This article, and distribution, was paid for by the Canadian Ski Council and produced in conjunction with POWDER.
Words by Joe Cutts
Best news ever: My Verizon cell service now works just fine, with no rip-off roaming fees, when I head north into Canada. Gone is the major annoyance of flying blind, without GPS, through rush-hour Montreal.
Still, it’s always nice to have the big city in the rearview mirror. The traffic eases, and I can relax and look forward to the fun of a return visit to the ski slopes of the Laurentian Mountains.
American skiers might wonder why it’s worth the extra drive time to do their skiing north of the border. When people ask me how the skiing is up there, I tell them it’s pretty much like the skiing in Vermont: similar geography, equally pretty views. Sometimes there’s better snow. Sometimes the exchange rate makes everything seem like a great deal. And sometimes you can escape the mobs of U.S. vacation weeks like President’s Day and the MLK holiday.
PHOTO: Tremblant, Courtesy of TQ/C.Mercier
But the real reason you come here is for something different. People who’ve been to the Laurentians often describe it as feeling like a trip to Europe without the jetlag, and it’s true. I don’t entirely agree when people say it’s like France. It’s Québec. But yes, you’ll need all the high-school French you’ve got up here, and unlike a trip to, say, British Columbia or Alberta, a trip to Québec feels very much like going to a different and exotic country.
About a half hour north of Montreal, Autoroute 15 leaves the St. Lawrence River valley and begins its ascent into the rolling Laurentians (or Laurentides, as the Québecois call them). There are a dozen or so ski areas along the way, ranging in size from small to midsized, and at night their illuminated slopes line the highway like a string of holiday lights leading up to the big one, Tremblant.
One of the oldest Laurentian ski areas—and still one of the most beloved by Montreal skiers—is Sommet Saint-Sauveur, which was actually founded by a well-known American. Saint-Sauveur was the very first ski venture of Fred Pabst, the Milwaukee beer baron, who would go on to build North America’s first ski-area conglomerate way back in the 1930s, with Vermont’s Bromley as its flagship. Today Saint-Sauveur is known for its skiing nightlife, with miles of lighted trails and plenty of convivial action in its base-area bars.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Sommet Saint-Sauveur
Another notable destination is lively Mont-Blanc. Though its 688 feet of vert may not rival that of its Chamonix namesake, Mont-Blanc’s extensive and imaginative terrain parks are highly regarded among Laurentian freestylers. Freestyle is big up here, and like Mont-Blanc, most Laurentian resorts have top-notch pipes and parks, many of which well-lit for nighttime action.
Of course, most Americans who come this far north are headed to Tremblant, the Laurentians’ biggest resort. And they come as much for the famous Tremblant village as they do the skiing.
Developed at huge expense during Intrawest’s tenure here, Tremblant’s base village, with its unmistakable sense of place, is still regarded in the ski industry as an exemplary model of slopeside development. Visually, it’s emphatically Québecois, reminiscent of one of the historic neighborhoods of Montreal or Québec City. Its red- and green-roofed buildings are closely clustered, crowding narrow pedestrian-only alleys that open onto broad plazas—shops, cafes, and restaurants at street level, residences above. From the windows of your fireplaced condo, the nighttime view of a warmly lit streetscape bustling with happy skiers rivals the summit’s daytime view of Lac Tremblant and the surrounding mountains.
PHOTO: Mont Blanc
The village garners a lot of attention, but the quality of Tremblant’s skiing is also paramount. If you want to relax and cruise, zoomy corduroy groomers abound. If you want to get after it, head for the back side, or Versant Nord, for bumps or glades.
But trust anyone who’s ever been the to the Laurentians: Where you really want to get at after it is at the table. Even in the summit lodges, cafeterias, casual bars and cafes, Quebec’s love affair with good food is on display. And in the candlelit dining rooms of the Laurentians’ many fine restaurants and boutique inns, the culinary experience typically rises to the sublime.
So remember to bring your passport, leave your diet at home, and consider bringing a European approach to your ski vacation here. Ski a little, eat a little, relax, repeat. No one ever died of too much poutine. Or if they did, they died happy.
Start the year focusing on you with a women’s getaway. (Sunday River)
Whether you want to take your skiing and riding to the next level, tackle fears or just take time for yourself, there’s a women’s program at a Northeast resort that can fit the bill.
Sunday River’s Holiday Hangover, Jan. 4-6, 2019, is a women-only wellness weekend that focuses on fitness, food, and above all, fun. “We came up with the Holiday Hangover concept to provide women with a chance to unwind after the busy holiday season. By combining an opportunity to ski, shop, dine and do yoga, attendees have the opportunity to connect with like-minded women with a passion for the outdoors. Hosting it at our slopeside Jordan Hotel also gives the feeling of a true escape, as it is tucked away at the western-most point of our resort,” Sunday River’s Karolyn Castaldo told SnoCountry.com.
