The Ultimate Family Vacation
“I know that guy,” I thought to myself. “From high school? University? Does he work at K2, wait, Atomic?” I racked my brain trying to ? gure out how, or possibly if, if I knew this guy at all. Then, for the second time in under a minute, another familiar athletic-looking type entered the airport terminal, also wearing a dark trench coat and carrying an ungainly bag that was too large to be a carry-on. I nearly said a vague “hey,” but he too passed me by without a hint of recognition. Weird. I put it down as déjà vu.
A minute later, I noticed our five-year-old Sophie was standing beside yet another tall trench coat. When I glanced up, I thought this would be easier if I just heard my name being called by an old Maclean Hunter colleague or some long-lost buddy, but instead I heard 10-year-old Heather say quietly, “Daddy, I think Sophie’s with Mats Sundin.”
One of the many beneits of fying Ultimate Ski Vacation’s Excite Flight to Tremblant is the up-close sharing of the executive terminal at Toronto Pearson with pro sports teams, limo’d business tycoons and the occasional rock star. While we were waiting to board our Dash 7, my long-lost buddies in trench coats, Eddie Belfour and Wade Belak, were doing the same for their Airbus. Then again, “waiting” is a bit of an overstatement. Ultimate has simpli?ed the routine wonderfully:
a) Smirk as you drive past the March Break schmozzle at Terminals 1, 2 and 3 to a tiny executive terminal;
b) Say goodbye to your bags as they’re tagged and removed from your car (the next time you’ll see them is when you open your Tremblant hotel or condo door);
c) Park your vehicle (for free) 50 metres or so away from your plane;
d) Follow the red carpet on the tarmac to your seamless two-hour ?ight-and-coach transfer to Tremblant.
Since 2001, these direct ?ights have brought Tremblant closer to its signi?cant Ontario market more than any other program. And in early November, Ultimate announced they would be adding ?ights from Kitchener-Waterloo to the program. Flight times match work and play times for skiers who want more than Collingwood. Accommodation packages at several properties, with lifts, are available mid-December to early April, but even air-only rates are offered to regulars who take the term “weekend warrior” to a whole new level.
And Tremblant, of course, is a fitting world for a service like this. Aside from a massive mountain of terrain, the spectacle of hotel rooms and suites, condos and chalets in an on-hill village like no other in eastern North America is matched by a continually expanding list of shops, restos, pubs and clubs—and a plethora of non-skiing distractions.
We arrived at Tremblant after a freeze-thaw-freeze cycle had left the province’s groomers working overtime to scrub up something on which a pair of skis’ metal edges could grip its 94 runs. Skiing the first couple of days was for the hearty indeed. We gave thanks for our fleece-lined, neoprene face masks (they really do work), chocolat chaud and poutine, and the cozy enclosed gondola in which we forced our children to practise what they’ve learned in French Immersion by joining in on others’ conversations.
But by lunch on our first day, we’d all seen the Activity Centre’s enticing references to dog sledding, horseback riding, nighttime ziplining, tubing, ice climbing, the Aqua Club and so on. So to little surprise, we soon found ourselves sliding into a Kreighoff painting at a nearby dog-sledding operation.
With 86 dogs, Jacques Paradis’s Territoires Nature near St-Rémi d’Amherst isn’t the largest operation around but it was certainly impressive, indeed, the afternoon was one of life’s many highlights. Standing behind eight of the happiest huskies imaginable, I tried to recall Jacques’s rapid instructions on steering and braking, but all I could think about was what a cool hat he’d made out of a beaver pelt. With only eight or 10 near rollovers, I began to get the hang of it, so to speak, and I thought less about stopping my noisy entourage and more about enjoying the crisp blue skies and tight trails that run through the striking birch and hardwoods forest.
Although our afternoon’s highlights were crossing frozen lakes in the blinding sun and stopping for maple taffy, cocoa and learning new Quebecois songs in a tiny log cabin, the most exciting memory was not going faster but the act of stopping. With my two older kids in the sledge screaming louder than the dogs were barking, and me occasionally hovering somewhat above the runners, we came careening down a steep gully as though we were in a French-Canadian James Bond movie.
I noticed the lumberjack shirt waving a tiny “ÂRRET” hexagonal sign at the bottom of the gully early enough (on the edge of a road we were about to cross), but given I was applying my full bodyweight of 135 pounds to the brake and all I seemed to be doing was creating a nice rooster tail behind me, I began to wonder about an emergency anchor—or just screaming “EVERYONE: BAIL OUT NOW!” Instead I began to pull up on the back of the sledge like a wheelbarrow lever and brought my craft to an abrupt stop just as the lead pair of dogs tugged out onto the roadway. Followed a few seconds later—in a sort of Wile E. Coyote vs. the Road Runner moment—by a speeding, fully laden double timber truck.
An incredibly social pack of family-petlike dogs, my kids proudly helped return 40 of them to their houses and continued on to play with some fuzzy little puppies while I toured le cuisine des chiens. (Although impressed, I wasn’t ready to sample.) Incredibly one frisky team-member was 14. Diet and exercise.
One could use this mantra on a visit to Tremblant. There are so many choices to eat in the village now, the condo kitchen is really there for breakfast only. The exercise part comes in the form of skiing and the earlier-mentioned list of non-skiing activities. Given our family’s age range, a pool, any kind of pool, is still a big plus when on holiday. Swinging from the Tarzan rope into one of the AquaClub’s pools, though, set a new standard for the kids. I considered it training and exercise before they’re old enough to be leaving Mum and Dad in the hot tub after a day of high-speed Tremblant groomers while they head out to dance on the bar at Le P’tit Caribou.
VERTICAL: 645 metres
Flights, airport parking, transfers, baggage handling, lifts and three nights accommodation from $695 (Toronto) $753 (Waterloo) plus GST.
877/266-5687Tags: family ski vacation, Jacques Paradis’s Territoires Nature, Mont-Tremblant, Q.C., QC, Québec, St-Rémi d’Amherst, Tremblant, Ultimate Ski Vacation