For more than a generation, Smugglers’ Notch has defined family programs

by Karen Rubin

For more than a generation, Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Northern Vermont has pretty much defined family programs – not just children’s programs, mind you, but programs that bring families together. This may well be the first mountain resort designed, built and geared to families – spacious and comfortable condominium-style accommodations, daily programming, innovations like outfitting kids with a GPS (so they can see how far and high they traveled) and everything designed with the convenience, comfort and joy of families in mind.

A winter wonderland scene from the Sterling chairlift at Smugglers' Notch © 2011 Karen Rubin/

Many ski resorts have lodging at the base, but Smugglers’ Notch has this uncanny way of making everyone seem at home – condominum-style accommodations in a true village setting, and organized activities that make for a true neighborhood – helped along because the units (from studios up to five-bedroom, accommodating up to 12 people) are fractional ownership, so many of the guests are regulars (we noted that there are plans to build new units).

Accommodations are fully-equipped mountainside condominiums ranging from studios to five bedroom townhouses. Lodgings and facilities are all located in the walkabout Village. A free on-demand shuttle service runs daily throughout the Village and a shuttle on a rotational schedule is available for transportation to the upper mountain lifts.

The newest premium vacation accommodations are at West Hill, North Hill and Highlands Hill – well appointed homes that offer exclusive use of special amenities within their neighborhood, including exercise facilities, indoor or outdoor pools, playgrounds, game rooms, hot tubs, a whirlpool in the master bath, plus broadband internet access (for a nominal fee).

The village has a selection of nine different dining venues – you do not need to leave the resort at all. There is even a small country store to get provisions.

There is everything imaginable to make a family vacation – indoor pool, arcade, teen center, arts and crafts workshop. There’s a Mountain Massage Center and yoga workshop, nightly entertainment (family as well as adults), a range of restaurants, a Country Store, a lounge.

The Fun Zone Entertainment and Recreation Center is for all ages – an indoor wonderland that features an arcade, bouncy house, table games, a 22-foot giant double Lane Slide, obstacles course and after-hours teen-only activities and programs.

Teen Alley (ages 13-15) and Outer Limits (16 and older) give older kids their own space to enjoy what they like most: high-speed internet access, xbox 360, WII, DVDs, ping-ping, pool, music, snacks. “Not To Miss” Teen Events include Airboard Slalom (Mondays, 8 pm.); Dodgeball Tournament (Tuesday, 9 p..), FunZone Mania (Friday, 9 pm.) and Nightspiker/Glowbal Dance Party at the FunZone (Saturday, 9 pm.)

There is much to engage adult guests, as well. For example, after the success of cooking classes introduced last summer summer, the accomplished chefs of the Hearth and Candle host twice weekly cooking classes this winter on seafood preparation and fresh pasta making. The classes are a a very fun opportunity to learn a lot of tips from the pros as they guide you and just five other students through the meal preparation with recipes and tip sheets to take home. And best of all, you get to enjoy the meal in the Hearth’s cozy dining room when you’re done!

At the top of Rumrunner, on Sterling Mountain, you are above the clouds which hide the valley below © 2011 Karen Rubin/

The Mountain Massage Center introduces Soulful Stirrings, a class for anyone who would like to make more time in their life for meditation and reflection. What better time than vacation to explore relaxing practices such as process art, sand fingerboard labyrinths, kinesiology and journaling?

But where Smugglers’ really excels, is in family programming: Indeed, Smugglers’ Notch is an outstanding ski mountain but the fact is that the resort has always been leading edge when it comes to families. It is always was an interesting innovation – not an all-inclusive in the way of the Catskills resorts or dude ranches (where food is included and the lodgings are hotel-style), or even in the way of cruises, and yet, offering a full schedule of activities, entertainment and facilities.

It is no wonder that the resort is consistently ranked among the best for families, and for the 12th year, was selected as #1 for family programs by readers of SKI Magazine in the magazine’s annual survey for their “Top 50 Resorts.”

Value Vacations

Smugglers’ Notch Resort has expanded its winter vacation package options so that families have more flexibility to match packages to their winter vacation interests and budgetary requirements. Additional specials increase the savings throughout the season (check the website)

Each of Smugglers’ three winter vacation packages feature mountainside condominium lodging; daily lift tickets; snow tubing; ice skating; use of the indoor pool and hot tub, Nordic and snowshoe terrain, indoor FunZone with climbing inflatables, and teen centers; and family and adult entertainment.

For guests seeking a ski-and-stay package, Smugglers’ offers the Base Package starting at $79 per youth and $109 per adult per night and featuring the above inclusions.

The Classic Packages adds the resort’s renowned on-slope instructional programs for children, with all day ski or snowboard camp for ages 3-5 and group lessons for ages 6-17 as part of the package. The Classic package starts at $99 per youth and $109 per adult per night.

The Summit Package adds Snow Sport University instructional programs for the entire family – all-day ski or snowboard camp for ages 3-5 and 1.5-hour group lessons for ages 6 – adult; 1 1/2 hour snowshoe lesson; 1 1/2 hour cross-country ski lesson). This package starts at $99 per youth and $129 per adult per night.

The Classic and Summit packages also offer discounts on all-day instruction programs for ages 6-15 and rental equipment for ages 3-15, plus a discount on Smugglers’ 2.5-hour instruction lesson format with a maximum of five students.

Another clever innovation is the Flexible Travel Protection plan – where you are required to put down a 50% deposit, but it will be refunded on cancellations 7 days prior; other cancellation deposits will be applied to a future reservation within 2 years; full payment is due upon arrival.

Guests also have access to cross-country trails and snowshoeing, guided winter walking use of the teen centers, Monday family social, nightly family and adult entertainment, use of ice skating rink.

Smugglers' Notch Resort is designed with families in mind © 2011 Karen Rubin/

The website offers superb planning tools – even weather forecast, you can look trail by trail at the snow report (just as if you were at the mountain), see webcam views, use an interactive map

You can even engage your kids in their vacation before they arrive: from the site, the kids can download free coloring books, riddles and journal, and access on-line games, movies and information about Smuggs, skiing and snowboarding.

Smugglers’ Notch is a year-round resort. In the summer, some of the intriguing activities Smuggs offers include geocaching; a Via Ferrata hiking, climbing and ropes course adventure; a high ropes challenge course; and a day camp for children featuring kayaking, bouldering, Via Ferrata, and use of the Resort’s 30-foot climbing wall and giant swing.

Smugglers’ Notch is a little longer to get to – especially since in winter, you have to come around so you come down from the north on 108 because the Notch pass (from Stowe) is closed. But Smugglers’ is definitely worth the trip (check the website for travel directions).

Smugglers’ Notch Resort, 4323 Vermont Route 108 South, Smugglers’ Notch, VT 05464-9537, # Reservations, 800-419-4615; General Info, 802-644-8851,

Read Smugglers’ Notch, Top Ranked Family Resort, is Topnotch for Skiing

Friday, 14 January, 2011


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Karen Rubin is an eclectic travel writer who has been spanning the globe for more than 30 years reporting on interesting, intriguing people and places to explore for magazines, newspapers and online. She publishes Travel Features Syndicate in newspapers and online including, Huffington Post and and blogs at "Travel is a life-changing and an interactive experience that mutually benefits travelers and community." Contact Karen at 'Like' us at

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