By Jeff and Stephanie Sylva
Are you tired of winter’s cold and snow? Living in the Northeast means you have to deal with all that winter brings. But we think there is a perfect way to embrace winter – enjoy a great winter experience at Smugglers’ Notch Vermont, Ski Magazine’s #1 Resort Overall East U.S and #1 Kid Friendly Resort in the East.
Smugglers’ Notch Resort has a long history recognizing its family vacations. Actually, for 15 years Smuggs has been rated #1 for its family programs by Ski Magazine. With 78 trails over three mountains, from gentle cruisers for beginners to the East’s only triple black-diamond, Smuggs also has a reputation as one of the top ski destinations in the East. We have skied here a few times in the past and loved the variety of trails, some of which are truly challenging. As a matter of fact, we first learned to ski here (many years ago) and can attest to the quality of Smugglers’ ski school called Snow Sport University.
Oh, but you or some in your family don’t ski or snowboard? Then Smugglers’ Notch Winter Experience Program is perfect for you. With a wide variety of outdoor winter adventures, together with a slew of indoor activities, Smuggs’ Winter Experience Program offers guests a unique opportunity to truly enjoy all that winter offers in the pristine Vermont countryside. We recently spent four days at Smugglers’ Notch and didn’t ski at all. We wanted to experience Vermont’s great outdoors with the many winter adventures that Smuggs’ offers.
Wide array of winter adventures
The Winter Experience Program includes a litany of activities such as daily group snowshoe lessons
and guided treks, daily cross-country skiing group lessons (equipment included for both), use of snowshoe and cross-country trails, daily guided winter walks, evening snow tubing, skating on a natural outdoor rink (skates included), and airboarding, which involves a fast and fun ride on something similar to an inflatable sled or boogie board.
We experienced one of the daily morning winter walks and a few of the snowshoe treks (YakTrax or snowshoes are provided). The Sweets and Snowshoes Trek took us along a lantern-lit wooded trail at night to a rustic pavilion alight with dozens of candles and a warming campfire, where we sipped some steaming hot cocoa and nibbled on some luscious pastries.
Another guided trek we enjoyed was the Soup & Snowshoes Trek, which is a mid-day trek to a cozy cabin, Zeke’s Place, for some hot chocolate and fresh, hearty soup by a warming fire. A number of other guided snowshoe treks, many of which are family-oriented, are offered.
Some of the indoor activities included in the winter program are use of the indoor heated pool & hot tubs, use of two Teen Centers, Cardio Drumming Class (you will get your heart pumping here!), nightly family & adult entertainment, the Monday Family Social & Bonfire, the daily bonfire with hot chocolate, the Thursday afternoon Winter Carnival and Thursday evening Torchlight Parade & Fireworks.
A number of unique and interesting classes are also included.
The Smuggs Mug Snowman Painting Class gave us a chance to hone our artistic skills (or not); and we also enjoyed the Hot Chocolate Around the World Class and the Herbal Cordials, Elixirs and Bitters Class, where we put together some very interesting concoctions under the expert guidance of Kelley Robie of Horsetail Herbs.
Great flexibility of choices
One thing that makes Smuggs’ Winter Experience Program, or any of their ski or ride programs for that matter, so attractive is how flexible the programs are. For instance if some members of your group want to ski or ride and some don’t, you can select individual packages that will work for each person’s interest.
We even met a group of young people who skied hard on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and then immersed themselves in the Winter Experience Program on Tuesday and Thursday. This allowed them to fully experience all that the Resort has to offer. When booking your Smuggs’ vacation be sure to speak with one of their vacation planners, as they will be able to set you up in the just the right kind of accommodations and activity package(s) that will be optimal for your family or group.
Longer stays – more choices
We think you get the picture – there is so much to choose from that your days are packed with indoor and outdoor adventure, all included in the package price. Additionally, each person participating 2-4 days in the Winter Experience Program may choose one “select” complimentary activity, or those participating 5 or more days may choose two of these activities, from an impressive list of choices.
How about a night-time snowmobile tour of the Notch? We did this and loved cruising the dark woods at night through the serpentine Smugglers’ Notch, stopping at the Notch to learn some of its interesting history from our guides. We loved the Snowshoe Adventure Dinner, where we rode the Sterling ski lift to the cozy, candle-lit Top of the Notch cabin for an invigorating 30 minute trek through the woods to Sterling Pond followed by a delicious, four-course meal prepared by the
Hearth & Candle Restaurant. We then worked off our meal with a trek down the Rumrunner trail to the awaiting shuttle that took us back to The Village.
Other “select choices” for extended-stay packages include an Evening Specialty Snowshoe Trek (like the Sweets and Snowshoes Trek that we chose); the ArborTrek Zip Line Canopy Tour, which includes 8 zip lines, 2 bridges, 2 rappels, and is fully-guided; and the Cat Trax Express Trip, a trip on the 12-passenger snowcat during the early evening, or a “cat’s-eye” view of the fireworks display on Thursday evening. Intermediate and expert skiers will be stoked with the Cat Trax Upper Mountain Fresh tracks tour – bring your equipment to make an early morning, fresh tracks run down.
The “select choices” don’t end there – choose from a 50-minute Swedish massage; the Children’s FunFeast; Mini-snowmobile Track Ride; a Kids’ Night Out; a Family Photo Session; or, if you get the bug to learn to ski or ride, a One-day Learn to Ski or Snowboard Package.
Lodging options for every preference
From studios to five-bedroom townhouses, from slope-side to wooded seclusion, the choices of accommodations are endless. Each condominium is a short-walk or in-resort shuttle ride to everything the Resort has to offer. All accommodations have fully-equipped kitchens, cable TV, patios, outdoor barbeque grills (for warmer weather), and plenty of family gathering spots. The variety of sizes and location is why it’s important to talk with a vacation specialist to plan your trip, so you can get the right type of lodging and location to suit your needs.
Having the fully-equipped kitchen is great; but you will also have some great choices for dining, from casual, like Morse Mountain Grille & Pub and Riga-Bello’s Pizzeria, to the more gourmet-inspired Hearth & Candle – great for quiet, romantic dinners as well as family gatherings.
The town of Jeffersonville, which offers more dining choices, is only a 10-minute drive from Smuggs. You might want to check out a few of the interesting establishments here, like Mtn. Seasons Woodfired Bagelrie, which has found the perfect blend of the famous styles of the New York bagel and the Montreal bagel with its own Green Mountain-style. The secret ingredient? – why, maple syrup, of course.
Also, check out the father/son partnership (really more of a dream) that is Smugglers’ Notch Distillery, an enterprise reflecting the passion to create world-class spirits. The distillery is fittingly named as it is located at the foot of the fabled mountain pass of Smugglers’ Notch, which earned its moniker during the days of prohibition. But there’s nothing prohibitive about the exquisite spirits meticulously processed in small batches at Smugglers’ Notch Distillery. Their vodka is rated the #1 domestic vodka. Stop in and hear their story – and taste their Vermont-inspired, World-Class distillations.
Call 1.800.451.8752 to speak with a Smugglers’ Notch vacation planner, and begin to embrace winter.
Photos courtesy of Smugglers’ Notch Resort