Our Ski & Sports Tours Manager, Mike Varley, has just returned from a week in Quebec, visiting Mont Tremblant, Stoneham, Mont Sainte Anne as well as Quebec City and Montreal. Having skied in over 100 resorts, here’s Mike’s lowdown on how these Canadian offerings compared…
Located 90 minutes north of Montreal is the largest resort in the Laurentian mountain range, Mont Tremblant. Voted #1 ski destination in Eastern North America by Ski Magazine readers for 19 years in a row, Mont Tremblant has a solid reputation and is one of Rayburn’s newest resorts on offer.
First things first, it’s certainly convenient. With all accommodation within easy reach of the lifts (100m max) and an attractively designed town with shops, cafes and restaurants, Tremblant seems to have everything a group could need. It also has lots to do away from the slopes including ice skating, tubing, swimming, bowling and even an Escape Room.
But what about the skiing? Offering 665 acres and approx. 79km of groomed trails, across four sides of one mountain, the key to Tremblant is that it offers something for everyone. From the peak, you have long gentle green runs and rolling blues, as well as the direct black and double black diamond runs back to the base. The runs are long too, with the longest coming in at 6.5km. Skiers of all abilities will feel like they have used their pass to the max as they explore the charm of the North Side, the sun of the Soleil side, the fun of the South side and, for the better skiers only, the exhilaration of ‘the Edge’.
We moved back towards Montreal and then a further three hours north east alongside the St Laurence River on our journey to Quebec City. Within easy reach of the Quebec capital is the resort of Stoneham, a slightly smaller resort (333 acres/32km) than Tremblant but one which offers beautiful skiing over two peaks, with trails through the trees and lovely glade skiing. As Stoneham is only 20 minutes from Quebec City, it really is a local’s mountain but that means that day skiers come at the weekend leaving a queue free resort, with great beginner slopes – perfect for school groups.
At the base of the resort is the Hotel Stoneham; facing the slopes directly this is the definition of convenient! So ski here by day, enjoy snow based activities by night and pop into the city on one or two evenings and you really do have a great ski week.
Another option is to ski Mont Sainte Anne, located 35 minutes from Quebec City. Owned by the same company as Stoneham, the two resorts can both be skied on one pass, making for a two resort ski week. Mont Sainte Anne is slightly larger (547 acres/73km) than Stoneham offering skiing on two sides of the mountain. With one end of each side being slightly steeper, there is skiing for all abilities – where better skiers can ski through the trees in the prepared glades or take on the challenge of the black diamonds.
At the base is the Chateau Mont Sainte Anne: a superb, trail side hotel which is perfect for any school. Large rooms, in house ski hire, pool and hot tubs, games room, conference room, convenience store and large restaurant, make it an ideal base for a great week skiing.
When staying in the Quebec region, the key cultural difference from the rest of Canada is the prominence of the French language. Whilst everyone speaks English and French in the ski resorts, head further into the region or even to Quebec City and you’ll find English isn’t so common.
Quebec City was first settled in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain and his crew and the French influence remains today. In winter, the St Laurence River freezes over, though it remains navigable by ships with large ice breakers on the front. This, in turn, makes for an almost magical visit enhanced by the incredible Chateau Frontenac which dominates the skyline. The city is compact and safe with shops, historical sites plus a river side sledging track. It’s unique in North America and a great place to practise your French too!
Located back down the Saint Laurence River, Montreal is the Quebec region’s biggest city and is much more internationally renowned. Located on a series of islands, its old town boasts historical monuments, trendy cafes and shops. It’s also home to the Montreal Canadians Hockey Team and jerseys and team colours can often be spied as you walk around the city. You can visit the stadium, the Olympic park (from the ’76 games), take a walking tour and try some local food; Montreal is historical, cosmopolitan, French and Canadian and is a great city to visit after a week skiing.
All in all, Quebec has a lot to offer a UK school group. Hotels are always modern and convenient, the skiing caters for all abilities and the cities are charming and interesting places to visit. However, the stand out factor to this whole area is how unique it is; the French aspect makes this North American adventure one that leaves a lasting impression and one that I would be happy to advise everyone to try!