In the 1600s, the Algonquins, the area’s first inhabitants, named it “Manitonga Soutana,” meaning mountain of spirits. They believed that this majestic peak that rises to the sky and dominates the landscape was inhabited by the Great Manitou. Legend has it that he would make the mountain tremble whenever anyone dared violate the laws of nature.Which is how it got its name: Mont Tremblant.
The arrival of the “white man”—lumberjacks mostly—200 years later marked the beginning of colonization, which intensified in 1892 with the construction of the railway by the influential Father Labelle. Still in its infancy, tourism suddenly underwent a period of dramatic growth. In the winter of 1938-1939 alone, the P’tit Train du Nord ferried 112,000 skiers to the region.
Among them was Joseph Bondurant Ryan, a young Philadelphia-born American explorer who had headed north in 1938 to prospect for gold. He trekked to the summit of Mont Tremblant and once at the top exclaimed, “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful.” Utterly captivated by the scenery and concerned that the Alps would be deserted when Europe officially entered the war, Ryan vowed to transform the landscape into a world-class alpine village.
The following year, he realized his dream and opened the swanky Mountain Lodge, which included the first chair ski lift.
The tourism industry continued to prosper until the economic downturn of the 1980s; the P’tit Train du Nord languished in the station, tourism declined and the Great Manitou’s mountain became still.
But all that changed in 1991, when Intrawest acquired the resort with the intention of transforming it into one of the finest ski resorts on the planet, as it had done so successfully with Whistler a few years before.