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Posts Tagged ‘Montreal’

The 1993-94 Winter was a freaking cold. Living with little money with my girlfriend from France in small and crooked old one bedroom apartment in Montreal’s working class district of Pointe St.Charles.

So cold and little money that we kept the temperature in our $380/month apartment down to 12c overnight and up to a warm 15c in the daytime. It was so cold that we opted to stay in bed a few times instead of getting up early to go skiing and paying expensive lift tickets in January and skiing when it was -35c in the morning.

As we moved beyond the Arctic cold temperature of January and towards the later part of the season, it was time to make up time : I was just at 8 ski days in mid-February. It helped that I worked on the odd contract from the university and had total flexibility to go skiing midweek. April was the time to use the remaining vouchers, coupons or find deals and ski all over the place. Since my last visit to Tremblant on March 27, I had done day-trips to Mad River Glen, Stowe, Smugglers’ and Whiteface. Montreal is a great city to live in to access the East’s best skiing all within day-trip range.

Lucky Luke was still on temporarily on Unemployment Insurance due a fractured hand and was always available for a cheap ski day. On this Tuesday morning Lucky Luke drove with tens of thousands of suburbanites across Canada’s busiest bridge, the Champlain, to get into Montreal and pick me up. Fortunately for him, I lived not far from the bridge and he wasn’t going to work. The last time we skied together was only 4 days ago at Smugglers’ Notch on April 8.

Intrawest making changes

Mont Tremblant was going through some major changes at lightning speed since Intrawest had purchased it in 1991. The last time Lucky and I skied together at Tremblant in April 1992, Intrawest had installed another top-to-bottom High Speed Quad also servicing the North side.

Since that visit, Intrawest moved le Chalet des Voyageurs out-of-the-way and built the first building of its pedestrian village modeled after its Whistler Village. It was out with the old typical Quebec Rural setting of the Mont Tremblant Lodge and in with Urban architecture mixed between Old Quebec City and Disney World. Lucky Luke, the architectural student, didn’t necessarily agreed with their plans and had his own ideas. The only “old” lifts remaining were the Flying Mile and Lowell Thomas triples installed in 1980. In addition to replacing lifts with High speed quad on the upper South side (TGV) and lower North (Expo Express) plus adding a quad in an new area called the Edge in 1994. Intrawest also started to address the lack of real expert terrain, glades and a few easier ways to avoid trouble spots for beginners by adding 18 new trails and new summit.

New 1994 Trails
New Trails (South): A bunch of Blacks on the steep upper mountain.
Rodeo – black (old black double chairlift liftline)
ZigZag – double black (one of the steepest runs)
Vertige – double black (one of the steepest runs)
Fripp – black (new TGV HQS and old quad liftline)
Taschereau – black
Roy Scott – green (avoiding the final pitch of Promenade/Flying Mile – a major trouble spot)
Chalumeau – blue (run to new housing)

New Trails (North):
Banzai – black (old T-Bar line)
Dynamite – double black (at 42 degrees it was dub as the steepest trail in the East)
Detour – green (avoiding the steeper Gagnon pitch to reach the Lowell Thomas Triple)

New Trails (Edge): New mountain with mostly glades.
Bon Vivant – green (reaching the top of the Edge to South side Nansen)
Réaction – black
Action – black
Haute Tension – black
Sensation – black
Escapade – blue (trail back to North side and base of Lowell Thomas Triple)
Tentation – green (to base of Edge chair)
Letendre – green (from base of Edge chair)

Intrawest also tried to lure back some skiers to the New Tremblant with deals, coupons and specials found in the Montreal daily newspapers. So instead of me driving down South and picking me up Lucky in St-Luc to go skiing at Smuggs like the previous Friday; it was his tour to drive North through Montreal and pick me up to go to Tremblant.

Nirvana – Lithium

April 8, 1994

Music has always played an important to our skiing trips. Although we had different musical background, our tastes overlapped with Nirvana. Lucky had grown up listening to Heavy Metal while I was deep into more Classic Rock, Progressive and later on Alternative. Kurt Cobain’s body was discovered on that day; the day we skied together in Vermont. It wasn’t until April 12, that we got to seriously meditated with the dial up to “11” inside Lucky’s Suzuki Swift with four pairs of skis, up to the Laurentians via Autoroute 13 in order to avoid the rush hour traffic. Listening to Utero, Nevermind and Unplugged…the drive to Tremblant isn’t that long.

