The forested peaks and hills, pristine lakes and rivers, and picturesque villages of the Laurentides range across 14,000 square miles of Quebec north of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers. Situated north and west of Montreal, the region derives its name from the Laurentian Mountains, which form part of the vast Canadian Shield (not the Appalachians as one might surmise) and are among the oldest mountains on the planet, with rocks dating to pre-Cambrian times some 540 million years ago.
The Laurentides are a year-round recreation paradise with outdoor sporting activities to suit enthusiasts of every interest and skill level, never mind a cornucopia of festivals and events, cultural activities, spas, nightlife, plus a wide array of fine lodging options and plenty of good food and drink. Wintertime in the Laurentides features downhill skiing at a dozen ski resorts (one of the highest concentrations in Canada) as well as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skating, dogsledding, snowmobiling and even ice climbing.
This skier is gathering up the alpine gear and the travel bags in preparation for an upcoming tour of this attractive winter playground in Eastern Canada, with three Laurentide ski resorts on the radar screen for early February. Mont Saint Sauveur will be first, then Mont Blanc and finally Mont Tremblant. All will be first-time visits, so it’s going to be a bucket list trip of sorts, and as such, the planning has taken on an added level of excitement and fun.
Here’s an overview of these three ski resorts in the scenic Laurentides. You can count on a detailed on-the-ground report to follow post-trip.
MONT SAINT SAUVEUR
The Quebec ski industry is said to have been born in 1934 in the small village of Saint-Sauveur-des-Monts, 48 miles north of Montreal, when an American named Fred Pabst installed a ski lift on Hill 70 on Mont Saint Sauveur. The mountain grew from that point to become one of the most popular ski resorts in eastern North America.
The average ski season at Mont Saint Sauveur spans 160 days, and the mountain holds the record for the longest ski season in the Northeast, October 31 to June 2. Illuminated by 1,595,000 watts, the place also claims to be the largest night skiing area in the world. The most powerful snowmaking system on the continent is here as well, covering 100% of the 143 skiable acres.
Spread across 641 acres, Mont Saint Sauveur sports 38 trails; half are novice and intermediate, the rest are expert. Five trails are rated extremely difficult, which will surely draw this skier in like a magnet. Eight lifts (four are detachable quads) serve the 1,365-foot mountain, which offers 700 feet of vertical.
The après ski spot on the mountain is the T-Bar 70, with more food and drink options found in the village proper. An alpine coaster named the Viking and a zip-line called the Dragon are certainly enticing and I may have to find a little extra time to try each.
Lift tickets at Mont Saint Sauveur are quite reasonable, especially considering prices are in Canadian dollars. Night skiing is $40CAD from 3 p.m. to close. A full day adult pass is $54, while a 4-hour block ticket is $46. Both are good through 6 p.m. Buy tix online and save about $5.
Just south of Mont Tremblant and 77 miles north of Montreal is where you’ll find the village of Saint-Faustin and ski resort of Mont Blanc. The mountain has 41 trails, 5 lifts, 2 snow parks on its three peaks and boasts the second highest vertical in the region. Snowmaking blankets 85% of Mont Blanc.
The main peak, Mont Blanc, is home to the bulk of the skiing terrain and a nice looking mix of blue and black trails. Mont Blanc du Nord has more blues and blacks, while the middle slope of Mont Faustin features mostly greens and blues.
Two cafeterias—one at the base of Mont Blanc and a second at the base of Mont Faustin will no doubt fill the bill for daytime munchies. And the Igloo Bar looks to be the place to hang for an après ski cocktail or two.
Affordable lift tickets are found here at Mont Blanc as well, with adult full day tickets at $46 and 4-hour block tix just $40. Save more by purchasing online.
The big daddy of skiing in the Laurentian Mountains is unquestionably Mont Tremblant, which rises to 2,871 feet at the southern doorstep of Mont Tremblant National Park some 90 miles or about 1.5 hours driving time from Montreal.
Mont Tremblant provides a dramatic backdrop to the uber-picturesque pedestrian village located at its base on the shores of Lac Tremblant. Here everything a skier could want and then some can be found, from restaurants, bars and cafes to boutique shopping to the Casino de Mont-Tremblant, plus a fine mix of hotels. A cabriolet whisks visitors across the center of the car-free village, where two gondolas and a chairlift also emanate.
The sprawling 662 acres of Mont Tremblant is home to 96 trails on four distinct mountain faces; 53% of the trails are novice and intermediate, while the remaining trails are expert runs. A snowmaking system of 1,066 guns covers 445 acres. The vertical drop is an impressive 2,116 feet from the south side of the mountain.
Of the 49 miles of trails, Nansen is longest run is called at nearly 4 miles. Seven chairlifts and two gondolas get you up the mountain, which also features 88 acres of glade skiing and 3 snow parks.
So there you have it, a thumbnail look at three of the dozen ski resorts in the scenic Laurentian Mountains of southern Quebec. Plenty of good snow and great skiing await, I’m sure, as does a balmy warming trend. Last time I checked, high temps in the subzero and single-digit range were giving way to days in the 20s. I’ll see how that plan pans out, but no matter, this skier is packing plenty of fleece and goose down and lots of hand and toe warmers. And a cork screw and beer cozy. Oh Canada! Let the winter games begin…
Montreal is 280 miles and a little over 5 1/2 hours driving time from Portland. Be sure to bring your passport and a big desire for winter fun!
Tourisme Laurentides, 800 561-NORD (6673)
Mont Saint Sauveur, 450-227-4671
Mont Blanc, 800-567-6715
Mont Tremblant, 888-738-1777