By Ann Schissler – I’ve been skiing for many years. So many I prefer not to share the actual number. But in all my time as a skier there is one thing I’d never done until my recent visit to Mont Tremblant.
As a ski writer I receive quite a few perks from the various ski areas when I’m invited to be a guest. One of these is the opportunity to go skiing before the mountain is open to the public. It’s called First Tracks. In most cases host dignitaries meet you and act as guides to really show you their mountain. They want to make certain that you experience the best trails, lifts, grooming etc.
For my husband, David, this is one of his absolute favorite things to do. I simply didn’t get why. It’s dark, cold, and there seems to be ample time during the day to get in more than enough runs. Not to mention the fact that I’m definitely not a morning person. I’d hear him rummaging around the room trying to be quiet so as not to wake me, then the door would close and I’d roll over in my snug bed with a satisfied smile on my face and go back to sleep with a plan to meet up later.
The first night of the trip we were dining as a group sharing tapas at Gypsy when I asked a few people around me if they would be skiing First Tracks in the morning. Everyone gave me an enthusiastic “yes”. One of them told me they too absolutely hated to get out of bed, but I was missing out on a wonderful chance to participate in the best skiing of the day. She explained that I’d been given the chance to make the mountain my playground for an hour before anyone else could be on the hill. She told me about miles of untouched corduroy, the way the light changes with dawn’s arrival and the quietness of it all. It was like flipping a switch. I finally got it, I knew right then I was in. Then I remembered, I’m in the market for new skis and have been demoing high end performance skis this winter and didn’t have my own with me. First Tracks gets you on the mountain at 7:30 a.m., long before the ski shops open. I realized my dilemma and went to Isabelle Vallée, PR Manager at Mont Tremblant, friend and truly one of the happiest most positive women I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Isabelle thought for a moment, asked me what size ski boot I wear and then said, no problem, you can borrow my skis. I will ask Marc-Andre Audet, to meet us at the Gondola in the morning and he will adjust the bindings and get you set up. I was just blown away. Her generosity was extraordinary. Isabelle’s Salomon’s were fabulous as was her dedication to ensure my overall experience exceeded any expectations. She succeeded in a big way. Merci, Isabelle!
The alarm rang at 6:15 am. My sleepy self stirred and I immediately had second thoughts, but I soldiered on and checked out the weather forecast on my iPad. That’s when I discovered the temperature was right around -12 degrees Fahrenheit. I moved on to third thoughts, which I quickly dismissed and got about the business of dressing for the day remembering that layers are good. We arrived at the base of the gondola on time at 7:30 and met up with our group. I was amazed at the number of people in the queue at that time of day. That’s when I learned another fact that makes Tremblant stand apart from other areas. Usually First Tracks are only offered to a select few like press members and VIP’s, but Tremblant offers them to anyone. You simply pay an additional $20 on top of the lift ticket price to take part. Our guides, in this case, executive leaders, escorted us to the lift and we headed to the top. Upon arriving the sun was just breaking over the peaks. The views were amazing. After taking a moment to break into groups based on ability, we put on our skis and began our descent. That was another misconception I had regarding First Tracks. I believed everyone would be an expert skier and I would hold the others back. That was not the case. There is a group for every level . Tremblant is so dedicated to you enjoying your skiing experience they offer free guides to everyone unfamiliar with the mountain. They want to ensure you don’t end up somewhere out of your comfort zone. Everything was exactly as my friend had described, miles of pristine corduroy, an enveloping quiet, startling beautiful dawn light and steep cruisers to fly down again, and again and again.
Without a doubt this mountain is wonderful, but the thing that makes Tremblant so special is definitely the people. My dad was of French Canadian decent. Listening to people conversing in French was like hearing my father talking with my grandparents and aunts and uncles at the kitchen table. Familiar, warm and welcoming. While riding the chair lift with Neil Champagne, VP Operations, he mentioned that he felt as though part of the area’s allure is the feeling of community you experience when visiting. There’s a special sense of comradery, and kinship that prevails. The French Canadians exude “bonhomie” and it’s a wonderful thing to be on the receiving end. So point your compass North of the border and treat yourself to the warmth you’ll find there in the heart of the people.
Merci beaucoup to all of our Canadian friends, Isabelle Vallée, Public Relations Manager and Marc-Andre Audet, Great Guy and Awesome Skier, Annick Marseille, PR Advisor, Neil Champagne, VP Operations, Annique Aird, VP Sales, Marketing & Communications, Alex Legault, Communications & PR Advisor. Tres bien.