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AREA OF THE WEEK

Great time to take poles north

When March arrives, most experienced skiers think north. Far north. It's the best month at Sugarloaf, Jay, Burke, Stowe, et al. The sun is higher and more genial, and the snow often freshens everything up. So why not think even farther north, like Tremblant in Quebec? This mega resort is not for skiers and boarders looking for the intimacy of a ''family ski area." This is a big, European-style resort just north of Montreal in the Laurentians, and is often sited as one of the best resorts in eastern North America.

By the numbers, Tremblant has 91 groomed trails, with more than 30 acres of glades and about 600 acres of skiing and riding terrain, and two full terrain parks. The groomers are well manicured, with the kind of snow skiers expect at Deer Valley or Sunday River. Most trails are blue cruisers on long undulating runs, but there are plenty of bumps, steeps, and, after a snowstorm, some chances for freshies in the woods.

One reason Tremblant is so good in late winter, it rarely gets the snow attrition found at lower altitudes and latitudes, so that the woods are really full of snow by late winter. Some of Tremblant's glades are up there with Smugglers' Notch, Jay, and Killington. Aside from Alpine skiing and boarding, Tremblant has some first-rate cross-country and snowshoeing terrain, and there's plenty of organized ice-climbing for a real diversion.

And one more reason that late winter is appealing here is that by now, the heavy duty skiing is giving way to the light touch, a bit of spring laziness, and some riotous apres ski life. Tremblant wants for nothing when it comes to the bars, restaurants (from pizza to elegant European cuisine), and entertainment all the way through April.

Check out the T-Max and T-Max Bang ticket structures that can save skiers and riders up to 40 percent off lift tickets. For more information and reservations, call 888-857-8001.

TONY CHAMBERLAIN

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