My first trip to Mont Tremblant was the first ski trip my wife Pat and I took together. It was February of 1980, and we signed up for a ski week package for the grand sum of $300 each to stay at Cuttle’s Tremblant Club.

The deal included lodging, meals, lift tickets and lessons. Cuttle’s sat on the opposite shore of Lac Tremblant with a great view of the mountain. The big log hotel dripped with ambiance, a piano bar, and featured outstanding meals in the dining room. Gentlemen were expected to wear jackets to dinner.

Although there were other lifts on the mountain, the original single chair was still in operation traveling up along side the famed “Flying Mile” run. The village at the base consisted of the base lodge, the original Tremblant Lodge for a hotel and a handful of smaller buildings housing a pub or two and few shops — all typical of the architecture of rural Quebec. Along with Cuttle’s, there were a number of off-mountain lodges, including a few with their own ski schools. While we had no intention of taking any lessons, we soon learned it was expected of us. So we went along figuring we could soon abandon the ski school. What we got was an opportunity to meet and ski with others staying at Cuttle’s, which made our week that much more enjoyable.

On the mountain, we discovered a wide variety of runs with skiing off the North and South sides. The South side was considered the main part of the area, with a majority of day skiers and buses parked on the North side with its own expansive parking and base lodge. Double chairs on both sides were the primary lifts. We enjoyed exploring the mountain with plenty of challenge, interlaced with novice runs off the summit, allowing lower level skiers an opportunity to enjoy the spectacular views over Lac Tremblant from the top of the tallest peak in the Laurentians. It was a memorable week and we vowed to return.

Fast forward to 2014. In the years in between, we had returned a number of times to Tremblant, watching the transformation from a big mountain with limited facilities to one of the East’s premier resorts. (In the eyes of many, THE premier resort). Tremblant today is a prime example of what more than a billion dollars and careful planning can create. In 1997, we rode high speed lifts, stayed in condo units in buildings designed to resemble the row houses in old Quebec City, and watched as crews erected a large octagonal building about where the quaint base lodge had been in 1980. It separated the lifts from a village square (Place St. Bernard) and would house a restaurant and lounge. Extending down from the square are pedestrian streets, with condo hotel units above shops, pubs and restaurants. Beneath it all is an underground parking complex so large that no cars are needed after check in.

While our own memories go back over 30 years, the history of Mont Tremblant goes back much further. This season the venerable resort celebrated its 75th birthday. The current trail map contains highlights of the past 75 years, how the construction of the original Mont Tremblant Lodge and cutting the Nansen run started in 1938 and the resort opened officially Feb. 12, 1939.

In 1948, the North Side opened but not much happened through a series of owners until the resort was acquired in 1991 by Intrawest — the giant resort development company out of Vancouver. Under a pair $500 million investment plans, new lifts came on, snowmaking was expanded to cover the entire mountain, a 500-seat summit lodge was built, two major on mountain expansions, Versant Edge and Versant Soleil opened and a pair of true championship golf courses opened along with a golf academy.

The last week in February, we returned to Tremblant and found the now familiar village bustling with activity even mid week. Riding the cabriolet (an open-car gondola that carries visitors over the village to the base of the lifts.) we could see more condos climbing the lower mountain to the East and at the end of its own access lift — the new casino. Skiers staying at hotels in the lower end of the village walk a short distance to the cabriolet and ride to the lifts at the top of the village.

We toured the mountain, skiing a number of the older runs and a few of the newer trails, all immaculately groomed. One of the runs on the North side gives evidence to the historic figures who skied here. Lowell Thomas helped to put Mont Tremblant on the map for North American skiers as he not only skied here, but broadcast some of his radio shows from the resort in its earliest years. Now a trail and quad lift carry his name.

Each day’s final run was down Nansen, a winding run to the West providing an easy route from the top that runs right by the Fairmont (Chateau Tremblant when it was built by Canadian Pacific in the 90s before they adopted the Fairmont name.) so skiers can ski up to the entrance outside the ski valet service. Ski down to a lift in the morning and ski back at the end of the day. For skiers in the condo units over the village, there is a ski valet service next to the base of the lifts.

The trail map in 1980 listed 28 trails. The current map lists 92 trails with lifts and lodging to accommodate the skiers they attract, but the attraction is far more than skiing. With the 3-million-person population in and around Montreal only an hour and a half away, the resort is as busy in summer as it is in the winter. Our visit in its 75th year was all we expected and Mont Tremblant will remain on our list of favorites.

See you on the slopes.


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