Escape to Mont-Tremblant
By Matthew Braga
Photography by Marc-Olivier Bécotte
People flock to Mont-Tremblant to see a world transformed by winter. The landscape can feel like we’re in a snow globe that’s just been shaken, with gently-falling flakes weighing down the branches of evergreen trees and adding precarious new heights to chalet roofs. For those needing a break from the slopes or an alternative to outdoor activities, there are more ways to enjoy Tremblant than merely flying down the side of a mountain.
Take to the sky
At Heli-Tremblant, a short drive from the hotels and shops, I find refuge in the cozy warmth of a helicopter’s panoramic cockpit. We fly near the summit of Mont Tremblant, which is shrouded in an artificial fog — fresh powder kicked up by the snow-making machines. We pass trees and buildings, blanketed in white, and the cracked, pockmarked surfaces of half-frozen rivers. Lac Tremblant is a deep, dark velvet blue that shifts unpredictably as we swoop overhead. It strikes me how everything is suddenly so small. The chalets and shops that once loomed so large now resemble a holiday scene in miniature, befitting the mantle of a fireplace.
Get (sort of) real
Once safely back on solid ground, I head over to Tremblant Virtual Reality. Catering to first-timers and seasoned players alike, the arcade is conveniently just steps from the slopes. I wear a headset connected by a long tether, which hangs from the ceiling, to a powerful computer. I’m also holding a wireless controller in each hand.
With the headset covering my eyes, I can’t see the world around me. But there are sensors around the room—and on the headset itself—that keep track of where I am at all times. And when I turn my head to look at my hands, I can see every twist and turn of the controllers I hold mimicked perfectly, virtually, in real time. I’m able to paint sculptures of fire and light that fill the whole room, experience a John Wick–style shootout, and try an outlandish chef’s kitchen simulator for kids that requires me to build the tallest sandwich possible with as many ingredients as I can find. It’s remarkable how well these experiences fool me into thinking that what I’m doing is real or, at the very least, they carry real, physical weight. It’s as immersive as it is unsettling.
Beat the clock
For another kind of escape from reality, I make my way to Mission Liberté, a purveyor of escape rooms around the corner from the arcade. There, I adopt the guise of a student at an elite boarding school for young witches and wizards—not dissimilar from the one in Harry Potter. The goal is to locate, and rescue, our missing professor.
The reality of an escape room is that, once you’re inside, time becomes your enemy. My usually welcome urge to stop and analyze thoughtfully is in constant conflict with the ceaseless pressure to go fast. I decide to throw my instincts out the (non-existent) window. If you bring the same sort of zeal and reckless abandon that manifests itself when, say, tearing apart your home in search of a missing wallet or set of keys, you’ll do just fine. I look high and low, and start to find hidden papers, arcane symbols and secret compartments at every turn. I fumble with drawers and locks.
In total, it takes us 46 minutes to escape. But I take solace in the fact that half of all players don’t even make it out. And the point wasn’t just to escape the room. Outside, fresh powder is still falling onto the slopes.