MONT-TREMBLANT, QUEBEC - A visitor bellies up to the Whisky Bar in the lobby of Le Grand Lodge and is greeted by reflections of the past. Under a glass panel that runs the full length of the bar rests images of sports personalities who made Mont-Tremblant famous around the world.
Old black and white photos of car racing and skiing legends stare back at me as I scan the picture gallery. Images of Jackie Stewart, Bruce MacLaren, Mark Donahue, a young Mario Andretti and an even younger Gilles Villeneuve - all great Formula One drivers who competed at the nearby Circuit Mont-Tremblant road course - are preserved under glass along with some great skiers like Lucille Wheeler, who conquered the challenging hills at Mont-Tremblant to become Canadian champion.
Sport, it appears, was the only game in this tiny tourist town at one time. Many would argue it's still the only game in town.
While the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix has moved down the road to Montreal (it is no longer held) and world-class skiing hasn't been seen in these parts for many years, there's a new breed of sports enthusiast who comes to Mont-Tremblant to play and compete in the summer.
Golf is the choice of most - there are six championship courses within driving distance (we mean with a 3 wood, not a car) from the main village with more on the drawing board. But outdoor enthusiasts are also claiming their rightful place in this wilderness playground, where the mighty Laurentian Mountains cast their reflections on the area's 20 crystal-clear lakes.
"We have seen an appetite for more activities like cycling and hiking in Mont-Tremblant these past few years," said France Ouellette, director of public relations for the log cabin-style Le Grand Lodge.
Ouellette points to a gravel trail located across the street from Le Grand Lodge and reports: "that will take you as far as Mont-Laurier, which is about 100 kilometres from here.
Left: The accommodations are world class at Tremblant. Right: The colourful village at Mont-Tremblant is a delight.
"The old rail stations along the route have been turned into restaurants or shops and some even offer showers for those cyclists or hikers who do overnight trips," said Ouellette, whose hotel is constructed of huge butternut-coloured pine logs, some as thick as 152 cm.
Ouellette offers me one of the spanking new bikes the lodge has purchased so guests can challenge themselves along the rail trails but I decline, opting for a chance to drive a power cart around Mont-Tremblant's latest addition to its ever-growing list of great golf courses, the Fred Couples-designed Le Maitre (Masters) layout.
There is still plenty of daylight after the round to seek out what other wonders the area offers. On the way back to Le Grand Lodge, I take a road leading to the old Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant auto racing course, which is now primarily used by a racing school - it's where Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve, the late Gilles' son, learned most of his racing skills.
The track is closed so I proceed into the original village of Mont-Tremblant, where one a refurbished rail stations is located. The little town is full of gift shops and excellent restaurants, offering French Canadian cuisine that whets a traveller's appetite to try more in the new village of Mont-Tremblant, just down the road and the main attraction for 2.1 million visitors annually - 8,000 Japanese alone come here each year to witness the fall foliage.
After a few hours of exploring the village that is designed after Quebec City - complete with the steep hills - I return to Le Grand Lodge where Lac Ouimet, which is located next to the hotel, beckons. I pull up a chair on the small beach that has been built for the enjoyment of the lodge's guests, and stare at the setting sun. The sheer beauty of the surrounding scenery hypnotizes me.