Smuggler's Notch, Vermont: Winter Family Fun

Living where the winters are long and cold, one is wise to enjoy outdoor winter sports as getting outside, enjoying the sun and doing some exercise is not only fun, but it makes the life more manageable when the temperatures drop. While I’ve enjoyed skiing nearly all of my life, I guess when I think of vacation, I think of getting away from the snow - not jumping in.

Last month, we were invited to Smuggler’s Notch for a vacation with all 4 boys, hubby and my mom. It was a long journey to get there, but what a pleasant surprise when we arrived.

That's boy #2!

Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont is nestled in the heart of Vermont's Green Mountains. The  quaint year-round mountainside resort village has little restaurants and shops. Of course, the main attraction is the award-winning ski (and snowboard) programs at the resort. There’s plenty to do and see. Smugglers' Notch is over the hill from Stowe and only 30 miles east of the Burlington International Airport. Smugglers' Notch Resort covers more than 1,000 acres of accessible terrain, with over 300 acres marked and patrolled.

Our boys are 9, 6, 3 and 1 and they all took advantage of something the resort offered. The 9, 6 and 3 year-olds enjoyed the ski program and the 1 year-old used the childcare center called Treasures. Treasures is for the younger children and is run extremely well. Very organized and clean. I felt great at drop off and knew he was well taken care of. In fact, on the last day, I dropped off the 3 year old as well. The ski program was great for the older kids, they had a wonderful time and learned a great deal. The 3 year old too learned a lot and enjoyed himself, but it was a little more confusing at drop off and if he was my first child, dropping him off would have been more concerning. There were a lot of people and it seemed confusing. The location for the drop off seemed to work fine, but wasn’t a place that seemed as kid-oriented as say, Treasures. He appeared happy to be there - but less attention appeared paid to him than at Treasures. I really loved Treasures and I think he did as well. In fact, he made a friend that he cried about having to leave. The instructors I met were great. They took time to explain my children’s progress and to explain the tracking system they use where you can see exactly how fast they went and where they skied from your computer. We really liked that! I would definitely use the ski program, they kept the boys interested and they learned a lot.

A view up Madonna

Accommodations / Food
The lodging is nice, we stayed in a 3 bedroom condo. It was fully stocked with appliances - everything you would need for cooking as well as a washer/dryer. Since the food onsite is expensive, this kitchen was put to good use. So if you go, plan on cooking in to save money. There’s a grocery store on property as well as one a few miles down the road. We brought what we could and bought anything else we needed when we arrived.

Fully-equipped condominium-style accommodations ranging in size from studios to five-bedroom townhouses. New luxury three-bedroom/two-bath condos called The Eagles have been built in the North Hill area. The Eagles feature an aquatics and activity center with an indoor children's water playground, heated lap pool, hot tubs and exercise room.

There really is loads to do. The resort is basically is little village with everything you might need not far away.  Several restaurants, lounges, evening entertainment for families and adults, shopping, rental and repair shops, indoor swimming pool, spa, FunZone indoor family center, sleigh riding, grocery, deli, child care center, teen center, nordic center, crafts, massage, and welcome reception.

Year-Round Activities
In the summer and winter, Smugg’s has an all-day camp for the kids.  In the evening older kids can hang out in teen lounge. The idea that parents can relax and spend time having fun while the kids are safely enjoying age-appropriate activities is very appealing.

Smugglers Notch is a great place to take the family skiing, snowboarding, sledding and skating. (It is also fabulous in the summer with multiple heated outdoor swimming pools and water slides for all ages and abilities.) There’s lots to do: hiking, swimming, horseback riding, tennis, and sight-seeing year-round, resort pools in summer, fishing, miniature golf, biking, hiking, evening entertainment and in the fall breathtaking views of fall foliage.

The resort is consistently and justifiably rated as one of the top family destinations in the nation. If you’re a big skier, you’ll be pleased to know that Smugg’s offers The Black Hole, the only triple black diamond trail in the East. Won’t see me on that! I wound up on a single diamond a few times and well...not as much fun with the moguls for me.

My thoughts

Our condo was spacious, clean and conveniently located - right near the pool (which we took full advantage of). Equipment rental was easy with a helpful and attentive staff.

We were also near the Nordic Ski Center, so my mom and I enjoyed an amazing night show shoeing adventure in the Notch. It was a great experience for us, peaceful, not terribly challenging and we met nice people. The guide was fantastic. My mother also took x-country skiing lessons and she enjoyed then tremendously - even considering renting a pair to finish out the winter.  Unfortunately, we had one day with terrible weather - the power was out for 4 hours, so we never had time to use the outdoor ice rink, where I was planning to give my kids skating lessons.

The resort runs shuttles which you can call to take you around. Unfortunately, I had a bad experience with trying to get a shuttle from the Highlands lift. It was at the end of the ski day and after 4 calls, I finally had to flag security to take me back to the condo. Having said that, every other occasion we calls for a shuttle was quick and easy. So I may have just had bad luck.

The skiing at Smuggler's is really nice. I enjoyed Sterling and Madonna. I even learned a few tips from a group lesson, which is a great idea to do every few years - even for experienced skiers. Of course, East coast skiing tends to be a bit icy, but that’s kind of part of the territory.  We did get some good snow, which helped, but there still was a layer of ice under everything.  My only issue with skiing is that the chair lifts at Smugglers' are only doubles. They’re sooo slow. This is apparently a mixed blessing as everyone tells you, that this limits how many people are on the mountain -- and tends to keep away the day trippers. The downside is you can get pretty cold riding up.

Smuggs is a wonderful vacation for the whole family and the staff is absolutely wonderful. I would definitely return in winter and would like to visit in summer. For boys, with so many choices, it’s perfect.


Kid Rated: 5 stars

Parent Rated: 4.1 stars

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