Canada's most wanted resorts

Michael Douglas, Jacques Villeneuve and Tommy Hilfiger all have homes around Mont Tremblant. Nicola Venning visits Canada's most wanted resorts
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The Independent Online

Gez Middleton cannot believe the home which will be his when he and his family emigrate to frontier-like wooded Mont Tremblant, a breathtaking unspoilt area of lakes and pine-forests in eastern Canada, only 90 minutes from Montreal.

As soon as he gets his working visa, Gez, 37, who runs his own plumbing and refurbishment business in Studham, Bedfordshire, will move to a spacious 2,500sq ft barn-style house with five bedrooms, an annexe, a workshop and double garage set in 20 acres in Saint Jovite, the attractive working town in the heart of Mont Tremblant municipality. It will cost him and his wife Julie, 36, around C$500,000 (£250,000).

"It's about quarter the price of anything the same here. And Tremblant is a nice place. It's a clean, friendly environment for a family and there's skiing in the winter and sports in the summer," says Gez, who has three sons - George (six), Jo (four) and Henry (three). "Our plan is to buy and renovate property," he says. "From what I understand, there is a shortage of labour and people cannot get their houses refurbished".

Mont Tremblant is a rapidly expanding area with growing cachet. The former bankrupt, backwoods ski resort was bought by developers Intrawest about 13 years ago and is now an upmarket four-season holiday village. It is regularly voted the best ski resort in North East America. "In 1993 average prices here were C$189 per square foot," says Michael Clark, a local agent. "Now they are C$803 and it's not over yet."

The pretty, original village by the 14km-long Lac Tremblant already boasts splendid homes with equally grand owners: the French-Canadian driver, Jacques Villeneuve, and millionaires such as Tommy Hilfiger and Lawrence Stroll have multi-million pound homes here.

Only a 10 minute drive from old Tremblant is serene Lac Desmarais, whose peaceful pine-shaded shores are home to raccoons, beavers and the very affluent: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones are building a home here.

Plots start from C$349,000 (£174,500) for three acres. Waterfront lots start from C$500,000 (£250,000.) Canadian banks will finance 50 per cent of the purchase of land and 65 per cent of the cost of building a house, says Clark.

Despite expansion, planning laws are fairly tight. "The houses can only be two levels high and have a walk-out basement," says Clark. "The "set-backs" - the distance from the property boundary that you can build, has been increased. "It used to be two metres, now it's six metres," says Remi Fortier, an architect. "There hasn't been that much protest about building around lakes but more about building on top of mountains. That's been cut to zero now."

Popular with British buyers is Pointe Heron, a forested 284-acre site next to Domaine St Bernard national park, 10 minutes from Tremblant village. Eighty homes will be built and 14 have already sold to Europeans - British, Dutch and Belgiums. These four-bedroom, stone and cedar, homes with catchy names like "Jack Rabbit", have pine decking and slate floors downstairs, and are set in one-acre lots on the eastern shore of Lake Bobby. Prices are from C$489,000 (£245,000).

However, if a real back-to-nature, huntin', shootin', and fishin', Canadian home is what you crave, then consider the very attractive atmospheric log cabins which developer Michel Beaulieu is creating 17km away, on the opposite side of the mountain. Cote Nord, near Lac Superieur, and three miles from the nearest ski lift, will be a collection of 72 spacious and luxurious cabins with concrete bases which are clad in stone or wood with pine walls. "We wanted to do something that was very harmonious with a bit of intelligence," says Beaulieu. "The concept is to have two different families holidaying and renting - one on the top floor and one below (with the living area in between)."

Alun Davies, 55, a retired director of education and his wife, Janet, 52, a retired teacher from Cardiff in Wales, bought a four-bed log cabin including a furniture package last December. They have rented it out and enjoyed two holidays there.

"The view from the balcony is just spectacular" says Alun, who enjoys watching moose and deer pass through the forests on their doorstep by the Boule River. Their finances look good too - the couple were looking for both a good investment as well as a holiday home, and have already seen its value increase.;;