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Family weekend near Montreal

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Hello,

Preamble:

Last years my kids took an 8-week program in St. Louis Moonstone and got comfortable on the green and blue slopes there. They also tried the blacks but were mostly controlling their speed (I think they reached level 3 or 4, whatever that means).
This year we've decided to enrol them again so I hope they will improve further.

I promised them that I'll take them to a "real" mountain this year. At the time that meant Tremblant but lurking here a bit showed me some alternatives like Sutton, Bromont, etc.

We'll be going on a mid-February long weekend.
Driving from Toronto, just me and the kids (ages 7 & 11).

Now for the question:

What resort(s), in your opinion, would give the best overall experience to the kids?

Please keep in mind that driving from Toronto to Tremblant is ~7 hours, which is doable but I prefer not to go over that (single driver).

Also I'd like to have decent accommodations and food available for reasonable prices.

Since it's our first time doing such trip, I'd like to maximize the enjoyment value.

Thank you,
Alex.
post #2 of 21
What kind of experience? If you need amenities and off-slope distractions then you can't really beat Tremblant, but i can be on the pricey side . If you want some fun skiing and local Quebecois culture, then I would recommend Sutton.
post #3 of 21
Can you come to the states? How big of a mountain does this real mountain have to be?
post #4 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chanwmr View Post
Can you come to the states?
Theoretically yes but the recommendations that I saw were for resorts that required a longer drive (or a flight).

Quote:
Originally Posted by chanwmr View Post
How big of a mountain does this real mountain have to be?
Big enough to make it interesting and worth the drive
I'd guess longer and more varied trails (of the beginner/intermediate variety) than what they're used to.
post #5 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexo View Post
Theoretically yes but the recommendations that I saw were for resorts that required a longer drive (or a flight).


Big enough to make it interesting and worth the drive
I'd guess longer and more varied trails (of the beginner/intermediate variety) than what they're used to.
Holiday Valley (holidayvalley.com) and Holimont (a private hill that is opened to the public only during the week) in Ellicottville, NY are not huge. They are right next to each other and between them they should have what you're looking for. Lots of beginner/intermediate terrains. Family friendly. Fun town. It's less than 1.5 hours from the Niagara Falls border.
post #6 of 21
You might want to check out Owl's Head and Jay Peak.
post #7 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexo View Post
What resort(s), in your opinion, would give the best overall experience to the kids?
Le Massif > MSA > Bromont > Sutton > Tremblant (too busy)

Holiday Valley is no better than Blue Mtn IMO, so head east not south .
post #8 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jdistefa View Post
Le Massif > MSA > Bromont > Sutton > Tremblant (too busy)
Thank you for the comparison, but could you please state the criteria that it is based on?

Le Massif and MSA are 9.5 hours away, that's too far.
How do Bromont and Sutton compare to Tremblant (and to each other) given the age and skiing ability I mentioned?

Thank you,
Alex.
post #9 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by jdistefa View Post
Le Massif > MSA > Bromont > Sutton > Tremblant (too busy)
I second this although I have never actually skiied at Bromont, only mountain biked. I am not sure that I would put Bromont ahead of Sutton, but at Bromont you can night ski. I would rate Sutton, Jay, and Bromont as different but about equal.

Massif is just awesome. The runs, the location, the snow are all great. On hill food is fantastic but you won't get burgers and fries in the cafeteria. It's owned by the guy who owns the Cirque de Soleil and he is big on showcasing the local Charlevoix region. Almost everything has a local twist to it. Biggest downside is there is no on-hill accommodation, but there is some close by.

MSA - great runs for all levels, great location, good snow. Good on-hill accommodations and some amenities. Loads of restaurants with a 10 minute drive.

I have been in the Eastern Townships many times because it is where my wife is from and her father is still there. We always stay with him so we don't take accommodations nor frequent restaurants at or near the hills (we stay in Sherbrooke)

Bromont - can't comment on the skiing, but is easy access from highway(s), night skiing, and there is on hill accommodation and plenty of amenities close by.

Sutton, great skiing when the snow hits. The runs, especially the glades are amongst the best in the east. There is a fair amount of on-hill accommodations. Not sure about restaurants on-hill, but the village of Sutton is close by. A little further off of the highway to get to and the secondary roads can be a bit dicey if you get snow.

Owl's Head, actually the highest of all the Eastern Township mountains, but smallest of the four. Nice and family oriented, not much, if any on-hill accommodations and not much around it except for the nearest village (who's name escapes me). Several old, slow chairs. Tucked back even further off the highway than Sutton (you are not too far from Jay VT at this point).

Orford - nice mountain, lots of runs, closest to Sherbrooke (~30mins) but no on-hill accommodations because it is in a provincial park, but some close by. I would rank it ahead of Owl's Head, but behind Sutton/Bromont. Fairly easy access off the highway.