Celebrating some girl time at Sunday River. (Sunday River)
While many women’s clinics focus on improving their skillset, Castaldo told us Sunday River wanted this to be more of a celebratory and relaxing experience. There will be the opportunity to take lessons for those who would like to, but the itinerary is geared towards fun.
Camraderie helps women tackle the slopes. (Windham/Facebook)
Developed by ski-guru, Mermer Blakeslee, the Fear Workshop at Windham Jan. 23-25, 2019, is three days of total immersion to help women face their on-mountain fears. A huge part of becoming a better skier is letting go and allowing gravity to work its magic. This workshop will help women reach their full potential.
Windham also hosts Off-Piste Prep For Women, Feb. 7-8, 2019, for skiers who want a supportive environment to develop the skills and tactics necessary to ski ungroomed terrain, including bumps, powder, crud, and steeps.
Boost confidence and gain skills at Okemo’s Women’s Alpine Adventures. (Okemo)
Okemo’s Women’s Alpine Adventures has women returning year after year to take part in a program designed exclusively for women and led by some of the best women ski and snowboard coaches in the business. In a supportive and social environment, participants quickly overcome fear, boost their confidence and gain skills, all while making new friends. Whether you join the Intensive 2-Day programs or immerse yourself in the Premier 5-Day program, you will come away with a sense of accomplishment.
Learn from Accomplished skier Donna Weinbrecht at Killington. (Killington)
Join Olympic gold medalist and world champion mogul skier, Donna Weinbrecht, and Killington Resort’s top female coaches for an unforgettable learning experience specifically designed for ladies only. The two-day camp, available January 26-27, 2019 or February 23-24, 2019 includes a welcome party at Preston’s Restaurant at the Killington Grand Hotel, two days of all-female coaching, lunch and video analysis. If mastering the bumps is on your bucket list, Donna also coaches a co-ed model camp.
From groomers to steeps to bumps, tackle any terrain with the Loon Performance Camp. (Loon/Facebook)
Guided by Loon’s expert female coaches and K2 Alliance members, you’ll gain knowledge and skills to tackle any type of terrain across the resort’s three peaks at the Women’s Performance Camp, Jan. 26 – 27 or Feb. 28 – March 1, 2019. This is the perfect opportunity to make new friends, explore the mountain, and take skills to the next level. Run by women, for women, the two-day camp features more than 12 hours of coaching, video analysis, and the chance to demo the latest K2 skis.
This article, and distribution, was paid for by the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism in New York’s Adirondacks and produced in conjunction with POWDER.
Words by Caitlin Kelly.
We were all watching the forecast, but we felt it in our knees. A major storm was blowing through Upstate New York’s Adirondacks, and everyone was talking – the highwaymen, the bartender paying off her season pass, the school kids, and the ski bums. Overnight totals were spelled out in feet, not inches.
On the second morning of the storm, I woke to one alarm – no snooze option. I pulled the shades and squinted out to a white world. I threw together breakfast and jumped in the car with Char, a friend who had just started skiing that year.
Forever Wild at New York’s Whiteface Mountain. Photo: Jacob Sporn
She had the powder bug as bad as I did, eager to leave the house early to get in the front of the lift line, to spend the day practicing her turns and relishing the coveted Adirondack March snowstorm. We drove the partially plowed roads to Whiteface Mountain, giddy while stuffing egg sandwiches into our faces.
I quickly found myself alone after racing off the gondola, storm clouds and snowflakes darkening the morning sky. Topping off at Little Whiteface, the eight-person gondola gives just enough time to warm up from the mid-winter chill. I beelined for Upper Northway, a trail I knew would be sheltered from the storm’s winds, and dropped in. I let go of my hard-carving ways (early morning groomers at Whiteface are hard to beat), and settled into the soft flight of powder skiing. This was the storm of the winter.
Powder blinded me with every turn. I couldn’t see my skis below me. It didn’t matter. “New York? New York?! I’m in New York!” I hooted and hollered, scoring one of the best runs of the season.
Adirondack skiing awaits in the northernmost part of the state anywhere from five to seven hours from the urban associations of New York City. Past the Catskills and toward the source of the Hudson River, the Adirondacks feature the tallest mountains in the state-46 peaks at over 4,000 feet and the highest, Mount Marcy, rises to 5,344 feet. Here at the heart of the state lies the Adirondack Park.
“Forever Wild” the constitution promises, and wild it truly is. Across six million acres of protected public and private land, including the constitutionally protected Forever Wild area of Adirondack Park, eight ski areas dot the landscape and an outdoor culture that keeps them alive.
To the south lies Gore Mountain in North Creek, where river rats retire for the winter after a season of rafting on the Hudson and families drive up from nearby Saratoga Springs and Albany to spend the day sliding on snow. Gore is a humble mountain, not giving away all its secrets at once. Its glade skiing is some of the best in New York, and boasts the most terrain in the state, with 42 miles and 439 acres across four mountains.
