It's the French Alps accessible via an hour-or-so flight from New York and priced in Canadian dollars, which currently stand at multiyear lows against the U.S. dollar.
It has everything a Francophile could ever demand of a chic winter getaway including a charming drive along the Quebecois countryside from Montreal through cozy hamlets lined with family-owned boutiques.
, located on the frozen shores of Lake Tremblant, is one of the best privately owned hotels in North America.
What to Expect
As you escape the city limits of Montreal, a rolling hillside of farms and Michelin-rated eateries dot the countryside en route to the hotel. Cutesy turns kitschy as you approach the main ski village of Mt. Tremblant with its midrise hotels and pseudo-Alpine architecture.
While the Intrawest resort village has all the charm of an outdoor mega-mall, most of its shops are authentically local and yet to be invaded by the major chain retailers. Hotel Quintessence is located a stylish distance away, not too far to walk to restaurants and shops but removed enough not to have your pictures destroyed by the theme park architecture of the main village.
The First Impression
A rambling French manor appears out of nowhere on the banks of Lake Tremblant, it's the most picturesque luxury hotel to date in the Laurentians. Guests arrive to a stone porte-cochere with valet dressed in heavy overcoats straight-out of a Victor Hugo poem scrambling for bags and ski equipment.
Motor Court Entrance of Hotel Quintessence
Two-story wooden doors open to a grand lobby decorated in traditional Country-French décor heavy on dark floral and plaid prints. Normally we shy away from such spaces, but the Christmastime ambiance can buckle even the truest of Scrooges. A magnificent fireplace roars in all four seasons near two oversized desks where all the check-in/check-out action takes place.
Finding Your Room
A dramatic Q-shaped spiral staircase is the centerpiece of the first floor, spiraling its way through the spine of the building. The hotel features 30 supersized suites ranging from 700 to more than 1,200 square feet over five floors featuring head-on lake views.
Built for skiers demanding space, most rooms are comfortably luxurious with high-ceilings and large living areas arranged around a real wood-burning fireplace. The owners had the misfortune of an in-room fire in their inaugural season, closing the hotel for several months as work was completed. Since then, fire concierges that stoke and replenish wood have strictly controlled the wood-burning fireplaces.
Room categories vary between standard entry-level suites to deluxe and executive. Most feature a spilt living room and bedroom floor plan decorated in a cozy mix of Pottery Barn meets Laura Ashley. Living areas are furnished in overstuffed sofas with matching club chairs surrounded in floor-to-ceiling windows that open to small walkout terraces or patios with table and chairs more practical in summer than frigid winter months.
Colors are mostly brown and browner extending from the thick carpeting to six-person dining room or two-seater desk area. Sliding French doors separate the living and bedroom, revealing large King-size beds with feather duvets and yet another fireplace.
Located at the edge of the property directly on frozen Lake Tremblant,
is a freestanding suite accessed through a secret walkway and private entrance. The log cabin was the original structure on the land, a former hunting and fishing getaway located directly on the lakeshore.
Now it's a one-room love retreat with fabric-strewn canopy bed, stacked stone fireplace and freestanding bathtub under a historic pitched-wood ceiling. The snow-covered path is most magical on Christmas Eve, alit in torchlight as love-struck couples make their way under the often-snowy midnight sky.
Bathrooms and Details
This could be the best bathroom in Quebec. These mini-spas are fully exposed, free-flowing spaces that open directly into the bedroom. Larger than most New York City apartments, the bathrooms are contained under box ceilings with heated marble floors and feature double-sink vanities. The wow factor comes in form of freestanding claw-foot bathtub with heavy chrome fixtures and whirlpool jets that make for a frothy bubble bath.
Toiletries by L'Occitane are in ample supply and consistently replenished should a few land in your Louis Vuitton Dopp kit. After the bubble bath, make a run for the rain shower with water pressure that could double as a fire hydrant.
Pool and Spa
Since opening in 2003, Hotel Quintessence has made a point of upgrading its in-house amenities to a five-star standard. Nowhere is this more evident than at the
Spa Sans Sabots
. Overlooking the lake, the spa is located on the main hotel terrace home to the scenic infinity pool and steamy whirlpool. Sadly the pool isn't heated in winter months. The fitness center recently relocated from its basement confines to a cozy room overlooking the pool deck. Three cardio machines and stack of free weights still leave much to be desired, but few notice since the fitness center is all but abandoned by guests in winter season.
Q Restaurant and Winebar
Popular even for non-hotel guests,
is a hotspot. Located in the basement; a romantic wine bar offers a cozy setting to enjoy an impressive cellar of French and Canadian wines before sitting down for the main course. Dinner is served in the more formal dining room with its solid stone columns and wood paneling that bring a dressier vibe for holiday gatherings. The menu is pure French with prix-fixe options and continental staples like foie gras and steak tartare that don't always translate for American or younger guests.
The Real Deal
Rates are priced in Canadian dollars, with entry-level guest rooms starting at $395 CAD during winter and escalating to $560 CAD over holidays free of minimum night requirements. On luxury par with the Four Seasons, you'll save money with rates that average 30% less than the competition while expanding your hotel horizons. Winter isn't even as popular or pricey as summer high season despite the top-notch skiing consistently rated as a top ski resort.
Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.