All of the above will give you a flavour of local Quebecois culture but also have many familiar elements. Owl's Head, Sutton and Massif are the furthest away from "major centres" while Bromont is a decent sized town, Orford is close to Sherbrooke, and MSA is close to Quebec City. In the Eastern Townships, while french is predominant, there is still a lot of english spoken and there are still many english towns. You wont have a problem with language. MSA and Massif are probably a bit less in general, but but they are destinations and they know where the business comes from so language isn't really a problem.

Jay Peak is my favourite of the region. Tons of great runs, great lift system and they get the most snow in the region, presumably because it is one of the largest peaks in the area and generates it's own microclimate including lake effect snow from Lake Memphramagog. Coming from TO, however, may take the longest as you end up having to go past Sutton and Owl's Head to get there on secondary roads. I don't know if there is a better route. Jay has invested a lot in on-hill accommodations with great condos for rent (my wife and son were just there for 8 days a t a pre-season race camp). Amenities at the hill are sparse however. The closest town of significance is Newport VT.

Tremblant, like I have stated before, I am not a fan. Once I-West got in there, it became a haven for pretentious a-holes trying to show off that they have money. While it is one of the biggest in the region, I have never found the skiing to be particularly extraordinary, with only average snow and the actual terrain is all that great. That being said they have opened up a large quantity of terrain that I have never skied. It is often stupidly crowded with a lot of bad skiers/boarder (heard many tales of collisions) and can often be quite cold and with only average amounts of snowfall I have almost always skied on hardpack/ice (except in the spring). On the upside however, it has relatively easy access on the highway from Montreal, massive amounts of accommodations and amenities, but can be on the pricey side.

What about Whiteface/Lake Placid?

Cheers....ZeroG.
post #10 of 21
Great information from ZeroGravity there. Allow me to put in a word for Mont Tremblant though. I't is a mountain your kids will thoroughly enjoy. Tremblant has about a 2,000' vertical drop and lots of long, nicely groomed top to bottom runs for novices through lower level advanced skiers. There is not a lot of really challenging skiing, but there is some, and there is plenty to both bolster you kids confidence and to challenge them as well.

Apres ski beaver tails are a great kid treat in the village and kids also love Le Source, the indoor pool complex in the center of the village. There are a couple of pizza places, a fondue restaurant a crepe place... lots of variety for dining and plenty of stuff the kids will like. And I'm guessing it's the closest big mountain drive for you.

Yes there are better ski areas in the northeast, but for your kids and your drive you won't do better than Mont Tremblant.
post #11 of 21
HOWEVER, if you are planning to go on Ontario's Feb 16 Family Day weekend, know that it coincides with University reading weeks and the U.S. Presidents Day/week when Tremblant will no doubt be very busy with Americans loving our low dollar.
post #12 of 21
crank - I agree. Tremblant is definitely "resort-destination" with plenty to do and average skiing. It is not what I would consider a "skiers-destination". With younger kids it would fit the bill.

Again, my only caution is that for whatever meteorological reasons, it is consistently one of the coldest places I have ever skied, which with young ones can be an issue. If weather is on your side, then it's OK.
post #13 of 21
Zero - great post, thx. You took the words outta my mouth . I put Bromont ahead of Sutton due to the availability of night skiing. FWIW I would avoid Tremblant with kids, especially on weekends.
post #14 of 21
Whiteface is a great choice. Only 5 hours from toronto and you can get some great rates. We went two years ago and had a great time.
post #15 of 21

I'd hit Sutton...

Ahh, fond memories...

I have plagiarized a lot of this post. But than, I wrote the original!

I live in BC now, grew up in Montreal, and Sutton is the only Eastern Townships hill I'd consider returning to for a week. Jay is said to be great...only went there once myself. Largely because of the trees and altitiude, the snow preservation at Sutton is much better than Owl's Head, Orford, or Bromont. Cross country at Orford is absolutely gorgeous.

The resort owners at Sutton are to be commended for leaving glades at a time when other hills were creating ski boulevards in the late '70s.

Unless night skiing is very important to you, remember that night skiing = extra skier traffic = lesser snow quality.

The secondary roads referred to by another poster are good quality 2 lane highways, which do require care when snowy/icy, but are drivable at nearly all times.

Be certain to spend lunchtimes at the restaurant on top of lift 4...funkiest little place with an open fireplace in the centre of the main floor.

And ski from there to lift 5 midweek when they sometimes (used to) have lift 5 closed...beautiful feel to the rolling, challenging terrain under 5, with the chairs silently hanging overhead, before you scoot through gladed shallow-grade slopes back to the base of 4.

The mountain is nicely laid out on a ridgeline, skier's left (trailmap right) easiest to trailmap left (skier's right) hardest, which makes it great for families...no need to worry about anyone accidentally spilling into a trail way too difficult for them.

Enjoy
post #16 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by philipshaw View Post
Ahh, fond memories...


Be certain to spend lunchtimes at the restaurant on top of lift 4...funkiest little place with an open fireplace in the centre of the main floor.