The North Creek Ski Bowl is one of them, which opened in 1934 when the “Snow Train” was rolling from downstate to the Southern Adirondacks. Having four peaks to choose from, Gore feels like a wide mountain, giving skiers ample options and a sense of adventure. However, Gore also boasts “The Rumor,” arguably the steepest trail in the East, of which I can attest to (having also skied Sunday River’s “White Heat,” another trail in contention).
Farther west, surrounded by wilderness on all sides, lies 2,400-foot Oak Mountain, a small ski area in the town of Speculator. An easy drive from downstate, Oak offers affordable lift tickets and a family friendly atmosphere. The mountain has 22 trails that cover a variety of skill levels. The Acorn Pub and Eatery has live music and some of the best après ski food around-the head chef was a finalist in Gordon Ramsay’s TV show “Hell’s Kitchen.” Every March, the annual cardboard sled race takes place, a hilarious showing of well-decorated sleds and wipeouts galore.
New York’s northernmost ski resort is 2,025-foot Titus, a mountain that rises above the plains of northern New York. Less than 30 minutes from the Canadian border, it’s one of the only New York resorts that offers night skiing, and was voted number one family friendly resort in North America by Liftopia’s Best in Snow Awards. With several colleges in the area, Titus acts as the perfect post-class ski fix, with students taking advantage of the $20 Thursday lift tickets (day and night).
The view from the top is an unexpected bonus – the sea of southern Canada stretching to the north, and the foothills and mountains of the Adirondacks to the south. I’ve never waited in a lift line longer than a few people, with the mountain boasting 50 trails over three peaks.
Whiteface Mountain. Photo: Jacob Sporn
In the High Peaks Region of the park, an area defined by the concentration of mountains that rise above 4,000 feet, is Whiteface Mountain. It’s the “Olympic Mountain” isolated in the sky, standing out on the horizon far off from the rest of the High Peaks. It’s always visible from nearby Lake Placid and always seems to be covered in the glow of fresh snow.
With 3,430 feet of vertical, Whiteface has the most vertical drop east of the Rockies, and three peaks to choose from. A true top to bottom run will leave the legs screaming. From the summit on a sunny day, you can look off to the Great Range, which includes 5,344-foot Mount Marcy, the tallest mountain in New York, and the ski jumps that loom over the village of Lake Placid – remnants from another time.
Whiteface Mountain. Photo: Jacob Sporn
And if the storms don’t come, or a February thaw leaves the mountain reeling, Whiteface has top-notch snowmaking. With 99 percent coverage capability, snowmaking piles up snow in even the unluckiest of seasons. Come late season, ski patrol will open the Slides, a side-country big-mountain skiing experience that will have you wondering if you’re in the middle of a backcountry ski tour, or even on the East Coast at all.
New York state is huge, full of character surging throughout each region. From the summits of these ski areas – Gore and Whiteface run by the state, Oak and Titus privately owned – wilderness beckons. Additionally, Pisgah, West, and McCauley ski areas are regional options, as well. Lakes and rivers stretch on for hundreds of miles; condos, clear-cuts, and extravagant resorts are non-existent. The land that lies between is protected, and will be forever. These resorts encourage visitors to get out into the local towns, explore the richness and wild character so specific to the Adirondack region.
The relationship between these ski areas and the towns below is symbiotic. People come to the area to go skiing, but fall in love with the kindness given at the gear shop in town, the meal they had at a café offering local foods. And, of course, the mountains. There isn’t anything like the wildness found in this part of the state. The skiing that happens in the Adirondacks seems to transcend ego and expensive gear. It’s accessible and gets back to the roots of the sport: having fun while going fast downhill.
Wednesday, they announced that they will be giving all of that $10 million to groups that are defending our planet.
Since 1985, Patagonia has pledged 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment.
“We have always paid our fair share of federal and state taxes,” said Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario. “Being a responsible company means paying your taxes in proportion to your success and supporting your state and federal governments, which in turn contribute to the health and well-being of civil society.
“Taxes fund our important public services, our first responders and our democratic institutions. Taxes protect the most vulnerable in our society, our public lands and other life-giving resources. In spite of this, the Trump administration initiated a corporate tax cut, threatening these services at the expense of our planet.”
On Black Friday in 2016, Patagonia donated 100% of sales* to grassroots organizations working to create positive change for the planet in their own backyards.
“Catastrophe is here, and we need all the help we can get to address the climate crisis,” said Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. “Our government continues to ignore the seriousness and causes of the climate crisis. It is pure evil. We need to double down on renewable energy solutions. We need an agriculture system that supports small family farms and ranches, not one that rewards chemical companies intent on destroying our planet and poisoning our food.
“And we need to protect our public lands and waters because they are all we have left.”