Nestled just beyond the quiet hamlet of Jeffersonville, VT is a family resort with an expert flair. With over 1,000 acres of terrain, an average seasonal accumulation of 322 inches, and three mountains offering trails for all levels, Smugglers’ Notch Resort, known to locals as Smuggs, is sure to please every skier and rider in your crew. Here, the amazing views and exhilarating skiing and riding can hook even the most reluctant visitor.
Nearly 70 percent of the trails at Smuggs are easy or intermediate. Equipped with ample beginner slopes, a stellar ski school, and segregated green circles free of speedy experts, Smugglers’ Notch provides an exceptional training ground for newbies of all ages. Three mountains promise perfect stepping stones for beginners and intermediates to test their skills on new terrain. And experts who are willing to dodge kiddos can find some incredible runs as well. Smuggs is so chock full of families, the black diamonds tend to be the least traveled roads on the mountains. Boasting the only triple black diamond in the east–Black Hole–and some of the best bumps and glades found in Vermont, Smuggs is a gem for experts too.
Smugglers’ Notch is comprised of three mountains–Morse, Sterling, and Madonna. Each has a unique personality, and depending on the ages and abilities of those in your group, you can bounce among the three or spend dedicated time getting to know your favorite one.
With access to the village, Morse Mountain is a one-stop shop for rentals, ski school, childcare, dining, and other amenities. Morse Mountain offers gentle slopes, magic carpets, Sir Henry’s Learning Hill, a Burton Riglet park, and a beginners’ chair lift. This is the best spot to let beginners and reluctant newbies build up confidence. A few cruisers down the Magic Learning Trail can get their legs warm and their courage raised for a trip up to the Morse Highlands. Log Jam delivers open space to carve out slow turns while also giving playful tricksters a chance to try out a few rails and jumps in the Log Jam Terrain Park. Accessed via The Village Lift or Mogul Mouse’s Magic Lift, Snow Snake is the perfect trail to test whether the in-betweeners can graduate to the blue squares on Sterling and Madonna.
Sterling Mountain’s trails are great for intermediate skiers and riders. Head straight up Sterling Lift and take Rumrunner for a groomed cruiser. Step up your game by trying out moguls on Treasure Run or the more challenging Hangman’s. Test out your black diamond skills on Pipeline Escape with a nice cool down on Lower Exhibition. Ready to try navigating trees? Hop onto Crossover and dip into the open glades of Poacher’s Woods.
Experts scoring first tracks can play on Sterling for a fun warm up before it becomes crowded. Those seeking bumps can hit up the steep Bootlegger or Smugglers’ Alley. Show off your moves on Upper Exhibition or for some private powder stash, hit up Highlander Glades or Pirate’s Plank.
For adventurous and experienced skiers, Madonna is where the real magic happens. Ride to the top of the lift and pray for a clear day. Prepare to be awed by the views of Mount Mansfield. In fact, intermediate and expert skiers should treat themselves to a quick cruise along Chilcoot and take in its panoramic views. But be sure to head back to the summit for choice terrain.
You’ll find steep plummets on Freefall and Upper Liftline and prime glades on Shakedown. Do not miss Doc Dempsey’s glades. Lovely bumps and gorgeous birches await you. Accessed via Chilcoot, Doc Dempsey’s Glades are steep, bumpy, and littered with trees.
If you’re sticking to the blues, you have plenty of great options and an open invite to try your skills in the glades. Seriously, if you want to start dodging trees, Smuggs is the place to do it. Take it slow, play it safe, use the buddy system, but get into those woods. Madonna offers multiple intermediate gladed trails. And for extra comfort and confidence, consider taking a lesson with someone who can guide you through your first experience in the trees. Once you find a stash of powder or complete your first smooth line, you’ll be hooked!
