The transformation is staggering. Just a few years ago, the signature lodging at Quebec's Tremblant was a collection of brightly painted but downright dowdy cottages. Today, a grand palace embedded in the mountainside dominates a new resort village skyline¿an exclamation point that screams: Tremblant is again king of the East and No. 1 in the region in SKI's 1997 Reader Resort Survey.
The Chateau Mont Tremblant is the 26th gem in hotelier Canadian Pacific's glittering strand of upscale lodges. It is arguably the finest hotel in all of Eastern ski country and the equal of CP's long-established ski hostelries that include Quebec City's 104-year-old Le Chateau Frontenac, British Columbia's modern Chateau Whistler and the stately Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta, the first of the CP grand hotels to mimic the baronial castles of Scotland. In fact, the service level at the Chateau Mont Tremblant is nearly royal.
The new Chateau encompasses just enough of the eccentricity, history and feel of la Belle Provence to tell you that you're in the French-speaking Laurentians. Unlike many newer hotels, it is not a building filled with plain-Jane furnishings and carbon-copy art. Instead, antiques and folk art deck the halls.
The Arcop Group architects, who also designed Montreal landmarks such as the World Trade Center and the Casino de Montreal, skillfully captured the look of Old Montreal by creating a building with a main body and a series of annexes. They graced the façade with pitched, ribbed, charcoal-gray rooftops, stucco sidings and fieldstone-covered chimneys that look like they bellow wood smoke but actually conceal intakes and exhausts for the modern heating and cooling system. The inspiration for the hotel, as anyone who works at the Chateau is quick to point out, came from the grand Provençal-style residences of the 19th century, upper-class Quebecois who dominated merchant squares throughout the province. Noted one visitor on his first look at Tremblant's new "Old Quebec" village: "It's France in a more accessible bottle."
When you walk through the Chateau's doors and into the lobby, the distinctive Laurentian design continues. Despite its enormous exterior, the public spaces are intimate. The feeling is warm and welcoming, giving you the impression that you've just entered a petite auberge rather than a 316-room hotel, the largest at the base of any Eastern ski resort. Your eye is drawn to the ceiling, shaped in the form of a giant inverted canoe¿homage to the Quebec folktale of "Chasse-galerie sur le Mont Tremblant," in which homesick Laurentian lumberjacks are transported back to their families in a magical flying canoe. A collection of authentic bark canoes lines the walls, letting you know that the folktale was based in stark reality. The lobby's rustic cast-iron chandelier dangling overhead and the collection of stained and etched glass murals behind the front desk further complement the Quebec legends design theme.
Beyond the lobby is a cheery foyer. Designer Patricia McClintock and her staff searched Quebec's antique shops for furnishings, art and accent pieces that mirror Tremblant's unique character. Look carefully throughout the property and you'll find collections of 19th century chess and checker games, ice skates and maple sugar molds. The table lamps are one-of-a-kind Quebec folk art wood carvings of horses, gendarmes, soldiers and seamen.
Beyond the foyer is a massive winding staircase (its wall lined with sculpted mirrors that once served as church windows) leading to the lower level complete with a health center, a cafe, boutiques filled with local goods and an entrance to village walkways and the ski mountain, mere steps away.
Despite its grandeur, it's the attention to detail that makes the Chateau Mont Tremblant seem even more regal. The custom-designed wrought-iron towel racks in every guest bathroom; the ceilings in the posh guest suites, towering so high at 11 feet thhat even Michael Jordan couldn't easily scrape them. The windows are also a stretch, at 9 feet tall, and open onto postcard views of the mountain, the village and the frozen plain of Lac Tremblant.
It's not surprising that such attention has been lavished on this eastern showcase. The Chateau is the linchpin of a renewal plan sprung by Tremblant owner Intrawest to recapture the glory the resort enjoyed as the capital of Eastern skiing back in the Forties. Canadian Pacific spent more than $47 million on the improvements at the hotel. The expenditure is part of Intrawest's $400 million, five-year investment plan for the area. And adhering to the quality-consciousness that has marked Intrawest developments at resorts such as Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C.; Mammoth, Calif.; Stratton, Vt.; Snowshoe, W. Va., and Keystone, Colo., the Chateau Tremblant combines high technology and comfort, design and warmth and, above all, unique architecture and stellar service.
The seven-story chateau includes 62 luxury suites, a lounge, ballroom, convention center, two restaurants, 17 conference rooms, a training room, shops, an indoor pool and underground parking. Outside, ski-in/ski-out access lets you sample 493 acres of some of the best skiing in the East as well as dogsledding, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing or skating on a Zamboni-groomed pond. Less energetic types can work up an appetite by shopping, bistro-hopping, browsing a bookstore or the local ski museum, or by taking in a first-run flick at Canada's only ski-resort movie house.
The indigenous Algonquins called Tremblant Manitou-Ewitchi-Saga, the Mountain of the Dread Manitou, after their wilderness god. If angered by man's infringement on his terrain, says the local legend, Manitou could call forth storms and falling rock to make the mountain shake. With Intrawest's sensitive development of the mountain and the village, and Canadian Pacific following suit with a hotel that magically mirrors the heritage of the region, Manitou, like Chateau guests, will be resting peacefully.
Bunking In At The Chateau
The Canadian dollar's continued weakness makes Chateau Mont Tremblant vacations a real deal for Americans. While the Chateau's nightly rates for the 1997-98 ski season hadn't been finalized at presstime, leading Canadian tour operator Skican, Ltd. is offering January packages including round-trip airfare between New York City and Montreal, double occupancy lodging, a rental car, lift tickets, tax and gratuities from $490 per person for three nights between Sunday and Thursday. Call: (800) 363-3009.
K+M Ski Vacations January packages include three nights' lodging/two days' lifts, round-trip airfare from New York, airport transfers and taxes for $518 per person. Call: (800) 233-2300.
Rates for a five-day lift/lodging package booked directly through a Chateau reservationist begin at $322 per person, double occupancy. Nightly room rates range from $92-$145, except during peak and holiday periods (when rates typically go up). Call: (819) 681-7000.