Enjoy
I had forgotten to mention this! Great burgers there, but do either an early or late lunch to get a spot!
post #17 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by crank View Post
Yes there are better ski areas in the northeast, but for your kids and your drive you won't do better than Mont Tremblant.
I think I have to disagree here. Yeah, maybe the attractions are there and so is the hype. Even the selection of terrains is decent. (BTW, I love the food) But, Mont Tremblant is extremely commercial and is very expensive. (and can be extremely cold as well) It's very crowded and is full of tourists with attitude and who have no concern for safety, even when it comes to children (speaking from experience). The ski school is less than par for what they charge. Other than the ethnic atmosphere (which is mostly man-made) and the food, IMHO it's way over rated. Although far smaller, Gray Rocks and Mont Blanc right next door are far more family-friendlier. They also offer far better and cheaper instructions.
post #18 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by chanwmr View Post
I think I have to disagree here. Yeah, maybe the attractions are there and so is the hype. Even the selection of terrains is decent. (BTW, I love the food) But, Mont Tremblant is extremely commercial and is very expensive. (and can be extremely cold as well) It's very crowded and is full of tourists with attitude and who have no concern for safety, even when it comes to children (speaking from experience). The ski school is less than par for what they charge. Other than the ethnic atmosphere (which is mostly man-made) and the food, IMHO it's way over rated. Although far smaller, Gray Rocks and Mont Blanc right next door are far more family-friendlier. They also offer far better and cheaper instructions.
He doesn;t need instruction. The kids are in a program at their home hill and this is meant to be a fun, big mountain, getaway. "Far smaller" does not cut it. Let the kids have some fun.
post #19 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by crank View Post
Let the kids have some fun.
With all due respect, when did I say otherwise? Many other big mountains can offer the same fun. Just not Tremblant.

Also note I asked the OP what his/her definition of big mountain was (concerning their interest and anticipating your type of response), the answer wasn't mega but interesting and worth the drive. To prove that, I take my kids to all sorts of ski areas (within driving distance due to cost) of any caliber, and according to my kids mega isn't always the answer.

Now back to my bashing of Tremblant...How would you like your 8/9yo getting hit from behind by a full size adult and watch him ski off without him even looking back. Well, you say " but it was just him. You can't generalize the demographics". Guess what, there was a storm of people on that hill skiing right next to us (part of the problem for the collision). Not one stopped or even looked our way. Family friendly my ___. I think we can getting better attention even at Hunter and Killington.
post #20 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by chanwmr View Post
With all due respect, when did I say otherwise? Many other big mountains can offer the same fun. Just not Tremblant.

Also note I asked the OP what his/her definition of big mountain was (concerning their interest and anticipating your type of response), the answer wasn't mega but interesting and worth the drive. To prove that, I take my kids to all sorts of ski areas (within driving distance due to cost) of any caliber, and according to my kids mega isn't always the answer.

Now back to my bashing of Tremblant...How would you like your 8/9yo getting hit from behind by a full size adult and watch him ski off without him even looking back. Well, you say " but it was just him. You can't generalize the demographics". Guess what, there was a storm of people on that hill skiing right next to us (part of the problem for the collision). Not one stopped or even looked our way. Family friendly my ___. I think we can getting better attention even at Hunter and Killington.

There is some merrit to your argument here. Our first time there my 7-year-old wanted to ski Expo, the steep run under the lift on the north side. It was too steep for him at the time and he pretty much froze up right at the crux, the steepest pitch which is near the bottom. As I was contemplating how best to coach him down, a snowboarder came skidding to a stop, almost, just uphill from Matt, my son. The boarder skidded, lost his edge, landed on his but, took Matt out. Matt fell right on top of him and the boarder had the presence of mind to grab him and hold him tight to his chest while sliding down the steep slope on his bottom. I remember my wife screaming at me to do something and me knowing there was nothing to do but watch and pick up the pieces at the bottom. Kid was ok, a bit shaken up, covered with snow that the board kicked up, time for a hot chocolat break.

Mont Tremblant is still a fun place and we have been back and skied Expo again, but yeah it can get a bit Killingtonish.
post #21 of 21
Sutton is a nice little town and a good hill. It's laid out along a long ridge, so there are lots of runs and it doesn't bottleneck at the bottom like lots of ski hills do. It gets more snow than all the surrounding areas, except Jay Peak. You could spend a day skiing there and then another day at Owl's Head, Bromont, Jay, or Orford. They're all within a 30 minute drive of Sutton.

Jay Peak is definitely the best ski hill in the area, but only if you can enjoy the glades. If not, it's merely average, and if the wind is howling it can be very unpleasant.

Owl's Head is where I grew up skiing. It's got really nice groomers and a few decent steeps, but nothing extraordinary. It almost never has lineups and the views of Lake Memphramagog are amazing. The downside is the owner grooms everything these days. Runs like the Colorado, which use to a be a great, steep, mogul trail, now get groomed, which takes away half the fun. It also has three detachable quads, but two of them are over 20 years old and the other was also bought used. That said, the lack of lines means you can easily get in 5-6 runs per hour.

I haven't been to Tremblant in years, but I remember it being very crowded, cold, and icy. Same with Bromont. It's expanded a lot recently, and has lots of night skiing, but it's also the closest to Montreal, icy and crowded.
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