Well, the time has come.
The time has come to write my last Tremblant post of the 2016 ski season. And it’s a sad moment. For me, anyway.
Because this is the place that turned winter around for me. It’s because of Tremblant that I’ve welcomed this year’s snowfall. It’s because of Tremblant that my family has an activity we can share together every weekend in the winter months to make it through until the warmer weather greets us. It’s because of Tremblant that I learned new tricks at 40.
As I sit here writing this post, the Canadian/U.S. exchange rate is abysmal. We’re getting a whopping 74 U.S. cents for every loonie. That means that snowbirds are getting hammered. People travelling to the Caribbean — where the U.S. dollar often reigns supreme — who aren’t staying at all-inclusive resorts aren’t doing their wallets any favours.
So, Canada — save your
pennies nickles and travel in Canada. Mont-Tremblant is just one tiny example, but I’m going to use it as a platform to remind you that there are always free things to do no matter where you travel if you look. And there are ways to save money at every corner by doing a little research, planning ahead and getting creative.
And, hey: American friends! Come visit your friendly neighbours to the north! Think of it this way — when you spend a weekend skiing somewhere like Tremblant, you’re getting a 30 per cent discount on, well, everything. Food, lodging, lift tickets. All of it. And we’re super nice up here. Trust me, you’ll love it.
So let’s talk about the free winter-y things you can do once you reach Mont-Tremblant:
- FREE cabriolet — whether or not you need to get from the bottom of the village to the top, or vice versa, a trip or two on the cabriolet is a must. Look for the open, gondola-style lift that connects the upper and lower villages; it transports about six people in each “car,” and it moves fast, so little ones should hold on tight!
- FREE ice skating — head to the lower section of the pedestrian village (if you’re staying up near the Fairmont Tremblant or Le Westin, take the cabriolet down to the bottom; if you’re closer to the Holiday Inn Express, just keep walking downhill) and look for the grey and burgundy chapel. Beside it you’ll find a frozen pond and dedicated skate rental shack. Although the “rink” is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and there’s no cost to skate, if you want to rent skates for free, too, you’ll need to show your resort privileges pass that your hotel will give you when you check into any sanctioned Tremblant property. Skate loans are available from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- FREE night tubing and Zipfy sledding — the bunny hill that sides onto the Fairmont property turns into a nightly family slip-and-slide party that’s free to anyone staying in the Tremblant resort complex (and available for a nominal charge to those who aren’t). One line leads you to Zipfy sleds that can even accommodate someone as big as my husband, while the other leads you to two tubing runs. They’re both packed with fun and it’s probably one of the best laughs your family will share during your visit
- FREE ski guides — I cannot rave about this enough! We didn’t book a ski guide until our third trip to Tremblant, which was probably a good thing because we really worked hard in between to improve our ski skills. Take the main gondola up to the summit where you’ll find a big building called Grand Manitou. In here, there’s a cafeteria, some retail and a customer service desk. Wander over to the service desk and look for the people in the yellow and black jackets; those are the Info Ski Guides and they’re at your disposal for free as long as no one’s booked them ahead of you. We absolutely loved this experience, but it’s important to point out that our kids were in Snow School for three hours, which freed us up to meet up with Patrick, our ski guide, who first assessed our skills on a green hill before declaring us ready for blues and even some blue-black runs! This was the highlight of our trip, taking us across all four faces of the mountain, up five different chair lifts and even to a little log cabin called the Refuge that we never would have found on our own. I never would have had the courage or internal GPS skills to find my way down so many runs on such a huge mountain (remember, there are 96 runs here!). And the fact that it was free was shocking…I still can’t quite believe it
- FREE first tracks tickets — this is another one of those resort privileges that comes with staying at a Tremblant hotel or condo, and it means that you can go up the mountain half an hour before the general public. The runs are freshly groomed and you literally make the first tracks in the snow. Be forewarned that it’s a different feel under your ski and I found myself slipping a bit more than usual, but it was really cool to get out there first and carve the tracks that others would pass over the rest of the day
- FREE gondola rides — I don’t care whether you ever put on a pair of skis or don a snowboard at Tremblant, you HAVE TO go up the gondola to the summit. At nearly 3,000 feet above sea level, it looks over some of the most beautiful and picture-worthy landscape in the country. And again, it’s free if you’re staying at a Tremblant property. But the best part is that the gondola is a two-way ride if you need it to be!
Of course, you can also wander through the village, but in my experience that doesn’t normally end in anything being free, because I’m known to grab a green tea latte at Au Grain de Cafe before shopping far too much. Don’t forget about spending some down-time relaxing at the fire pits dotted throughout the village, too. Because that’s free, and a fun way to meet other Tremblant vacationers.
Looking for other ways to save?
- Look for package deals on sites like Expedia that include air and hotel
- If you live within a reasonable driving distance, road trip it instead of flying (this saved our family of four more than $1,000!)
- Keep an eye on last-minute hotel options up to 72 hrs in advance on tremblant.ca
- Eat at the Fairmont! The buffet at Windigo is free for kids under five and half-price for kids aged 6-11
- Book a room with a kitchen and bring and/or make your own food for some or all meals
- No kitchen? No problem — pick up some pizza and eat it in your room instead of going out
I can’t wait to hear about your Tremblant adventures and tips! Happy wintering…