For a real challenge, hit up prime moguls on FIS and cut over to Robin’s Run. But if you’re looking for something more, don’t miss The Black Hole, the only triple black diamond in the East. With the top 600 feet pitched at 65 to 70 percent grade, this truly is an experts-only trail. Cliffs, moguls, and snowy woods make this steep and thickly-gladed trail a true challenge. And if that’s not enough, duck the ropes and head to the real backcountry.
Smugglers’ Notch can be a playground for the seasoned expert, a training ground for the very beginner, or a stepping stone for the intermediate skier looking to test new terrain. Morse is always the spot to play it safe, while Sterling and Madonna offer both a plethora of trails to keep the family happy and a combination of woods and bumps to strike a little healthy fear into everyone’s hearts. As always, play it safe, go at your own speed, and use the buddy system when exploring the woods. But when you start to feel at ease, take advantage of Smuggs’ varied terrain that gives you the chance to push your boundaries a little more each time you head up the lift.
When it comes to finding the right resort to visit, there are many factors to consider. Terrain, accommodations, family entertainment, and après ski options are just a few that can make or break your decision to spend a day, a weekend, or even a season at any one mountain. Smugglers’ Notch Resort, aka Smuggs, provides a healthy helping of all of these. In addition, it also offers up some of the most diverse terrain in VT on—and off—the trail map.
You can spin laps in the woods off Madonna and Sterling and feel fulfilled. You can also find the notorious Black Hole, the only triple black diamond in the East. Skiing it and coming out the other end in one piece feels like a big pat on the back. Follow it up with a victory beer in the lodge with friends, and the feeling can’t be beat.
Want more? Well, to some, the greatest challenge and victory in skiing can be discovering that hidden gem, that spot that only the locals know about—the trails with funny names that, when you look at the trail map, you may say to yourself “I don’t see that anywhere.” If these freshly powdered and steep trails appeal to you, Smuggs is the best place to bring out your adventurous side and to utilize all the skills you have learned over your years of skiing and riding.
According to Mike Trioli, lifelong skier and Alpine Specialist at the Skirack in Burlington, there are many different routes you can take to navigate your way through the backcountry at Smuggs. Here’s what he recommends.
On the backside of the Sterling Chair lies Sterling Pond. This summertime destination makes for an easy hike in the state park, and offers beautiful views of the pond surrounded by woods. In the winter, you will find ski tracks leading across the frozen water and into the surrounding trees. Go directly across the pond and you will find yourself at the lowest drop-in point in the area. If you are interested in gaining still more elevation, turn left and follow a boot pack up the ridgeline where you will find many other spots to take the plunge into powder.
If you pass up the many drop-in points along the way, you will eventually find yourself at the top of the Spruce Peak chair at Stowe Mountain Resort. From there, a right turn uphill and into the trees will lead you to even more amazing tree skiing. Some traversing, along what in the summertime are hiking trails, is necessary, but when you find that magical spot, the trees instantly part open and deep powder is right at your feet.
Depending on how you’ve prioritized your day, you can make this an all day lap fest or a solid final run off last chair on Sterling. To be clear, the backcountry at Smuggs is not for the faint of heart. Many challenges and dangers exist as with any tree skiing. A few turns of deep powder can lead you to a cliff or a dead end of trees. Finding the top to bottom run may take some time but when you know your line it becomes a rewarding adventure. Expecting trial and error will only be beneficial for your mindset when venturing into unfamiliar terrain.
An experienced Smuggler will tell you to make friends with a local and have them show you the ropes. You can follow folks out of the boundary, but that doesn’t mean you can keep up. Even if you find the traverse into the woods, it can still be a challenge to find the right place to drop-in. Ultimately, hazards in the trees and backcountry are a common occurrence, but following proper backcountry ethics and practices will minimize these instances and give you the chance to take risk and find the adventure you were hopefully seeking. Bring a partner, know your line, and expect the unexpected.
When it comes to satisfying every member of the family, Smuggs gets it right. Not only are there a ton of options for the youngsters in the family, but Smuggs makes sure that parents can get some alone-time on the trails as well. And when everyone’s had enough of skiing and riding, there are countless options for family entertainment off the slopes.
