It’s a sunny February afternoon in upstate New York. My calves and abs are worked over, the left ass cheek is bruised and my whole body just feels abused. I’m riding in the back next to the gear of a white Chevy Tahoe, streaked brown from the ice, sleet and snow of the mountains of Canada. It’s the final leg of a long weekend road trip, snowboarding at Mount Tremblant and the six of us are reluctant to return to New York, yet you couldn’t tell based on the upbeat comradely from a great excursion.
Our trip started just after the close of business office hour bells ring, Thursday. We all met at the car rental office, an Alamo rental agency and one of the most disrespectfully run businesses I’ve been to this week (next to K-mart where I over heard floor managers swear at each other in front of customers). It’s amazing this place stays above water, when you get a feel for the caliber and intelligence of the counter workers employed at this place. Blank stares, unintelligible engrish and poor service including a dirty car (i.e. trash & cookie crumbs all over the interior) and no gas in the tank. Tim, Scott, Greg, Nicole, the Law, and myself packed the car and headed north on the New York throughway to the boarder and our final destination of Mount Tremblant, which is just shy of two hours north of Montreal, Quebec.
Originally planning a 2 am arrival, rather we sloshed grill first on through a fierce ice storm just north of Montreal. We finally arrived, cramped, restless, yet excited at 4 am, greeted by Luke, the night clerk(aka the “silent killer”) of the Chateau Beauvallon. The Chateau, a few minutes drive down from Mount Tremblant Resort and Village, a newly renovated resort-style hotel, reviving one of the oldest ski lodges in North America. One of our friend’s families are part investors of the Chateau, where they receive a rental dividend of the establishment and a “time share” for personal use, in this case our use for this weekend. The hotel was designed more with the old Inn or comfortable ski lodge feel as you’re welcomed by mahogany front desk, stone and hardwood floors, historic photographs of yore, plush couches and chairs surrounding a traditional stone hearth fireplace. The accommodation bonuses we enjoyed were the heated indoor pool, outdoor spa (with a heated pathway), seclusion from the noise of the village (however, always available through the free on-demand hotel shuttle). Our 4 day residence was much like an 2 bed, 2 bath (each with heated floors) apartment with leather furnishings, more mahogany paneling, a full kitchen with complete set of utensils and cooking gear, flat screen TVs, and a balcony overlooking the outdoor spa and snow covered pool.
Because of the 10 hour car ride, the delay on our arrival, and the rain to ice storm the night of our arrival, Friday we made the executive decision to relax into our accommodations, play tourist and of course! have a drinking day… The storm had settled however, the temperature had now dropped to a “bone chilling” -17 degrees Celsius (I now know what that description means after this trip). Minus the gear, we drove to local town, St. Sauviant that afternoon for lunch, wisely foregoing another 4+ hours of driving to skip the day trip to Montreal. That evening we heard there was a 60 car pile up from the sever wind and storm conditions on the highway north of Montreal, something we most certainly would have been caught up in. We at lunch at a decent grill on the small town main drag, where the most memorable aspect being the low sodium French Onion soup. A few blocks of walking and we were ready for warmer environments. On the way back to the Chateau we stopped by a ski shop and I made the best purchase of the weekend : a face mask for the slopes (I wouldn’t have survived the wind chill/burn without it).
The morning of our arrival the hotel was decorated with balloons, Olympic and Italian flags and mock Olympic medals. Upon return the red carpets were rolled out, disco lighting and acid jazz was playing through the hotel (and apparently they forgot to change the CD through out our stay as it played over…and over… and over every night). The media was there and all the Chateau office staff was decked out. Our break, this weekend was the Chateau’s Grand Opening and the evening was their night of celebration. The construction was finished last year and their doors opened Dec. 15th, however, they but pushed back the party to the 18th of Feb. to avoid the holiday madness. The Friday night party included a free open-ice-bar, some down home entertainment and the molasses boys from La Sucrerie De La Montagne with their iced sticks of sweet goodness – ah Quebecois!. The hotel owners provided speeches, cut the ribbon on the Chateau, and after the fireworks celebrated with booze, salmon orderves, free booze and fiddles! Greg and I closed out the bar that evening, unfortunately…
Boarding day, Saturday… and knowing that the weather the nights before had iced the runs, we had some work to do to cut some new trails. We started late from a late evening, skipping breakfast and this would be my downfall… Taking a half day after getting our lift tickets, I made my first run and could already feel the sickness kick in. It wasn’t till the gondola ride up that I broke and at the top lost what breakfast muffin and power aid I had stomached. The rest of the day for me was cut short but not a wash… the lodge was a spot to catch up and “get back to normal”.
The next day, however, was excellent despite having the coldest conditions I’ve ever boarded in. Minus 20 degrees F in the early morning oh wait but it warmed up to about minus 10 that afternoon. Unfortunately my rental board was thin and I had some significant toe drag but the long runs lead for some great times. The views of the valley were awesome, especially sliding down the front side of Mount Tremblant. I had only wished I had my skill back to enjoy more of the mountain, alas… next time around.
And next to boarding the next best thing was the hot spa after a few beers back at the hotel. Drinks and some aching bodies, the NY team was battered, cut from diving into the ice after the spa, bruised from sliding off the hits and exhausted from the altitude. Our last evening was wasted watching the wonderful Canadian coverage of the Winter Olympics. Not in the US will you see 4 full channels of Olympic coverage, with minimal commercial interruptions and full viewing of all athletes and sports competitions. On that last note, I have to say I’m very disappointed in the American coverage of the US Olympics in general. It is like the athletes have stated, the Olympics are not about the medals; it’s about the experiences, the competition, the events and the communal nature of bringing together the nations of this world to celebrate human achievement. It’s also quite unfortunate that American coverage did not accent this aspect of the games which was especially true when no podium ceremonies were broadcasted where the Americans were not gold medalists. May we in the future learn to appreciate all world participants regardless of their country of origin, and we’ll get that much closer to world equality of mankind.
The close of our trip was a long 8 hour ride back through Canada, across the boarder and through the state of New York. We made good time and I could not wait to crash back into bed.
A small clip from our drive through the snow storm (Driving Clip)
The full gallery of our trip