Nirvana – Heart-Shaped Box

We skied where we left off in April 1992 and looking to ski the equivalent of Everest and one half: racking the verts with Kurt singing ringing in our ears. The morning surface were hard after a good overnight freeze like so often in the Spring, so we started with the 210cm GS skis like my Rossignol 7Gs. Prior to lunch the surfaces started to soften up with temperature reaching 10c. After eating we switched into our slalom 7S skis to ski the softer stuff and bumps.

Twenty years ago, slalom skis were used to ski ice, crud, bumps, powder and woods.

Twenty years ago Grunge had lost an icon for a generation. Similar to the importance in the deaths of John Lennon or other icons passing at aged 27 like Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin and Jim Morrison from the previous generations.

Twenty years ago Lucky and I were still in our twenties. Kurt would be 47 now, but his music lives on.

Nirvana – Where Did You Sleep Last Night

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One of the ideas behind starting Ski Mad World was to tell the story of skiing, of the sport in general and my particular relationship with the sport. Gathering my hundreds of trip reports of my ski outings along with my other tidbits scattered around the internet.

I also wanted to relive the trips that never made it online, either the recent ones or those beautiful trips from many years ago, recreating the atmosphere of the times. Some of those nostalgia trips would involved trips from my youth.

I found out that my favorite ski mag had a great idea, The Ski Journal had a “first day ever essay contest”. The submissions are to be judged by Warren Miller himself. A great topic that falls right where I want to go with this nostalgia series, however I wasn’t expecting to go that far in the past.

So here goes…the first in the Ski Mad World’s nostalgia series:

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Beaver Lake, circa 1968

I don’t clearly recall my first time on skis. I’m not even sure how old I was. As far as I can remember, skiing has always been part of my life. It’s like asking someone if they remember their first steps. Probably common in avid skiers’ kids.

Background

My mother grew up in a large French Canadian family in the Laurentians within 20 miles from Gray Rocks Inn and Mont Tremblant Lodge, I was told that my grandfather groomed the runs at Tremblant with snowshoes in the 40s. My mom really got into skiing once she moved out and left for Montreal in 1953. I recall her telling stories about taking the ski trains as a young adult.

My father, of Irish descent, grew up in Montreal and as a kid skied on Mount Royal where he would take the tramway to get to the mountain and ski back down the street at the end of the day. Skiing would become a major part of his life, as he would drop everything to move to the hills as soon as snow would fall. He was an instructor for close to 15 years under the skier like Ernie McCulloch, Réal Charette and Bob Richardson. Skiing in the Laurentians at places like Gray Rocks, Villa Bellevue and Tremblant, eventually ending a at new ski area in the Eastern Townships.

It’s there, at Glen Mountain, where my parents would met. A few years later I was born and I would ski a few more years later.

Skiing recollection

My earliest recollection of skiing was at Beaver Lake at Mount Royal Park in Montreal. Judging from the pictures in the Family Album, I would have just under 3 year young. so it would have been the Winter of ‘68. This might not have been my first time, but it is definitely my earliest memory of it.

Stoked!!! On the ice rink outside the Beaver Lake Chalet

At that time we lived on Fort Street in downtown Montreal and only a couple blocks of the old famed Montreal Forum. Montreal has a rich history of skiing on it’s mountain an surrounding slopes within the island. At one point in time, there was even a ski jump on Côte-des-Neiges, but the jump was long gone when I was born as urbanization had spread since that time.

There were still a few ski hills with tows or t-bars within the city limits in the late sixties. Places like Beaver Lake, Cabrini Park, the park where the Stadium would be build for the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976, all of these were City of Montreal Parks which had lifts. There was also the more serious skiing at l’Université de Montréal ski slope on the other side of Mount Royal.

I don’t remember if my father was there at that time or how we got to the hill. I just know that my mother didn’t have a car back then and we often took the city bus to get around. Mount Royal Park was only one bus ride away up la Côte-des-Neiges (Hill of Snow – in fact the meaning of Côte here would be more like Coast, but I prefer Hill of Snow for this text). I recall going to Mount Royal throughout the seasons.

Slope and lift tower in the Summer.

Beaver Lake and the part of the slope in the Fall.

