If you could drive to Europe to go skiing, would you do it? You can do the next best thing: a drive of about four and a half to five hours will get you to French-speaking Canada, with the charm and good food of France, but without crossing the Atlantic.
The Eastern Townships, part of Canada’s province of Quebec, lie just across the New Hampshire and Vermont borders and are an easy drive almost entirely on Interstate highways. Once there the hard part is deciding which of four ski resorts to go to. My advice: try them all.
Each one is different, with its own personality and appeal. Forget about verticals; each of these mountains has challenges on every run, regardless of its rating. Canadian blue trails are blacker than new England’s and their blacks can be like midnight. These mountains are the northern edges of the Appalachian range and they provide an exciting variety of experiences, within about a half hour of one another. Bromont, Mount Orford, Owl’s Head and Mont Sutton are, without question, some of the best skiing in North America.
The seven faces of Ski Bromont
The slopes of this ski area run over the tops and shoulder of three mountain peaks, Mont Brome, Mont Spruce and Pic du Chevreuil, spilling over seven different mountain faces with a total of 155 trails and glades. Each of the seven areas has a nice mix of skill levels. One feature that I really appreciate is that green and blue trails from the top of each peak don’t turn into blue or black part way down the mountain.
Ski here for versatility. If you’re up for black challenges, head for several trails in the middle of Versant du Village. From the top of Mont Brome are beautiful views of Lake Brome and the surrounding countryside. The charms of these mountains don’t end at 4 pm -- Bromont offers the largest lighted skiing terrain in North America.
Ski in the Mont Orford National Park
This gem of a ski area sits surrounded by the forested lands of a National Park. The ski area is not surrounded by acres of condos, but instead concentrates on providing the best skiing possible on exciting terrain. The major peak, Mont Orford, is just under 2,800 feet tall and its face provides an exciting rank of formidable black and double-black diamonds. To the left of the base station, Mont Giroux has slopes on two faces, one predominantly black and the other a nice mix of blue and green. Those who love skiing natural snow should ask if the trails on Mont Alfred-Desrochers are open. The area has been maintained as a natural area and depends upon nature for its snow.
Skiing at Owl’s Head
Owl’s Head Ski Resort is a sweetheart of a place with the feel of skiing as it was in the 1960’s, except, of course, for the snow making and grooming that keep the conditions tops. The vertical here is a respectable 1,410 feet, but that is only to the base lodge. If you do back-country, you can ski all the way down to Lake Memphremagog. From the top it is a two-nation view with the long international lake at your feet. The overall experience at Owl's Head is outstanding, with lots of beautiful green trails for beginners and intermediates, gorgeous blues and challenging blacks, including a double that is a challenge for the best skiers.
Skiing on the edge at Mont Sutton
The closest of these four great ski mountain to the US border is Mont Sutton, which reaches its 55th anniversary next year. Sutton is only a 45-minute ride from Montreal, competing for city skiers with Jay Peak, whose trails are visible from the top. Close to the lodge there is a Zone Famille, for family and beginner skiing, but elsewhere, this place is filled with black challenges. Tree skiing is a big part of the experience here, and even adventuresome beginners and intermediates can get a taste for skiing in the forest.
Getting to ski paradise
From Greater Boston and southern New Hampshire Take I-93 to I-89 in Concord NH, at White River Junction take I-91 north to the border north of Newport VT. An alternate route is to stay on I-93 past Littleton, NH, into the Vermont link with I-91. From Hartford and western Mass and New Hampshire, get over to I-91 and head north.