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But it wasn’t the destination that made my trip special so much as the company I made it in.

The company? Who would that be?

I went with the Snowhawks. It really is a company, but it functions more as a club of friends who love skiing and want to try out different destinations. This trip was the group’s first to Mont Olympia, but all 60 or so people who made it agreed it should not be the last.

But Piedmont is just under 200 kilometres from Ottawa. Couldn’t I easily get there myself?

You could, but then you would miss out on the comfortable bus ride (pickups and drop offs at five locations across Ottawa and one in Gatineau) with free early morning coffee, and the proffered glass of wine or beer and munchies (we had deli meats, cheese, fruit and crackers, and previous trips have included pizza) on the two hour ride home. Plus you wouldn’t get the benefit of skiing in a small group with others of similar ability under the friendly, laid back guidance of a Level 2 or 3 instructor certified by the Canadian Ski Instructor Alliance.

Ski instruction? That sounds intimidating.

I thought so too, but Harvey Brodkin, who owns Snowhawks, has a philosophy: “We’re not here to remake (our clients). We take what works for them and try to make minor adjustments to make them more efficient, a little more comfortable, a little less tired at the end of the day,” and do it in a “fun filled environment.” And they’ve been doing it since 1988 in Ottawa and 1984 in Toronto, where the group began.

OK, that sounds good. But how will they know how well I ski?

They don’t,
best mont blanc pen Skiing with the Snowhawks at Mont Olympia in the Laurentians
but you do. Skiers self assign based on Harvey’s descriptions of what each group will tackle (from easy beginner runs to advanced technical runs and everything in between). The groups then take a trial run and are further split into small groups of five to seven skiers, each with its own instructor guide for the day. After that you ski for the morning and afternoon, with the occasional stop for some pointers from the instructor and a lunch break.

What if I snowboard?

Snowboarders are welcome too and the same information applies.

You also mentioned destinations. Where else do they go?

This year the Wednesday group has also skied at Mont Blanc and Saint Sauveur. Remaining dates are: Feb. 5 Mont Tremblant; Feb. 12 Mont Blanc; Feb. 19: Bromont.

What is the Wednesday group?

Snowhawks offers as much variety in its programming as it does in its destinations.

The Wednesday group is made up mostly of retirees; this group skis six Wednesdays at locations in the Laurentians and the Eastern Townships. But there are also chaperoned programs for children and youth aged six to 18 that operate on weekends and during school breaks (the kids are bused in the same way the Wednesday group is). These programs take place at local resorts Vorlage, Mont Ste Marie and Mont Cascades, or at Mont Ste Marie, Calabogie Peaks, Mont Tremblant, Mont Blanc and Saint Sauveur. In addition, Snowhawks runs evening programs for 17 area schools three nights a week at Vorlage and Mont Cascades.

Snowhawks also offers longer instructor guided getaways. Every year there is a three day trip (this year’s is to Killington, Vermont) and a week long trip (this year to Heavenly Resort in South Lake Tahoe, California).

What do people like about Snowhawks?

Here’s what intermediate level skier Lorraine Dumoulin of Orleans says: “I can go down a hill I wouldn’t go down on my own. I’m confident having an instructor all day, and I have people to ski with and have fun with. Plus it is so nice to be able to park your car and then hop on the bus and have a cup of coffee, then get to relax on the way home.”

What does all this cost?

All six Wednesdays cost $698, plus HST,
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or you can pick four Wednesdays for $488. Harvey says he can offer price adjustments on the remaining three Wednesday trips depending on how many trips a new customer wants to take. Prices vary for the getaway packages and youth programs.