The Ventura Star

Wintertime Whirlwind
A Vacation at this Vermont Resort is a Blast for the Whole Family

February 16, 2003

By Robyn Taylor Parets

SMUGGLERS’ NOTCH, Vermont -- It’s easy to understand why SKI Magazine recently ranked Smugglers’ Notch the #1 family resort in the East. The picturesque New England destination knows how to turn a freezing cold vacation into warm memories. Even those who thought they’d never enjoy skiing or winter sports leave Smugglers’ Notch raving about the place. Some even book their next trip before departing. So, what makes Smugglers’ so special? Maybe it’s the fact that this vacation spot has hit the nail on the head when it comes to offering unbeatable family programs.

A recent five-day trip to the pristine mountain resort certainly proved that it lives up to its slogan as America’s Family Resort. Despite the tedious packing and planning that goes into preparing for a ski trip with two young children, troubles seem to melt away as soon as you’re greeted with a smile at the reception desk – tired kids in tow.

Part of Smugglers’ appeal is that all of the condominium/townhouse-style accommodations are located in a village at the base of Morse Mountain or within a short shuttle ride up the roads surrounding the main slopes. In the heart of the village, guests can shop for food and other necessities at the general store, buy ski gear at 3 Mountain Outfitters, eat at one of four kid-friendly restaurants, rent equipment, grab an ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s, or visit the video arcade. Upon settling into our spacious two-bedroom slope-side condominium – complete with a Jacuzzi in the luxurious master bathroom and a cozy fireplace in the family room – it was time to begin planning for the next day by leafing through Smugglers’ 40-page Resort Information Guide.

Award-winning kids’ program, as well as a slew of family and adult activities can keep you busy from sun-up to sun down. And that’s no exaggeration. In fact, it’s hard to figure out what to do first. Programs and activities include snowmobile tours, snow-shoeing, ice skating, tube sliding, Yoga classes, karaoke sing-a-longs, dance parties, and warming up with hot chocolate around daily afternoon bonfires. Those who want to keep toasty indoors can participate in the Artists in the Mountains program and explore watercolor painting, glass etching, and fabric stenciling. To boot, Smugglers’ also offers a day trip to Montreal (only an hour-and-a-half away) and a tour of area attractions, like Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory, the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, and Lake Champlain Chocolates.

Of course, a winter vacation at Smugglers’ Notch wouldn’t be complete without skiing and snowboarding. With three mountains offering 72 trails for all levels, Smugglers’ is a skier’s paradise. While intermediates and experts tear down the diverse terrain on the higher elevation Madonna and Sterling Mountains, beginners can take it easy on wide open groomed trails and slow chair lifts at Morse Mountain. Kids as young as three years old can participate in Smugglers’ ski camps and, just this year, Smugglers’ expanded its snowboard camp to include four and five-year-olds as well as older children. Dropping off our preschooler at Discovery Dynamos ski camp and our six-year-old at Adventure Rangers camp was particularly nerve-whacking on the first day, especially since they didn’t know how to ski. But the cheerful instructors immediately introduced them to other campers and made them feel right at home.

The camp provides hot lunch and afternoon entertainment after the ski classes officially end at 2:15. Parents then have the option of picking up children to ski together for a few final runs or leaving the kids at the Meeting House until 4 PM. From 2:30 until 4, remaining campers are treated to hot chocolate and lemonade while they watch movies or live shows.

Children aren’t the only ones having a blast. Adults can use the kid-free time to take advantage of Smugglers’ renowned group and private alpine lessons or fine-tune their skills on the 270 acres of packed powder trails. At first I thought I’d hang out in the lodge with a cup of cappuccino and read a book while the rest of the family skied. But I decided to brave the cold and take a morning lesson. To my surprise, I forgot about the below freezing temperatures as I pushed myself to my limits and started to markedly improve my skiing skills. After grabbing a quick lunch, I returned for an afternoon lesson and then traversed the trails on my own.

The views. The fresh Vermont air. The exhilaration of swooshing down the powdery slopes. This sport is addicting. But it was soon 2:15. Frantic that maybe the kids were eager to leave camp, I hurried into the Meeting House. The children were sipping hot cocoa and laughing hysterically as they watched the resort’s Professor Alpine and Winter Wizard characters perform the Winter Wizard wacky science show.

Heading out, the kids could not stop talking about how much they loved skiing. Expecting to go back to the condo and relax after an exhausting day, plans changed when the family decided to grab a bite at the village pizzeria and take in the weekly fireworks and torchlight parade.

The toughest thing about a Smugglers’ Notch vacation is trying to cram everything into less than a week. The next few days were spent skiing, snowboarding, and hanging out at the FunZone, a giant indoor play area filled with huge inflatables like a colossal slide, moon bounce, obstacle course and jousting ring.

For older children, Smugglers’ offers two teen centers. No parents are allowed in the Teen Alley, where teens ages 13 to 15 can relax and play pool, surf the Internet, and participate in organized dance parties and other events. For older teenagers, The Outer Limits is the “in” place to be seen for teen karaoke, splash parties and more.

We ran out of time to take the Forest Heritage Snowshoe trek, go ice skating at the resort’s outdoor rink, learn how to cross-country ski, take a dip in the indoor pools, or defrost in the hot tubs. Yet, we did manage to carve out time to drop the kids off at Treasures -- Smugglers’ brand new state-of-the-art childcare center -- for Kids’ Night Out. Offered three nights a week from 6 to 10 PM, Kids’ Night Out is the ultimate, fun-filled evening for kids ages 3 to 11.

The idea, of course, is to give parents a break so they can have a romantic dinner, take an evening snowmobile tour or just kick back at the condo. But the program is designed so kids have their own special night out also. On this particular evening, the Treasures staff took the children out for pizza and ice cream, to the FunZone and then back to Treasures to watch a Walt Disney movie. When it was time to go, the kids declared they wanted to live at Smugglers’ Notch.

Moving in is out of the question, but Smugglers’ is certainly worth revisiting year after year.

IF YOU GO:

American, United, USAirways, Continental, Delta and Northwest all offer flights from Los Angeles International Airport to Burlington International Airport (with a stop in another major US city like Boston, New York or Chicago). Burlington airport is a 35-minute drive from the resort. Smugglers’ Notch Reservation Services will arrange flights, as well as shuttles to and from the airport. Rental cars are also available at the airport.

FYI: Smugglers’ also offers fabulous summer vacation packages, complete with hiking, biking, fly-fishing, kayaking, golf, tennis, rock wall climbing, water parks, and, of course, award-winning kids’ summer camp programs.

For more information on package deals at Smugglers’ Notch, call 800-451-8752 or log on at www.smuggs.com.

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