If you’ve got newbies tagging along, sign them up for lessons at the Snow Sport University. The ski and snowboard school will get kids two-and-a-half and up out on the snow. And, they are so certain they can teach anyone the basics that they guarantee a refund if every member of your family does not have fun and improve their technique after a day of lessons. Tiny beginners will be giddy with excitement at meeting Rockin’ Ron the Friendly Pirate, exploring Sir Henry’s Learning Hill, or even testing out the Burton Riglet Park. Morse Mountain is a playground for new skiers, especially kiddos, which helps ensure that a day of “learning” feels much more like play. For somewhat experienced skiers and riders, a lesson might entail testing out new terrain on Sterling or even popping into some intermediate glades for a little instruction on gliding through trees.
The littlest members of the family can spend their day in the exemplary Treasures Child Care Center. Sure, most mountains have childcare centers, but few are as nice as Treasures. Years ago Smuggs spent heaps of money renovating the space after realizing that investing in a safe, comfortable center for the kiddos meant contented parents could more thoroughly enjoy their time on the trails. So, they installed a center with age-specific playrooms, a private nursing room, one-way mirrors in each room to allow parents to check in on their children, radiant floor heating, and even heated snowmelt outdoor walkways. Worried about your little one while you’re out on the slopes? Just call Treasures and check in–you might even be lucky enough to have your child’s caregiver shoot you a text of your kiddo happily playing.
Once you’re all reunited, your biggest struggle will be choosing which tantalizing après treat comes first. Do you all grab pizzas at Rigga-Bello’s Pizzeria? Or do you choose from one of the other family-friendly dining delights at your fingertips? Once everyone’s fully satiated, you will still have lots of decisions to make together–ice cream at the Ben and Jerry’s scoop shop, tubing on the lighted Sir Henry’s Hill, skating at the outdoor rink, or full-fledged bliss at the FunZone?
The FunZone boasts bouncy houses, giant slides, and inflatable mazes. Plus teens and adults alike can enjoy ping pong, mini golf, shuffleboard, and arcade games galore. For a little après ski relaxation, take everyone to the pool and enjoy a dip in the hot tub. And who could say no to hot chocolate by the bonfire at night? Get the entire family on board for a cozy outdoor warm-up. Enjoy torchlight fireworks on Thursday nights throughout the season.
Of if you’re itching for an adult night out, contact the day care center for information on babysitters, and once the kiddos are settled and happy, go enjoy some of the bars and live music either at the mountain or in town via the shuttle.
Have some non-skiers in the group who refuse to give it a go? Send them over to the Nordic Ski and Snowshoe adventure for quieter outdoor exploration. Or better yet, sign up for the Vermont Winter Experience program and spend your day snowshoeing and cross country skiing as well as pottery painting and tasting herbal tea. It’s a well-rounded adventure at your own pace.
If you can dream it, Smuggs has probably already done it. And when your family makes a trip for the weekend, you all get to try it. Prepare to be wowed, wooed, and whining for your next trip back to Smuggs.
Smugglers’ Notch Resort isn’t called “America’s Family Resort” by accident. Though the nickname may sound a bit superfluous, one trip to Smuggs, as it’s commonly called, will convince you that the title is on-point. On and off the trail, Smuggs serves up stellar entertainment in a family-oriented atmosphere. Spend one day exploring the kid friendly options on the slopes, and you will be amazed at how well Smuggs can make even the most reluctant skier or snowboarder crack a smile. Meanwhile, mom and dad have countless options of ways to pass the time running laps on some of the best terrain in the Northeast. And when your legs are cold and tired, day’s end promises even more fun, with or without the family.
Before even stepping out of your layers, that well-earned brew for the 21 plus crowd in your clan, can be found at the Black Bear Tavern in the Madonna Base Lodge. Smugglers’ Notch’s very own Prohibition Ale is brewed exclusively for the mountain by Vermont’s legendary Long Trail Brewing Company. Official APRES SPORT Parties happen here from Friday-Sunday from mid-December to the end of March.
