The snow trains were from my parents’ generation. The arrival of the autoroutes in Quebec and interstates in the US virtually killed the snow trains. Ski areas were now more easily accessible with the popularity of automobiles in the North American households and better road network.
Instead of ridding the trains, my generations rode the buses. The bus took over and where more flexible than the trains. A skier growing up in Montreal had great ski options. Laurentians to the North and Eastern Townships and Vermont to the South and East all within an easy day drive. As a teenager too young to drive or without a car, you could have you independence and go skiing without counting on someone with a car. As I recall they were a couple of ski club based in Montreal that would book buses and head to ski destinations each weekend, however you couldn’t use them on PD school days. You also had to give an advance deposit and you weren’t sure if there would be enough people to hold the trip all together.
There was one bus company that would run daily coach services to 2-4 destinations. The Murray Bus company would run buses to Mont St-Sauveur and Mont Tremblant in the Laurentians and Jay Peak and Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont. The schedule had three circuits for the Laurentians and two for Vermont all meeting up shopping centres north or south of the city (Centre Laval for the Laurentians or Centre Portebello on the South Shore for Vermont) where people could potential change bus if there weren’t enough people and the destination would require only one bus.
The Hotel Sheraton Mont-Royal in Downtown Montreal (now where the prestigious Cours Mont-Royal Mall is located) was the base and starting point to many of these routes. Some guests at the Hotel would take advantage of the easy access to skiing, like guests at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. The Hotel was also connected to the underground Metro. I would either take the bus and Metro or got a ride from my mother to the Sheraton in the morning then come back home in my ski equipment full Montreal rush hour, of course that would only be an issue on weekday when I was off from school. In my first two years of keeping track of my Ski Days (1981-82 and 1982-83), I would use the use of the Murray Hill buses would account between half to two-tiers of my ski days of those late High School years. I would generally go with one friend, my High School skiing friend Jean-Pierre was with me on most of these trips. For the record, Jean-Pierre is also the one that got me to started on my ski days record keeping.
This week is the bus schedule for Les excursions Murray Hill for the 1982-83 season (my season was shorten due to an non-skiing injury). Transport and Lift tickets at either Tremblant, Jay or Smuggler’s was a maximum of $24 on weekends or Holidays. A great deal. Murray Hill would also offer transportation for night skiing at Mont St-Sauveur for $14. The minimum requirement was 10 passengers to make the trip happen, but only maybe two trips were canceled and it was only because the bus had to turn around in Vermont or just before the border due to heavy flooding.
The Murray Hill company was bought Groupe Orléans buses in 2009, however I remember the green and white bus from my childhood.
But Murray Hill has been around for a very long time: Many Montrealers grew up seeing Murray Hill coaches, full of tourists, plying the streets of downtown Montreal and Old Montreal. While Murray Hill is no longer a part of Montreal’s urban landscape, it nevertheless continues to provide exceptional quality service to tour operators, companies and individuals who organize group trips.
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