At Le Shack, where we eat lunch on Sunday, things are a little more relaxed. Much like Aux Truffes' obsession with the eponymous fungus, Le Shack goes for maple products in a major way. Getting right into the spirit, I follow a tasty maple-marinated-chicken sandwich with an equally delicious maple-syrup tart.
On Sunday, after dinner at a surprisingly authentic Northern Italian spot called Coco Pazzo (no connection to the Manhattan chain), we consider going to a movie (all films shown in the original english, without subtitles, reads a sign hanging in the tiny theater's window) but opt instead for Le Cirque Blanc, the video-game parlor next door, where we find much more fitting entertainment in Action Racer, an unexpectedly authentic -- what else? -- downhill-skiing game.
On our last day at Tremblant, it's snowing pretty forcefully, but it hardly seems like a blizzard. It's windy, though, and when I get to the lift-ticket window, the cashier tells me the weather is trop venteux; the Versants Sud and Soleil are closed. You have to take a navette (bus) to the Versant Nord, and tickets are discounted to $34 from $51.
When I get down to the parking lot, I've just missed a bus -- a creaking old number with ski racks dangling precariously from its flanks. The wind picks up and flips a metal barricade that's sort of defining the waiting area, and all 50 skiers in the line flinch at once. No new bus is in sight, and I start calculating the amount of time I can spend skiing before our scheduled 11 a.m. departure.
I'll be sorry if I don't get in a farewell run or two. Discovering this caliber of skiing practically in our own backyard has been a revelation. An even more pleasant discovery has been the weird dynamics of the local culture. Unlike their snobbier Francophone brethren across the Atlantic, the Québecois don't begrudge Americans their mangled efforts to speak French. Indeed, with the secessionist movement a dominant issue in Quebec politics, even attempting to speak the language amounts to respecting a linguistic picket line. The trade-off is that you're liable to pick up the twanging French-Canadian accent -- which might just get you more contemptuous glares in Paris than good old American ignorance does.
Still, I decide I'd better pack it in -- new snow or no. And indeed, what had looked from the mountain like a pleasant enough flurry becomes a raging blizzard as soon as we're on the road, and it takes us almost five hours to get to the airport. We end up missing our flight by minutes. Maybe I should have taken that final run, after all.
WHERE TO STAY Kandahar (819-461-8711); condos start at $64 per person, including two full-day lift tickets. For a view of the mountain, there's Club Tremblant (800-567-8341); rooms start at $81 per person, including breakfast and dinner. Gray Rocks (800-567-6767) is one of the area's oldest resorts and caters to families; doubles start at $86, including breakfast, dinner, and full-day lift-tickets.
WHERE TO EAT Aux Truffes (819-681-4544), entrées $18-$25; Le Shack (819-681-4700), entrées $4.50-$12; Coco Pazzo (819-681-4774), entrées $9-$16.
APRES-SKI Café de L'Époque (819-681-4554) attracts twenty-somethings with local rock bands. Beer drinkers settle in at La Diable (819-681-4546), a local microbrewery. For late-night disco, there's Le P'tit Caribou (819-681-4500), where dancing on the bar is par for the course.
GETTING THERE The drive from New York City takes about seven and a half hours, in good weather. Air Canada (888-247-2262) and most other major airlines fly direct to Montreal in under two hours.