Mount Sutton, one of Quebec’s largest ski areas, is my kind of mountain, with plenty of ski trails for all abilities, cozy lodges, views all the way to Montreal and a warm, friendly Canadian welcome for American skiers.
I have just found the sweetest ski mountain, just over the border from Vermont, in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. Mt. Sutton is everything I like in a mountain: family-owned, parking close to the lifts (I hate lugging my skis), and hospitable lodges spread around the mountain. You should never be far from a lodge when you want one is their rule, and they back that up with places to warm up and take a break at the top and base.
Best of all, I like their philosophy that skiing is all about getting out of doors and close to nature. Begin with the revolutionary notion that glade skiing should be for everyone – even beginning “green” level skiers and kids. The owners thought that skiing through the trees gave more of a sense of being part of the natural surroundings, so they created sections of tree skiing terrain at a gentle pitch and with widely spaced trees. For many of us, used to experts-only glades common to most ski areas, it’s the first time we’ve been able to ski glades.
The main base lodge has all the facilities and services, but retains the sense of being small and intimate – a feeling that pervades the mountain, although it has a lot of ski terrain, with 9 lifts and 53 trails. Because the lodges are spread across the mountain – two are mountaintop chalets and two at different sections of the base – each has the warm, cozy feeling of an old-fashioned ski lodge – but with 21st-century free wireless internet.
I especially like the Tucker Bar, a small lounge area lined in natural wood, with one wall of solid glass overlooking the slopes. It’s the perfect place for après-ski socializing or for a break to try their own unique Sutton Spruce Beer – a locally-made soft drink whose profits go to an early childhood development program.
Expert and beginner trails are separate, so beginners don’t have people whizzing past as they practice their slower turns. (At many areas the beginner terrain is simply the bottom sections of trails from the top.) Grooming is an art, as is snowmaking, with each trail treated according to its own conditions. If conditions get icy, they mow down the moguls and let them form again with fresh snow.
It’s all about hospitality, too, with free Ambassador ski guides to help introduce skiers to the trails and find those best suited to their style and ability. With so much terrain, even those who have skied there several times can discover new territory skiing with one of these guides.
There are excellent lodging options at the mountain, but we stayed at the lovely old Auberge Lakeview Inn, in the nearby town of Knowlton, on Brome Lake. Built as an inn in 1874, it has been renovated and updated recently, without losing its historic charm. Our suite was spacious, with a whirlpool tub (a real luxury after skiing) and a door onto the second-floor veranda overlooking the Victorian homes that line the street. The chef is outstanding – watch this space for more about the inn and the dining room.