We are still on a high from our trip to Smugglers’ Notch. I’m sure most parents will understand what I mean when I say that some trips are taken purely for the enjoyment of the kids… you’re just in it to see a smile on your child’s face. But I can honestly say that every member of our family left Smugglers’ Notch beaming.
Each and every person, no matter the age, had a blast on this trip. We were there for four action-packed days and never ran out of things to do.
We checked into our condo and that in itself was exciting. I think I had a low expectation of a ski condo and pictured a drab mis-matched furniture set up. Our condo at the Kestrels couldn’t have been further from that. This condo is in the newly built North Hill Community. We had a spacious light-filled three bedroom until with a huge kitchen, living room and fireplace. My jaw nearly hit the floor.
One wing of the condo had a kid’s bedroom with four twin beds and a television. There was a second bedroom with a queen-sized bed. The kids had their own full bath. The living room and the kitchen were in the middle of the condo and a large screened-in deck was off the living area with incredible views of the mountain range.
The primary bedroom was off the kitchen. This room had a private balcony, a fireplace and a huge jetted tub perfect for soaking after a day of skiing. This place was so nice, we were convinced that there was some mistake.
The only bad thing about having such an amazing condo was that the kids didn’t want to leave. When my kindergartner walked in, she looked up at me and said “Mommy, this place is a 10 out of 10.”
There was even an outdoor hot tub in our building. It was so nice to sink into while the snow fell around us.
Smugglers’ Notch Activities
One of the best things about Smugglers’ Notch is that you can basically ditch your car for the weekend. There is a shuttle system that circles the vast property. You just dial the extension and tell them where you are and they will come and grab you. There is a rack on the back for skis so you can zip right down to the mountain.
There are always various activities and events going on at Smuggs. There was a winter carnival going on when we arrived. The kids played games and won prizes. They handed out popcorn, sugar on snow and free samples from the Smugglers’ Notch Distillery.
Over the weekend, we tried glow tubing, camp fire warm-ups, and the kid’s favorite- family feud game night.
Smugglers’ Notch has an authentic ski village. A winding well-manicured path leads you around to different shops and pubs. We popped into the Country Store which had all the basics we needed to make meals in our condo. They have a large selection of beer and wine and the kids went crazy for the candy section. The Perk is where I got my coffee each morning.
Three Mountain Outfitters is a great ski shop in the village. My kiddos needed new mittens since the puppy ate theirs before we left. They were great quality and not over priced. They also like to collect a sticker for their helmet or a pin from each mountain we visit.
Smugglers’ Notch Restaurants
There are several restaurant options at Smugglers Notch. For fine dining, head to the Hearth and Candle. This small candle-lit tavern had excellent food. The meals are quite fancy here, but as with everywhere you go at Smuggs, it is still very family-friendly.
For a more casual option, head to the Morse Mountain Grill. Around the village, there is also the Green Mountain Deli or the Village Pizzeria which are great places to grab a bite to eat for lunch. For the cherry on top, there is a Ben and Jerry’s Scoop shop!
The only time we left the actual resort was to eat at the Brewster River Pub, which is just a two minute drive down the street. The shuttle will even drop you off and pick you up, which is a good thing when you see their extensive craft beer list!
Skiing at Smugglers’ Notch
Smuggs has 78 trails made up of beautiful terrain ranging from groomers, to glades, to moguls.
I can’t tell you how exciting it was to go skiing with my daughter for the first time. She has been taking lessons each week at our tiny local mountain but we had never skied together. It was also her first time on a chairlift. She rocked it! We have been in the penalty box for many years as parents. We can finally do activities as a family and it is just so fun.
Smugglers Notch is made up of three different peaks- Morse, Madonna, and Sterling Mountain. While it was just nature’s design, the mountain is perfectly broken up by skill level categories. Morse Mountain is mainly green trails perfect for families and beginners. Sterling is for intermediate skiers and the tallest peak, Madonna, has some very challenging double and even triple black diamonds. It was great to not have to worry about my kids accidentally going down a black diamond just as I am sure it was great for advanced skiers not to have to deal with beginners crashing into them.
One thing that makes Smugglers’ Notch different is the chairlifts… and this is a big debate for people. There are no high speed lifts Smuggs. Most lifts at Smuggs are old-school two-seaters. While this puts some people off, I think it adds to the charm. I think the slow lifts help lower how crowded the mountain gets. We never waited in a single line. Magic Mountain is the same way. They refuse to get high speed lifts because it will change the whole vibe of the mountain. As Vail Properties keep buying up mountains and commercializing them, they also become completely unaffordable to most families. Trust me, this is something we should hang on to.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the winter up north lasts longer. We left Massachusetts in sunny 60 degree weather only to drive into a snow squall up north. They had just had 36 inches of snow fall in one night. It snowed or flurried the entire time we were there. We felt like we were experiencing winter for the first time. Driving home was like driving through the seasons.
The Fun Zone 2.0
I love a resort with a back up plan. In New England, the weather is far from predictable. It started raining half way through our first day. At most places, you would just be out of luck and have to go sit in your hotel room. But at Smuggs, there is a 26,000 square-foot indoor playground!
The Fun Zone is broken up into three parts. The Ozone- which has huge bounce houses, mini golf, ping pong, a trampoline and a special play area dedicated to younger children (note: you must wear socks).
Downstairs, the Fun Zone also has an arcade. Lizzie loved the games there and laser tag was one of my boys favorite activities.
The Go Zone is also on the bottom floor of the Fun Zone. There is a ninja warrior course, a rock wall and this crazy thing called the Leap of Faith. On this crazy thing, you climb a tall orange pole, stand on a ledge and attempt to jump to this black punching bag looking thing. If you miss, you self-rapel down.
I jokingly told my son that I would do it if he did and to my horror, he jumped right in line. I was convinced he would climb straight back down once he reached the top, but he jumped without hesitation. I am seriously terrified of heights, but I didn’t want to let him down. I climbed up and made it to the plank, then tried to chicken out. The kids were cheering me on so I tried again. I finally jumped, but not before shook like a leaf for five minutes while an annoyed group of small children accumulated in the line below. Note: sneakers are needed for the Go Zone.
Swimming at Smugglers’ Notch
There is an indoor pool and hot tub beside the Fun Zone. We preferred the aquatic center which was in the North Hill Community where we were staying. We pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. The different is that there was no life guard in the aquatic center.
History of Smugglers’ Notch
Smugglers’ Notch is rich in history. It got its name because smugglers used the rugged path through the mountains to move supplies to and from Canada during the War of 1812. During the time Thomas Jefferson was president, America didn’t want to trade with England so most of the trade was done with Canada.
A “notch” is a way through the mountain. The boulders provided a good place to hide. In fact, people still search the caves for treasure. Over the years, the narrow footpath turned into a wagon road and finally opened to automobiles with the completion of a highway in 1921.
The mountain pass is closed during the winter. Keep this in mind when you are using GPS, because it kept wanting to send us through the notch. To get to Smuggs during the winter, you have to drive around the mountain.
Smugglers’ Notch is the most family-friendly ski resort I have ever been to. It seems like this undiscovered gem in the mountains. Every employee we dealt with there was so kind, that my son actually asked me “Are people here really nice because we are close to the Canadian boarder?” It was so funny, because he was completely serious. There were so many fun activities to do at all times. We made memories to last a lifetime and are already planning to return this summer.
To book your trip to Smugglers’ Notch, click here.