The attendant at Chalet des Voyageurs bike shop gave my black flip-flops a once-over as he sized me up for a rental. “I see you wore your biking shoes,” he said. I glanced at my hot pink toenail polish, taking in my pale grey capris; at least I was wearing pedal pushers, right?
Almost every weekend in the summer, Mont Tremblant Resort is alive with extreme sports events. The Ironman Triathlon, Mont Tremblant Canada Cup mountain bike race and Spartan Race obstacle course draw huge crowds of athletes and viewers. On this particular Sunday, Tremblant’s pedestrian village was swamped with cyclists clicking on the cobblestones in their cleated biking shoes. In padded spandex shorts and form-fitting jerseys, they were getting ready for a race on roped-off streets and stairs in and around the village.
Standing in the bike shop in my sandals, with my husband Gregg and children Benjamin and Evita by my side, I had come to Tremblant to get away from the race. The rat race, that is. And over the course of our long weekend escape, the only extreme sports we tried were extremely easy ones, fit for ages four and up. Our mini-vacation mission? “Take it easy.”
So it was good – for a start – that getting to Tremblant was stress-free. Located in the Laurentian Mountains of Québec, the resort is less than two hours from Ottawa by car. It’s a bearable distance that kept the backseat refrain of “Are we there yet?” to a dull roar. Better yet, we were pulling in at our hotel mid-morning, with the rest of the day to explore.
We gave our car the weekend off by staying at Lodge de la Montagne, one of 11 hotels in the heart of Tremblant’s European-style alpine village at the base of the mountain. Here we were within easy strolling distance of everything the resort had to offer. And we enjoyed guest privileges such as unlimited rides in the panoramic gondola to the top of the mountain: our first stop after stashing our bags in the hotel room.
Since this was one of our family’s favourite activities, we rode the gondola at least twice a day to the 875-metre summit. At the top, we enjoyed 360-degree views of the sprawling Laurentians, and once brought a picnic lunch to draw out our visit and enjoy the spring sunshine. Though some folks armed with walking sticks tackled the ascent to the summit on foot, our kids went as far as the top of the wooden staircase that started just beyond the gondola shed. Even so, we were rewarded with discoveries of a hidden waterfall and a sculpture of Tremblant’s trails etched into a massive boulder.
Where the gondola ends at the base of the mountain, the Le Cabriolet begins. An open-air lift, it whisks visitors the rest of the way down the mountain to the lower village and back again. Not that ambling from one end of the resort to the other is hard. But the kids’ motto for the weekend was “Why walk when you can ride?” And besides, catching the lift was a fun way to get a bird’s eye view of the action in hotel pools and hot tubs, and on the mini-golf greens.
Leaving Tremblant’s pro-level courses to golf enthusiasts, the 18-hole mini-golf course, Le Petit-Géant, was the right pace for our family. As part of our guest privileges, we could play as often as we liked. Or not. Before the kids made it through a single round, rumbling tummies had us turning in our putters to cruise the cobbled streets for sweet treats in the specialty shops.
Peering in the windows at Rocky Mountain Chocolaterie, the children were wide-eyed, ogling the hefty hunks of fudge, soft ball-sized candy-coated apples, and M&M “pizza” wedges. Even so, with the warm weather, Ben and Evita chose ice cream as their pleasure. And despite tempting flavours such as red velvet and chocolate cashew at Oh la vache!, they picked the universal kids’ favourite: sickly sweet blue and pink cotton candy cones.
Pumped by the sugar, we upped the ante on our adventure. Over the weekend, we sampled a half dozen or so of the family-friendly extreme activities we bought in advance on an Activity Card by VISA®. It’s a toss up to say which the children loved more: using gravity to pilot a luge (a wheeled sled) around S-curves down the mountain or defying gravity, doing back flips high in the air on the Eurobungy trampoline. Ben and Evita gave both activities high scores on the “tummy butterfly” scale and two thumbs up for extreme fun.
Too early in the season to cash in on our guest privilege to visit Park Plage beach for a swim, we used our Activity Cards to rent paddle boats on Lac Tremblant. Buoys set up for the swim leg of the upcoming Ironman race were perfect for our head-to-head snail-paced girls-against-boys slalom race; never mind that Evita’s feet couldn’t reach the pedals and I did all the work. Thankfully, she wasn’t a tough taskmaster, and allowed plenty of breaks to “chillax,” put our feet up, and take in views of the mountain.
For our family, though, a vacation’s not a vacation without swimming. So for our swim fix, we hit the indoor/outdoor swimming complex, AquaClub La Source, at the centre of the village and marked another check box on our Activity Card. With bridges, slides and a jumping platform to choose from, Benjamin’s biggest thrill was making like a monkey on the Tarzan rope swing, then dropping into the pool with a big splash. My thrill? A calming soak in the hot tub.
Back in the bike shop, my choice of open-toed footwear reflected my relaxed state of mind after a weekend of our version of extreme sports. I donned my bike helmet and watched Evita get a crash course on how not to cause one – a crash, that is – by keeping balance on the trail-a-bike hooked to her dad’s rental. We took a six-kilometre loop on the paved trail that starts and ends at the rental centre; it was perfect for an hour-long tour. Through the woods and beside the Rivière Diable rapids, Evita pedaled madly on the inclines, proudly exclaiming, “I’m helping dad! I’m helping dad!” And you know, I think she did.
With our bike rental time up, our Activity Cards were exhausted. As planned, we were not. Our mission? Accomplished: we took taking it easy to the extreme. And my flip-flops? Just fine for biking, thanks.
Wendy Ripmeester is a freelance copywriter with a passion for travel, environmental sustainability, and poverty issues. From their home base in Ottawa, Wendy and her husband Gregg enjoy packing up their kids, Benjamin and Evita, for local weekend excursions, and adventures in Latin America. Find out more about Wendy at www.wendyripmeester.com, or check out her regular guest blog posts for Food for the Hungry Canada at http://blog.fhcanada.org/.