ski for a frosty cold one. Photo © Carey Kish.

Sutton was settled sometime around 1799, when British Loyalists began to arrive in the valley, known then as Sutton Flat. The pretty main street of the village is chock full of shops and restaurants and inns.

Nighttime on the main street of Sutton village. Image courtesy Mont Sutton.

Nighttime on the main street of Sutton village. Image courtesy Mont Sutton.

Home for the evening was the fabulous Le Pleasant Hotel & Café, where we were welcomed by hosts Michel Gagne and Bertin Jacques. The food at Le Pleasant, dinner and breakfast both, was absolutely scrumptious, and the room was well-appointed and as warm and comfy as one could want.

Le Pleasant Hotel & Cafe offers delicious dining and very comfortable accomodations in the heart of Sutton. Photo © Carey Kish.

Le Pleasant Hotel & Cafe offers delicious dining and very comfortable accomodations in the heart of Sutton. Photo © Carey Kish.

Before heading back to the U.S., it was impossible to resist browsing the stores for cheese and chocolate, among Sutton’s most delicious specialties. I can’t remember how much of these delights actually made it across the border…

Mont Sutton’s Baron nicely summed up the experience here in this beautiful part of the world: “Quebec is like driving to Europe, and Sutton is like an English destination but with a French flair.”

Amen to that.

Good luck departing Sutton with cheese or chocolate or both! Photo © Carey Kish.

Good luck departing Sutton without cheese or chocolate or both! Photo © Carey Kish.

RESOURCES FOR WHEN YOU GO

Mont Sutton, Quebec is 207 miles from Portland, or about 5 ½ hours driving time via MUS 302, I-91, VT 105 and 139, and Quebec highway 139.

Mont Sutton, 866 538-2545

Sutton Tourist Bureau, 800 565-8455

Tourism Eastern Townships, 800 355-5755

Chocolate delights in Sutton. Photo © Carey Kish.

Chocolate delights in Sutton. Photo © Carey Kish.

Enjoying the sunny tree-lined slopes of Mont Sutton. Photo © Carey Kish.

Enjoying the sunny tree-lined slopes of Mont Sutton. Photo © Carey Kish.

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