This article was originally published in Atmosphere, Air Transat’s inflight magazine. Check the latest edition here!
Right from the beginning, on the hills of Chantecler and Saint Sauveur north of Montreal, it was clear that Alexandre Bilodeau was an exceptional athlete, and he went on to become an ambassador and model for a whole generation. Alexandre was the first Canadian athlete to win an Olympic gold medal in Canada, winning in the moguls event at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. In fact, he captured the gold again in Sotchi in 2014! Naturally, this passionate skier has become something of a mountain expert, and he was kind enough to share some memories and opinions about Canada’s best ski spots with the Atmosphere team.
When did you win your first medal?
I was 9 when I won my first medal ever. It was a bronze, but it was still a big deal to me! It was during the regional competition at Mont Blanc, a ski resort near Mont Tremblant. My parents had a chalet on a ski hill nearby, so I could ski all weekend long, from 8 in the morning to 10 at night.
What is Canada’s greatest asset as a ski destination?
Skiers come here from all around the world, especially out West, where you can do cat-skiing (ascending the mountain by snowcat), or heli-skiing (helicopter skiing) deep inside remote valleys filled with powder. At night, you can find yourself bunking down with 15 other people in a huge chalet. It’s a far cry from the typical experience at big European ski resorts!
Is there a difference between ski culture out West, and ski culture in Eastern Canada?
(Laughs) There’s a huge difference! Out West, the skiable area is huge, and the powder snow lends itself to “freestyle”. Life revolves around the outdoors – a lot of people will actually climb the mountain with sealskins under their skis. Back East, good skiers are all about turns and technique. They’re the first on the hills in the morning, taking advantage of the fresh snow.
What’s the most exciting mountain, the one that gets your adrenalin going?
I like the mountains of the Okanagan Valley, like Apex Mountain and Big White. The valley has its own, dry microclimate, which produces a kind of cottony snow. The terrain is varied, with huge glades, and the atmosphere is more laidback than at a big ski resort like Whistler.
Which one has the best views?
Lake Louise and the hills around Canmore, in Alberta, are pretty hard to beat!