I've seen plenty of canoes, but I've never seen a canoe in a hotel lobby. And I certainly have never seen a flying upside down canoe in a hotel lobby.
It's just one of the pleasant surprises you encounter at Chateau Mont Tremblant, the stunning palace that dominates the base of Quebec's Mont Tremblant. It is, arguably, the finest hotel-certainly the largest slopeside hotel-in Eastern skiing.
Inspired by the grand Provençal-style residences that dominated merchant squares throughout La Belle Provence in the 19th century, the Chateau encompasses just enough history to keep you aware that you're in the French-speaking Laurentians. Unlike many newer hotels, it's not a building filled with mundane reproductions. Instead, antiques, stained glass and folk art are everywhere, capturing the look of Old Montreal and its pitched, ribbed rooftops, stucco, fieldstone-covered chimneys and ubiquitous wrought iron. In short, the Chateau is a slice of France, easily accessible from most points east.
Despite the Chateau's imposing exterior, the public spaces are cozy, warm and welcoming-giving you the impression that you've just entered a petite auberge rather than a 316-room hotel. The staff is among the most courteous and attentive in hospitality-dom. The cuisine, imaginatively prepared and magnificently presented, tops expectations by any measure, and the wine list-recognized as one of the most outstanding in the world-could keep a connoisseur content for life.
But no one comes here simply to indulge the palate. It's the skiing that draws most visitors, and with ski-in/ski-out access to 600-plus acres of prime sliding on one of the East's finest mountains, you're as close to it as you can get.
About that canoe. It's actually part of the ceiling and it pays homage to the Quebec folktale Chasse-Galerie sur Le Mont Tremblant in which homesick Laurentian lumberjacks are transported back to their families in an enchanted flying canoe.
A visit here is a lot like that-enchanted-and before you know it, you'll also have fallen under the Chateau's spell.
LOCATION The slopeside Chateau Mont Tremblant is 112 miles from Montreal's Dorval International Airport.
DETAILS There are 316 rooms, including 62 suites. Enjoy the health center with pools, Jacuzzis, sauna, steam baths, an exercise room and spa. Savor a feast at Le Windigo Restaurant, or take out lighter fare at Le Wigwam Cafe on the terrace level.
DIGITS Rates run $129-$450. Reservations: 800-441-1414; 819-681-7000; http://www.fairmont.com/tremblant