Yesterday, I could have played a round of golf, or gone for a bike ride. It was 16 degrees outside, the hottest Christmas Eve ever on record. I spent part of my day walking around Tremblant resort, in shoes and a shirt, all of my jackets abandoned at home. I admit, it felt comfortable and liberating, and with the sun shining and everyone out on the terraces, it felt more like April than December. When it's dark outside at 4:30 though, reality hits and you remember that it's Christmas time, and we're in the midst of one of the most difficult holiday seasons for skiing, ever.
This morning I woke up hoping for some sort of miracle, but alas, it was not meant to be. Still, I decided to go skiing to see what conditions were like after this warm week, and to get some fresh air. For a subdued and relaxed ski outing, there's no better choice than Vallée Bleue: the place where evergreens rule, pretentions stay behind outside the gates, and tickets are available by the hour. Without all the snow, the magic and spirit of Vallee Bleue doesn't feel the same, but it was still much better than the four walls of the indoors. Approaching the main chalet, you feel like you're entering an old log cabin in the middle of the woods.
I got a late start today due to it being Christmas Day, but it was better than most other people, who seemed to have had no start at all. Indeed, it was extremely quiet today at Vallee Bleue. Apart from Karen the owner, a few employees, and a lone patroller, there was no more than 20 people at the hill at any given time, and I frequently felt like I had the whole place to myself.
Most people took the day off today. The bell took off too.
Snow conditions obviously weren't that good, but by no fault of the hill. This year just hasn't been conducive to snowmaking and nice conditions. The groomer obviously passed yesterday afternoon before it cooled down and the winds slowed, so this morning the trails were very hard and a bit icy, and littered with various debris from the surrounding trees. As the day progressed though and the temperature rose, the snow softened a bit, which made everything a lot more enjoyable to ski. It was quite nice, actually, despite feeling more like mid-April than December. Unfortunately, the warm temperatures have taken a toll on the base, and there was more than one stick marking off grass, dirt, and holes sticking through the snow.
On the chairlift, there was no signs that it is indeed winter.
On the main hill, only two trails were available, both from the quad chairlift. The first option was the Vallée Bleue top-to-bottom, and the second was the lower part of the Black Foot, accessible by taking the top of the Vallée Bleue and then the Passage. The magic carpet and the École trail was supposedly available as well, but when I looked there, the lift wasn't running and there were no skiers. I think it may have been an "on-demand" service only today, given the low volume of customers.
At least the price was right: at 20$ for an entire day for an adult, taxes included, it's not a bad deal. If you're not into skiing for an extended period of time, they have 1 or 2 hour tickets, with a corresponding low price.
No lift line today.
I have great admiration for Vallée Bleue. Despite the very warm temperatures and their older, limited snowmaking system, they have been open this entire week, and have been operating since the beginning of December. This is in contrast to many other big-name ski hills, that have either been closed this week, or have yet to open for the season. It looks like this weekend, we will finally see some cold temperatures that will hang around for a while, and maybe a good amount of natural snow on Tuesday. My thoughts are with the ski hills like Vallée Bleue that rely on the holiday season for a large part of their business, and also to all fans of winter sports who have been waiting for so long. Let's go, winter!
Merry Christmas to all!
The Day's Statistics
Trails: 3 out of 20 (Vallée Bleue, Black Foot, École)
Lifts: 2 out of 3 (Quad chairlift and magic carpet).
Weather: ranging from 0 to +4, cloudy with some sunny periods.
Snow: Hard and icy at first, becoming a bit soft as the day progressed.
Crowds: None at all, maximum of 20 people at the hill all day.