Mont Sutton, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, sees trees differently. From its beginning in 1960, it has viewed trees as part of the relationship between skiers and the mountain. Instead of cutting them down, Sutton cherishes even the trees on beginner slopes as an asset to the ski experience.
That attitude -- and the challenging terrain -- led Britain’s newspaper, The Independent, to choose it as one of the 50 Best Ski Resorts in the World in 2012.
A natural mountain with perfect snow.
Located not far from northern Vermont’s Jay Peak and only about a twenty-minute ride from the US border, Mont Sutton is in its own natural micro-climate, one that seems to love dumping snow there. In the late 1950s, the Boulanger family, father and four sons, took their love of wilderness skiing in the townships’ mountains to a new level and set out to create a different kind of ski area. Today the third generation of Boulangers continues their tradition, and Mont Sutton remains its own mountain.
Trails for all skill levels, but with a difference
From the beginning they wanted to give skiers the sense of backcountry skiing, retaining that connection with the forest and nature, but without having to spend an entire day climbing to the top for only one run. What they have achieved on Mont Sutton is about as perfect a combination of glade and open-slope skiing as can be found anywhere. A glance at Sutton’s trail map shows three aspects of skiing experience.
Special treats for lovers of black
The upper section sits high up near the peak, at an altitude of more than 2,700 feet. From here the trails drop over the shoulder of the mountain like a series of streams, converging at the bases of four lifts. From the top a single blue trail, Alleghanys, follows down the spine of the mountain, providing access to the other part of the mountain. Another blue, Youppe, branches off about half way down, providing other connections.
Other than these two, all the trails on the mountain’s left side are black diamond and double-black diamond runs. These are exciting and filled with challenges. Included in the options are a series of three double-blacks that run over the back shoulder, eventually joining together in a single black that provides a long run through the forest.
Blue Zone and a Zone Famille for beginners and novices
The central section of Sutton, served by lifts 1 and 2, is filled with gorgeous blue trails that link together nicely offering an almost endless choice of options. Some favorites here are Allouette, which winds down through widely spaced hardwood trees, and the Caprice trail, another perfect introduction to glade skiing for anyone who has not experienced it before. The slope’s perfect tree placement allows for good control and is fun and exciting.
To the left of lift 2, lift 3 accesses the beginner-novice area’s three trails. Lower Youpee connects to the lower section of Accès to get back to the lift. To the right of the base lodge is a Zone Famille (family zone) with its own lift, a dedicated area for beginners and kids.
It’s about the experience on the mountain
While Sutton get lots of natural snow, they also have abundant snow making to keep the trails in great shape when nature doesn’t cooperate. Sutton’s experienced team of groomer operators have even designed their own snow-grooming trailers that they use with a fleet of venerable Tucker groomers to keep their glades in top condition. This allows them to get in among the trees on those beautiful glades.
Off the mountain - lodging, dining and shopping
Mont Sutton is about two miles from the lively town of Sutton. While there are no accommodations directly on the mountain, there are many hotels, auberges and B&Bs in town. One of the nicest is Le Pleasant Hotel and Spa, at the corner of Maple Street (which leads to the mountain) and Pleasant Street. Newly opened, it is elegant and sophisticated and has its own excellent restaurant. While in Sutton, indulge at Chocolaterie Belge and stop at La Rumeur Affamèe, a food shop that specializes in fine cheeses from Quebec and around the world, along with fresh-baked French breads, sausages and local delicacies, such as maple syrup pie. Mont Sutton is one of four great ski mountains in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.
Getting to Sutton
From Boston and southern New Hampshire take I-93 past Littleton into Vermont, then I-91 north. From Hartford and western Massachusetts take I-91 north. At Orleans Vermont exit and follow Route 5 North; at Coventry take Route 14 to the left, turning right onto Route 100. At the intersection with Route 105 go left, through Newport and North Troy, Vermont, to the border station at Highwater, Quebec. The route number changes to Route 243, and a short distance outside of the village of Highwater turn left onto Chemin de la Vallee Missisquoi. At the intersection with Route 139 (just north of the village of Abercorn), turn right and continue into Sutton. Look for Maple Street (Rue Maple) on the right and follow it to the ski area. Le Pleasant Hotel’s parking is off the first street on the left.