If you have kids or a cold brew is not what you are looking for, try a classic Vermont option that’s sure to leave a smile (and ice-cream mustache) on the kids’ faces by paying a visit to the Ben and Jerry’s Scoop Shop located downstairs in the Village Lodge. With flavors ranging from old standbys like “Chunky Monkey” to new creations like the Jimmy Fallon inspired “The Tonight Dough,” there’s sure to be a flavor to suit everyone’s sweet tooth.
Another possibility is retiring to the roaring bonfire to roast marshmallows and swap stories of your ski and snowboard heroics with other happy and tired riders. With mugs of steaming hot cocoa, you’ll quickly forget the cold and on many winter evenings you’ll be awed by amazing displays of fireworks that illuminate the snowy Green Mountains.
For those that would rather escape the elements after their day on the slopes, indoor recreation is thankfully also in abundance at Smuggs. There’s the FunZone, an immense arcade and fun center, that features miniature golf, a bouncy house, ping pong, rock climbing, obstacle course, and huge double lane slide among other exciting games. Adults are welcome and get free entry if accompanying a paying child. There are also indoor heated pools and hot tubs at both the FunZone and Nordic center that are sure to rejuvenate and relax tired muscles after a long day of riding.
And don’t stress dinner–multiple dining options abound in addition to a general store for groceries. There’s no need to even leave the resort for your après ski pleasure.
The Morse Mountain Grille is the main restaurant at Smugglers’ Notch. For beer lovers there’s a craft brew sampler which is a fantastic way to taste three local favorites including Drop-In Brewery’s Sunshine & Hoppiness, Smugglers’ Prohibition Ale, and Burlington’s immensely popular Switchback Ale. If you’ve never tried poutine before, this is the spot to give it a go. A Quebecois specialty from Vermont’s neighbor’s to the north, this combination of a heaping pile of fries smothered with gravy and cheese really fills you up. The New England clam chowder is another winner.
If a trip off-campus is in the stars, hop on the trolley and head to Brewster River Pub & Brewery. Taste one of their own brews on draft including crowd favorites like their barrel aged Extra Special Bitter or delicious coconut toasted porter. Order a pound of wings (try the teriyaki duck wings for a real treat!) or an 8-inch high Godzilla Burger that adds everything but the kitchen sink with pastrami, pulled pork, beef brisket, pork roll, smoked bacon, fried egg, hash brown, pepper jack, and cheddar. If that behemoth doesn’t put you into a food coma there’s often great live music to tap your foot to, plus a pool table downstairs. You can also catch the game on one of the many TVs. The waitstaff is friendly and that local sitting next you at the bar was probably riding next to you on the slopes earlier in the day.
The quaint picturesque village of Jeffersonville (population 729) is just a few short miles down the hill from the resort. Here, you can enjoy a rustic dinner at 158 Main. Favorites include their Coq au Vin and Filet Mignon Au Bleu. Prices are reasonable for this elevated cuisine and their in-house bakery does one of the best bread baskets around. There’s also an extensive wine selection with a well-curated group of whites and reds offered by both the bottle or glass.
The historic Village Tavern has been serving drinks for years. In fact the inn that it’s attached to dates back to 1790. Both the wings and nachos here are out of this world. The garrulous bartenders mix a strong cocktail and the local beers are cold and cheap. Try your hand at the heavily-trafficked dart board, or, if you’re throwing arm isn’t feeling up to the challenge, there’s pool and foosball. Local bands often swing by to play a few sets for the amiable crowd.
The biggest struggle at Smuggs is figuring out how to fit in all the fun. Because the resort serves up family and après ski entertainment so well, you’ll almost find yourself wishing for more time off the slopes. But with such stellar terrain to explore by day and countless entertainment options at night, you’ll most likely be planning your next trip before you’ve even polished off your last Prohibition Ale.