MONTREAL TO THE EASTERN TOWNSHIPS
IT MIGHT BE a stretch to call it the Powder Highway of the East. But set out from Montreal on Autoroute 10 E, and sooner than you can say “black diamond” you’ve left behind flat farm fields and hit enough contour lines to guarantee a good day on the slopes. Consider the highway to the Eastern Townships, a hill-studded swath between the St. Lawrence River and the U.S. border just east of the country’s second-largest city, your season ticket — or weekend pass — to the closest you might get to reaching skiing Nirvana this side of the Rockies. Start your weekend by heading out right after office hours for a few Friday happy hours in the snow. At Bromont, only 50 minutes from Montreal, 99 of the 143 groomed runs are lit until midnight, making it the resort with the biggest night skiing terrain in North America. It gets even better on the hill’s Nuits Blanches, which rock ’n’ roll on several consecutive Saturday nights of the season, when the lifts stay open until 2 a.m. and the bars close at 3 — because it’s never too late for après-ski. On Saturday, leave the party scene behind and ease into nature. Meandering between maple- and spruce-draped hills, the half-hour drive south along Route 241 and 139 drops you at the foot of Mount Sutton. If you’re the sporty type, you slap fake mohair skins on your skis and make your way to the summit on your own steam before dropping in to what some people argue is the best glade skiing experience in the country. For a more mellow ride, head a bit farther east to Mount Orford. Rated a good beginner mountain with more than half of its trails green or blue, it boasts the highest summit — and some of the best views — in the region. And at nearby Owl’s Head, where the top elevation gives you a panorama of lakes and hills, 70 per cent of the runs are beginner or intermediate. If the promise of speeding down the slopes isn’t enough to convince you to make the trip, perhaps the region’s après-ski offerings will whet your appetite. Some 60 per cent of Quebec’s wines, including the province’s first chardonnay, are made here. And of course, along with the wine comes food pairings from forward-thinking farmers and artisanal bakers, butchers, cheese makers and chocolatiers, not to mention the most inventive of beers at Ferme Brassicole near Mount Orford, where the brewmaster creates suds using ingredients such as maple and strawberries, offering plenty of reasons to toss a coin as to who in your party will be the designated driver.