While many of us perpetually dream of bottomless Pina-coladas on endless sandy beaches, others are strapping on their snowshoes, snapping into ski boots and lacing up for laps around the ice. With its vast forests, pristine lakes and perfectly cold temperatures, Quebec is a great place to spend the winter months. Mini winter escapes for Montrealers looking to leave behind the brown slush of the city for white snow-covered landscapes are much easier than we think. In just under an hour Montrealers (and visitors from across the country-and the world) can find themselves driving along roads that trace the Richelieu River as we trek deep into the South Shore finding refuge in lodges and hotels found tucked away in the many mountains that climb out of some of our province’s richest farmland.

mar_6127Near Mont-Orford, in the Eastern Townships, we find Estrimont Spa and Suites, a sprawling hotel with a million-dollar mountain view and a vast indoor/outdoor spa. Late last year I joined some friends as we discovered the beautiful hotel, its wonderful spa and of course it’s great restaurant.

The first snowflakes of the year had just started to fall when we left Montreal for the Eastern Townships where 45 minutes later we would pull into the parking lot of the hotel. The darkened days of late November and early December mixed with the first significant snowfall of the year left us excited to sit by a crackling fire, sip wine and gab for hours on end. Once we were checked in we each made our way to our rooms to get settled in before dinner.

boyer-media-0006A first visit to any hotel has the potential to be filled with wow moments. Vast lobbies and meticulous décor lead up to seeing the room for the first time and each step of the way is important in creating a memorable stay for any guest. Estrimont’s warm atmosphere is felt from the second we step into the hotel and the rooms are some of the coziest I have ever stayed in. Each suite is as big as a small apartment and decorated with all the comforts of home including sturdy furniture, a fireplace and even a private balcony with a barbecue. That warmth that we feel upon entering the hotel flows into each suite making it hard to leave for even a second.

steak_pierre_chaudeEven though we were content enough to say in the room with our wine, our dinner reservation was set. After a few minutes getting ready we all met at our table in the restaurant downstairs. Pierre de feu, the hotel’s in-house restaurant was a remarkable and unique experience. Though each service had its particular draws, it was the main course that stood out. We were each served a polished volcanic stone that was heated to extreme temperatures and with that our meal. The meal is served raw and we cook the meats and vegetables on the stone. The extreme heat is meant to seal in the juices as the meat sizzles on the stone and we can cook our meats and seafood to our liking.

bain_cascade_spaAfter a relaxing night’s sleeps and a quick morning workout in the hotel’s gym we all met up for a few hours in the hotel’s spa. Made up of an indoor facility and an outdoor sauna with serval outdoor pools filled with steaming water, the spa was the perfect way to relax as giant flakes of fluffy snow accumulated around us. The world fell silent except for the movement of the water and our light conversation. It was easy to want to stay in the spa for the entire day but our mini vacation would have to come to an end. Maybe during our next trip to the hotel we will venture further away from home base to explore the region. As hard as it will be to leave the hotel, the area is beautiful and waiting to be explored.

No matter where you call home, Estrimont Suites & Spa is a great way get away, relax and unwind for a couple days. Leaving on vacation doesn’t always have to mean expensive trips down south. All you need to do is drive for less than an hour and you’re south enough to enjoy the best our province has to offer; serene winter beauty and unrivalled hospitality.