Retro Mountain Charm – A Blast from the Past!

Authored by a visitor and new resident to the Pontiac, Andy Thomson.

When I was a kid (circa 1973+), my father used to take us skiing at a local hill called ‘Tally Ho’ near Dwight/Huntsville somewhere in the Muskoka region. For me, it was the thrill of a lifetime, after of course what seemed like an eternity of misery trying like hell to do up my own leather ski-boot buckles. There was, as I recall maybe a single Poma lift or T-Bar, and an A-Frame cabin that served as a warming hut. That’s it. It was basically a toboggan hill. However, the occasional visit to this hill was enough to instill a lifelong passion for skiing, and later snowboarding, the latter at a semi-professional level with Team Kemper in Vermont. I have done a lot of ‘big mountain skiing’ – and with a sister based in Canmore, AB, I have the privilege of the occasional day out on visits there, but the allure of the micro-resort of yesteryear I still find incredibly compelling.

So when we were property searching for our campground/resort, proximity to a ski hill was considered an ideal condition. Even a bunny-hill would suffice. We looked near Mont Ste Marie – quite a bit more than a bunny hill, but this was, for us, just a wee bit to far from Ottawa, and we could not find a suitable waterfront property on the Gatineau river that met all of our other criteria – most notably a sandy shoreline, with a great view. When we found Domaine de l’O in the upper Pontiac region, on the sandy shores of the Ottawa River, with incredible views – we basically gave up on proximity to a ski hill. But then we heard whisperings, rumours of a bunny hill nearby, and even some youtube videos tagged ‘Pontiac, QC’ of a place called Mont Chilly. Our neighbour, a veritable saint of a man – more on that later – mentioned that the place was owned and operated by someone of German descent, not the third German-speaker in the region I have met or heard of. So yesterday evening, in order to see for ourselves the lands slated for what the PTCR has provisionally called their proposed ‘Riverbend’ PGA Golf Course and luxury resort looked like – we drove up the Chemin de la lac Truite, and discovered Mont Chilly en route. We were immediately struck with the atmosphere of the place, as if frozen in time, and then the size of the place – which was much bigger, and had better vertical than any of the micro-hills I knew as a kid, far exceeding Glen Eden on the escarpment of Lake Ontario, and easily surpassing Vorlage in Wakefield for beauty, terrain, vertical and services.

Featuring 6(?) runs branching off of a steep T-Bar ascent, three branch off to intermediate terrain, one beginner run, and six black diamond runs – not bad for a bunny hill. When I searched the internet for more information on rates and operating times, I could find almost nothing. Someone in the community confided to me, “That’s the way they want to keep it – like an old-school family ski hill”. I totally get it. What a great idea – and what a hidden gem. I am excited to meet the owner, and learn how and whether it will be involved in the PTCR plans. I am very excited to teach my 3 kids how to ski and board there also! Some pretty great international superstars started on slopes like this!

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