Words :: Colin Field
When we hop on the three-person chair with Luc Boulanger, there’s one thing I can’t get over: he doesn’t lower the safety bar. Over his enthusiastic ramblings about the property and the philosophy of Mont Sutton we pass the first tower, then the second tower, and still he doesn’t pull it down. Personally I like having the bar in my lap, but I’m just curious to see if he’ll lower it. He doesn’t. Considering he’s the resort’s Director of Operations, I’m blown away. And it’s one of the reasons that before I even drop into our first run, I know I love Mount Sutton.
And then I watch Boulanger ski. He rips. We drop into steep gladed runs and switch from one run to the next all the way down. He stops at every intersection to make sure he doesn’t lose us in this labyrinth of forest. On the next ride up, he lowers the safety bar. Pointing to a groomer as we slowly pass above it he says, “look at that: it’s boring! I don’t want to ski that, I want to dance with the mountain.”
And I love Sutton a little bit more.
A seven-hour drive from Toronto, the Eastern Townships are a welcome escape from the daily grind. The new highway south of Montreal allows you to skip the infamous traffic and head straight to the quaint villages of the townships. And once there, joie de vivre is the phrase of the day; from the beautiful, rolling landscape to the endless opportunities for skiing and après, life is good here. Resorts like Mont Orford, Owl’s Head and Mont-Bellevue all offer incredible skiing and snowboarding and Bromont’s SweetPass is a killer deal for Ontario residents: $195 for a full year pass that allows you to ski the slopes, ride the mountain bike DH trails and hit the waterpark in the summer months.
But it is Sutton that steals my heart. Luc Boulanger is the grandson of Sutton’s original founder, Harold Boulanger. Luc’s father Réal had a vision for the resort; he wanted to leave trees on the trails to protect the mountain from erosion and the skiers from the wind. But mainly he wanted people to feel the joy of skiing in the trees. And Luc has carried on this tradition.
“I groom like you play the stock market,” he says on the next ride up the chair (he lowers the bar again). “I don’t groom everything every day. To do that will push the snow away. No, we carefully select which trails to groom and which to leave for another day. Which means every day at Sutton there will be at least three totally perfect runs.”
Voted the best tree skiing in Canada by numerous publications, after lunch in the wood-paneled lodge, I see truly how magical this place is when we pick up our four-year-old son from daycare, he can’t stop talking about the Enchanted Forest he’s been skiing. So he takes us there. And when we follow him into the trail through the woods, we see the teddy bears and stuffed animals that are hanging from branches through this gladed run. Then we ski through a teepee that has stuffed bats hanging from the ceiling. It is a run that immediately instills a love of tree skiing into a person, no matter the age. And before we even get to the bottom my son is yelling, “one more time!”
It is a request I can’t deny. Even seven runs later. But when the lifts close for the day and my boy wants to go one more time, we have to shut it down. And he cries. And I feel the same way about leaving this place.-ML