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Ski Saint-Bruno - January 13, 2015


Jake

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When I woke up this morning, the thermometer read a chilly -26. Brrr!  A few hours later, though, the temperature had risen to -18, and the perfectly blue sky inspired me to go skiing. Not wanting to travel very far, I headed to Montreal's only urban ski hill, Ski Saint-Bruno. Situated less than 30 minutes from the center of town, Ski Saint-Bruno does things big, despite having a vertical drop of only 400 feet. 2 mountain sides, 4 chairlifts, 2 magic carpets, 2 snow parks, 100% lit for night-skiing, and 100% snowmaking: you name it, Ski Saint-Bruno has it. Services off the hill are also exemplary, and include a fully-equipped boutique carrying a vast inventory of equipment and clothing, one of the largest ski schools in Quebec with over 500 instructors, a repair and tuning workshop, and a well-stocked rental shop containing skis, snowboards, and even "snowscoots". There is even a shuttle to take people from the back of the very large parking lot up to the unloading area. In other words, Ski Saint-Bruno has everything anyone could possible ask for when going skiing. This all-inclusiveness makes it a popular destination for everybody, as evidenced by the many age groups present today: from retirees, preschool groups, and teenagers, everyone was accounted for! Ski Saint-Bruno, which dubs themselves "the creator of skiers", is also renowned for offering beginner skiers a comfortable and welcoming environment to learn. Ski Saint-Bruno boasts a vast snowmaking system as well as a fleet of late-model groomers to keep slope conditions at their best, and as a whole, the mountain is visually in great condition, from the perfectly painted buildings at the bottom to the neat rows of pine trees that block off various areas.

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Trail 10 and its magic carpet.

Given the bone-chilling temperature this morning, I was slightly apprehensive at the beginning of the day, but there was no wind whatsoever and by wearing 5 layers and having heat at my toes and fingers, the only thing cold was my camera! I was not the only one to find the cold tolerable, since there were a fair number of people present today. Out of 15 possible trails, 12 were open today. The 9 and the 11, both learning hills, served by a magic carpet and a handle tow respectively, were closed due to lack of volume, and the 12 was closed for snowmaking. Conditions were very good, although a bit firmer than I expected considering the natural snowfall over the past week. The grooming was uniform though, and there was no ice or granular snow whatsoever, even in the steeper pitches. This remained the case until I left around 2:30, probably because of lower skier traffic. At Ski Saint-Bruno, snowmaking is a continuous effort throughout the winter, and as such, there were fan guns functioning in many places all over the mountain. In terms of lifts, there were 4 operating: Triple A (north side) and D (south side), Quad B (central), and Magic Carpet 2. Suffice to say, with all these options, access was instantaneous throughout the day. All of the chairlifts except for Triple A, which services the snow park and advanced sector, have loading carpets to facilitate boarding, but I still found the chairlifts quite slow, especially for a weekday.

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Snowmaking at the summit of the mountain.

While Ski Saint-Bruno is best suited for casual skiers and beginners, there are a few options for more advanced skiers, and the relatively long trails for the 400 vertical feet allow one to generate enough speed for carving provided the trails are empty enough. This is a great challenge on weekends, since with the very large ski school, the entirety of the hill is being used by group lessons going at a slower pace. In other words, not a place to visit if you are looking to ski seriously on a weekend. Today, though, was perfectly fine.  I particularly enjoyed the south side, with its full sun exposure, the sheltered lift and runs, and its removed feeling from the main part of the hill. Despite its very small vertical drop of about 200 feet, I really enjoyed skiing the 15, the small narrow trail situated below the chairlift, as well as the 13 and 14. Also, with the chairlift ride time at less than 2 minutes, it was possible to enjoy this run many, many times over a short period.

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Trail 15, situated underneath the triple chairlift on the south side.

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Trail 14.

On the north side, I enjoyed the 4, particularly the top pitch, as well as the small sous-bois situated off the 6. I also enjoyed the 3, which offers a very nice inclination and a decent length. Although I did not venture into them, trails 1 and 2 house an impressive snow park offering jumps, boxes, and rails of varying sizes. The snow park is quite an attraction at Ski Saint-Bruno, and although relatively deserted today, it comes alive on evenings and weekends, with many friendly competitions taking place throughout the winter. Overall, despite not being for advanced or serious skiers, I enjoyed my day, due to the low skier volume, good snow conditions, interesting variety of trails, and its proximity to town. Open from 8:30 AM until 10:00 PM every day, there is no reason not to enjoy Ski Saint-Bruno, if only for an hour or two!

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Riding up the quad chairlift B, with trail 4 underneath.

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The top pitch of trail 4, as seen from the summit.

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Trail 3.

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The small glade next to trail 6.

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Trail 7: above is quad chairlift C, closed for the day.

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Trail 8.

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The extensive and well-maintained snowpark, housed in trails 1 and 2. 

Last but not least, some pros and cons to consider if planning a trip to Ski Saint-Bruno.

Pros:
- proximity to town.
- snowmaking throughout the entire winter and exceptional grooming create great conditions.
- large amount of infrastructure and mountain services, all full-featured, extremely well-maintained, and visually appealing
- tickets available for as little as 1 hour: perfect for a beginner or someone looking to ski for a short time.
- 3 learning slopes, 2 magic carpets, loading carpets at the chairlifts, large ski school: perfect for beginners!.

Cons:
- can be VERY busy on weekends due to large ski school - clogged trails. 
- little to be had in terms of extreme or natural terrain: everything, even the glades, are groomed daily. 
- expensive considering the size of the mountain: over 40$ with tax for an adult day ticket.
- slow chairlifts, most are without a foot rest. 

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    • By Jake
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      Trail 6.
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      Montreal visible in the distance.

      The 4, and the base of the mountain.
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      An example of the marginal conditions on the 15. 
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      Trail 7 was great for it's consistent snow and slope. Also it seemed this trail was quieter than the rest.

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      The 15. I enjoyed this trail despite the coverage and a bit more ice compared to the other runs.
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      Trail 8.

      The 6a was open, despite only 15-20 cm of coverage, and was great to ski as long as you were careful. 

      Trail 13.

      Trail 4, while going up the chairlift.
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      Trails: 10 out of 15 (1,2,3, 9, and 12 were closed for snowmaking, maintenance, or just inaccessible).
      Lifts: 3-4 out of 8 (Chairlifts B and D, magic carpet 2, chairlift C opened at 11:00).
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      Snow: Firm base with a surface with varying amounts of soft loose snow to frozen granular. A bit windswept in places.
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    • By Jake
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      Speaking of snowmaking, it was progressing very well on #6, #12, and #14, meaning these trails should be open within the next week or so, at the most. The terrain at Ski Saint-Bruno has been so well manicured that very little snow is needed to open the trail - no rocks, streams, or tall plants means a thin layer of snow is enough. This allows them to be 100% open (apart from glades) by the holiday season, which is a huge advantage to their clientele during this period. As long as the temperatures stay low, though - Let's hope!
       
       
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      Trails: 4 out of 15 (#4, 5, 10, 13).
       
      Lifts: 3 out of 8 (Magic Carpet 2, Chairlifts B and D).
       
      Weather: -2 with cloud cover and light flurries, some fog.
      Snow: Groomed snow with soft granular on surface.
       
      Crowds: Very little, mostly group lessons and instructor training. No lift line.
       
       


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