Apr 6, 2010
Author: Dean Seguin
Often overshadowed by the shiny appeal of Tremblant or draw of the Quebec City area, the resorts of the Eastern Townships aren't generally first on the radar for those planning a trip to La Belle Province. But that low-key vibe is probably one of the best things the area has going for it. Located in the southeastern region of the province, the four main resorts—Bromont, Mont Sutton, Mont Orford, and Owl's Head—sit amongst the Appalachian Mountains and dozens of quaint little towns rich with history. Each of the four resorts are within a 20 to 30 minute drive from each other, which means you can hit them all on the same trip or even the same day.
Hugging the U.S. border, near the small town of Mansonville and right on the shores of Lac Memphremagog, Owl's Head is the furthest out resort in the region. That reason alone is enough to go check out the awesome views from every trail on the mountain. A nearby golf course and great deals on lift passes draw people to the area year-round. Owl's Head even has ski-in/ski-out accommodation at very reasonable rates. It's definitely geared towards families but don't let that deter you—check out a steep 56-degree pitch on "Colorado." This place has had the same owner since it first opened back in the '60s, and he's still heavily involved in the day-to-day operations, including using the trees around the property to make Owl's Head's own maple syrup. Talk about local.
View of Owl's Head on Lac Memphremagog.
Next up, near the cool little town of Magog and now on sale for a loonie, is Mont Orford. Yes, you read that right, for one dollar you can be the proud new owner of 1,933 feet of vertical spread over three mountain faces, plus all buildings, chairlifts and other equipment needed to run the operations. The catch is that you have to run the place for at least five years, and put down a $4-million deposit to back up that promise. But think about it, the place has long, winding runs, heaps of gladed terrain and rocky outcrops, and a hybrid chair-gondola lift that runs from the very bottom to the very top. After your day here, be sure to stop in across the street at the Auberge Aux 4 Saisons d'Orford for a bite or stay in one of its boutique hotel rooms.
Above the clouds at Mont Orford.
Apres-dining at Auberge Aux 4 Saisons d'Orford right down the road from the resort.
Mont Sutton is an absolute gem of the Townships and a must-stop place for anyone serious about not being that serious. Seriously though, this place is as rustic as it gets. And the owners wouldn't have it any other way. Like Owl's Head, Mont Sutton has been in the same family since it first opened its lifts for operation. And let's just say they're hardcore ski enthusiasts. This place has gladed terrain that's as good as anything out west, and they still maintain them with Tucker Sno-Cats from way back when. You're not going to find any wide-open terrain here, but rather a network of cut runs and intertwining wooded trails meeting up with one another at random spots down the mountain. If you imagine the very roots of New England ski heritage, Mont Sutton pretty much epitomizes is it. Now that it's spring, look out for a wild apres scene on the patio of Le Tucker bar and staff keeping the lifts running as late as there are at least two people filling up each chair. Be sure to check out the bars and restaurants in the nearby town of Sutton, including awesome thin crust pizza at Tartinizza.
The awesome things you see riding in the spring. Mont Sutton, Quebec.
Terrace at the top of Mont Sutton.
SBC's Jamie Reekie and Mont Sutton's Nadya Barron in front of one of the resort's old school Tucker Sno-Cats still in operation.
Sampling sweet treats at Tartinizza in Sutton.
Last stop in the Eastern Townships, and the resort closest to Montreal is Mont Bromont. This place bills itself as having seven faces of runs to choose from and the most lit terrain for night riding in North America. Not too shabby for being an hour from the city. Ths time of year is all about making quick laps in the slushy spring snow. The resort is serviced by a large network of lifts and its terrain park is still firing this late into the season. Good time to get a crew together to make work of a few late-season sessions. Grooming is impeccable here, even in the soft snow days of spring where its not uncommon to see the snowcats come out for a mid-day leveling of the snow surface. On top of that, spring parties and packed terraces are how the locals like to rehash a season of riding.
SBC alum Guillaume Pare with Jimmer at the top of Bromont.
The proverbial farmer and his daughters. Everybody gets into spring action here.
While the area gets its fair share of snow (some five metres in areas like Mont Sutton), this time of the year is all about long sunny days and plenty of spring turns. Although many parts of the area are English-influenced, Quebecois culture is everywhere here. That means amazing food, friendly folks, and that certain je-ne-sais-quoi service only found in an area such as this. Take a bit of time to explore some of the backroads winding their way through the area, stumbling upon wineries, cafes, and art galleries along the way. For the ultimate Townships experience after a day of riding, or, heck, even skip a day of riding, head over to Balnea, a Scandinavian-style spa etched out of a rolling hill, along a lake and amongst a private nature reserve.
The scene at Balnea. Not a bad way to relax away an entire day.