Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

September 26, 2021
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Slopes and soaks

Go from snowy glades to Scandinavian spas in Quebec’s Eastern Townships

Montréal skiers tend to be either ardent Laurentian-lovers or die-hard Townshippers depending on their preference for hills north or south of the city. Living in the heart of the New England-flavoured Eastern Townships about 70 minutes south of Montréal, I’m biased. I have a choice of four nearby Québec downhill resorts, each with at least one spa in the vicinity. Here are my two favourite ski/ spa combos.

When I feel more like dancing with trees than cruising groomed trails, I head to Mont Sutton, a 50-year-old family-owned mountain famed for its award-winning network of winding routes through birches and maples — they plant 1000 trees every year. Of 60 trails on the 968-metre mountain, 45 percent are glades though some are “glade-inspired,” doable even by kids.

Sutton got over 600 centimetres of snow last winter, much of it left ungroomed for powder hounds. With Sutton’s reputation for requiring more mogul/glade expertise than other hills — this is a great place to take glade-only lessons — women in particular are being wooed to the mountain with special rates and lessons during Diva Thursdays. But the higher guys-to-gals ratio makes for a lively scene at the four mountaintop restos and at après-ski bar Le Tucker where there’s live jazz every Friday night.

I like to undo my knotted mogul muscles at Balnea Spa, a chic outpost with a wilderness view in a former outdoor camp gone luxe about 40 minutes en route back to Montréal. Heat up Scandinavian-style in steam and dry saunas, in an outdoor sweat lodge or hot pools with steaming waterfalls before dipping into the chill. Relax by meditating on tropical fish flitting across a wall-sized aquarium or watch nature footage in a spa cinema. Nibble a healthy lunch or gourmet dinner with wine in the bistro.

If a more mellow day is on the menu, I head to Owl’s Head, rising dramatically like a sugar cone from the pastoral landscape alongside Lake Memphremagog. While there are a handful of challenging runs, it’s a low-key, low-priced (Tuesdays and Wednesdays are $20) family-oriented hill with plenty of kid-friendly downhill. But the views are all grown-up: the 360-degree panorama from the 756-metre summit and distracting vistas of the lake and Vermont’s mountains sometimes make it tricky to stay on piste.

Tucked into the woods nearby is the steaming gem of Spa Bolton. Recently renovated, it’s a small but delightful riverside Scandinavian spa with saunas, outdoor hot tubs and a traditional wood-fired Finnish sauna on Friday and weekends — be sure to pick up a wooden board to sit on or you’ll soot your suit — complete with waterlogged spruce branches for self-cooling. Tiptoe through snow to the ice-fringed Missisquoi River and plunge in at the base of a waterfall. Contemplate your invigorated tingling muscles in a warm, serene yurt where the only sound is the crackling fire in the wood-stove. Then go do it all over again.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.


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