Beaver Lake was one of the most popular places in Mount Royal Park in the Winter time. There was skating and the open slope on the next to the lake was divided between the tobogganing and the skiers. There was hill was serviced by a t-bar.

There was one small slope with a T-bar on the southern edge of the Beaver Lake. Fifty-six vertical feet with one large slope. I knew that hill, as we tobogganed it a few times. I recall that there was always a good number of people either sliding or skiing. On this day, it was going to be different, I was going to ski.

From the chalet I needed to cross the snow-covered pond with my skis to reach the T-bar. The nature of the terrain was of course pretty limited, but ideal for beginners from the city. I vaguely remember going up the T-bar. The only thing I really remember was that my mom was holding me as I was staring down mostly at my skis between her skis and we were sliding further away from the T-bar, not far from the fence and toboggan side of the hill. My skis were red and her skis looked like some old Rossignol Stratos and she had laced ski boots, or were those mine? Somehow I knew this moment was important; I felt like a grown up, practicing a sport that my parents loved. Maybe I had a feeling on how much skiing would mean to my life.

Happy Pat on skis.

Pat with Eric bestfriend and future skiing buddy. This picture looks like it was taken in the Spring. There was a fourth picture with me on skis next to Eric, but I remember giving it to him when we were kids. You'll see Eric again in the seventies.

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My ski day probably didn’t last that long, maybe a few runs, that is all I remember and my parents are no longer here. I remember bringing my oldest daughter here when she was 3, driving across the mountain from my favorite ski shop with her ski equipment while I was in Montreal for the Holidays. My mom had told me the T-bar was still active. So once at the parking lot, I decided to put my skis and my daughter’s skis and we skied down some really rough snow. When we got to where the lift was…nothing. I had to carry my daughter in my arms while climbing uphill. I mentioned this today, because when I asked my daughter if she remember her first day, she told me about this experience. It wasn’t her first day, but what she thought was her first day.

My mom loved the mountain; she loved walking and skiing here, especially cross-country skiing. She wanted it to be her final resting place. Last Spring we placed her ashes one mile away from that defunct T-bar and Beaver Lake. Although I’ve skied over forty years, over a thousand times at a hundred areas across the East, the West, the Alps and the Andes, I’ll always cherish these memories.

Dedicated to my mom who would have turned 75 today. Merci Maman.

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Mount Royal and part of downtown Montreal in 2010. This aerial view includes Beaver Lake and the slope, Fort Street and my mom's final resting place. source: Bing

Beaver Lake and the slope in 2010. source: Bing

EDIT:

After a question from Rfarren on FirstTracksonline, I replied with a series of pictures and links about Beaver Lake and Mont Royal Park in general.

You can see my FTO reply here.

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Finally the Internet connection works…

Back in Ottawa after a few days in Montreal. I couldn’t be at St.Sauveur for the first day (driving someone to the airport), but I was able to make it to St.Bruno for night skiing. I decided to add these reports after reading Frank and Max’s reports on these places. Different conditions on different days.

MT.ST.BRUNO – NOVEMBER 9TH

It was my first time back at Mt.St.Bruno in maybe 30 years, I had to follow the light through the suburban streets to find to the mountain.

Sunday night lift tickets are $10. The mountain opened at 5PM, I got there at 6:30PM. The Hill was pretty crowded at first (at least 200). Like Max said, there had open one blue-run. The condition were somewhat icier due to the skier traffic. At 9PM, the crown died down – mostly snowboarders remained. All in all, I had a pretty good evening of night skiing for November 9th.

Early November skiing under the lights at Mt St-Bruno

MT.ST.SAUVEUR – NOVEMBER 10TH

Lift tickets: $26 day /$23 for 4hours (I think?). Today was much quieter than the previous day. The number of skier increased after 1PM when students with afternoon courses (I guess?) started showing up.

Two trails opened: 70 West and Nordique. The hill, especially the steeper parts, got pretty icy around 2PM (All day Traffic and as the shade moved in). This was another great day.

Advice if you go there or anywhere: Start skiing early because what is soft is going to be scraped off in only a few hours (faster if there is a crowd).

Nicest part: Lower pitch of West 70, off the main groomed part with non-base. Just enough coverage to make him turns.

Top of Nordique with Triple in the background

Top of Triple and heading toward 70

Top of 70 Pitch and St-Sauveur-des-Monts

Originally posted on Thu Nov 13, 2003 12:26 pm on firsttracksonline

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