Smuggler’s Notch: The Family Friendly Resort of the Northeast
by Kate Gillan
Sometimes I find myself yearning to look out the window and see a different landscape. One with snow-capped mountains stretching for miles, cardinal red barns, and trade bus horns for the swish-swish sound my skis make as I trek through the woods on cross-country skis. I love the city and all of its splendor, but something about winter makes me crave New England, seeing my kids with red cheeks drinking hot chocolates, or even trying a new sport, skiing! And since we didn’t want to travel out of the country with all of those restrictions, we decided to go to the land of maple syrup and microbreweries galore, Smuggler’s Notch Resort in Jefferson, Vermont.
Even if your kids are skiing on their own, I still recommend Snow Sport University, one of the most comprehensive, all-inclusive ski programs I’ve ever encountered. Children ages 3-15 attend the camp and are grouped by age and ability. The University takes your child’s level and progress and keeps it in their database, which makes it super convenient if you come back the next year and forget what level your kids were.
Pre-covid they gave kids lunch, hot chocolate and an end-of-day movie, but this year our kids skied from 9-11:30, we gave them a quick lunch in Morse Mountain Grill 5 feet away, then popped them back for ski camp 12-3. They’re also very careful. Smuggs uses Flaik GPS and attaches a transponder to the outside of every child’s snow pants, a little black bracelet which brought me a lot of comfort. The instructors are incredibly patient, too.
I witnessed two college boys consoling a three-year-old who missed her mom, as well as a female instructor speaking at length with a father who wanted his kids to push past their fear of trying snowboarding for the first time. They really want to give every child the best possible experience. Smuggs also has adaptive ski lessons for children with special needs, just call ahead 24 hours in advance.
Smugglers condos come anywhere from studio size two-bedrooms. From studio sized to two or three-bedrooms. They’re super convenient for travelling families, with full kitchens, laundry machines and lockers for ski equipment. You can be either close to the village and the Fun Zone, which has a climbing wall, arcade, ninja warrior course, laser tag, and bouncy houses for kids, or further up the mountain in which case a free shuttle service can bring you to the village in under 5 minutes.
Condos come with a “kid’s room,” with four twin beds my kids like to jump on. Waking up in the morning to the mountain views is special. I highly recommend taking groceries with you to your condo. While the village does have a small grocery store, having milk and creamer for coffee in the morning, as well as simple lunch options cuts down on the stress of eating out three meals a day.
Though it had limited capacity this year due to staffing shortages we were very happy with Treasures Daycare when our son was an infant. Treasures is where Smuggs staff member’s children attend daycare daily, so I really felt like I could trust it. The room is clean, bright, and has huge windows where the kids can watch people skiing down the mountain.
Parents get connected to the Brightwheel app, and it was fun for me to see photos of my son while I went and had a cross-country skiing lesson through gorgeous snowy woods and then read a book back at the condo.
We didn’t have long-johns for our two-year-old, but we were able to find him a great pair in 3 Mountain Outfitters, a store at Smuggs I always find great items in such as Burton, Obermeyer, and specially-designed colorful Smuggs t-shirts which are incredibly soft.
All of you will need long-johns, ski pants and helmets, and waterproof gloves. I find my daughter, 6, hates the mitten-type gloves because she can’t grip her ski poles so we made sure to get her a pair that worked for her. It’s brrrrrr chilly up in Vermont, so all of your kids will need ski goggles to keep the snow from blowing across their faces while they’re in ski school. Head warmers are great too, and do the double-duty of a neck-warmer and hat.
Activities and Food
Nighttime tubing? Sing-a-longs with a friendly pirate? Maple syrup educational snowshoe treks? Smuggs has a wide variety of family activities for all-ages. Because we have a younger set (2 and 6) and an older two (9+11), we sometimes would divide and conquer with some children going to the indoor pool, while others napped (including my husband who was pretty tuckered out after a long day on the slopes!) The activity that everyone enjoyed the most actually wasn’t an activity at all, but stuffing our face with piping-hot, gooey chocolate waffles on the bottom of a mountain.
At the bottom of Madonna is a tiny cabin, serving waffles with maple or hot chocolate topping. Surrounded by freezing temperatures, we couldn’t cram them into our mouths fast enough. The only time I remember something tasting that good was my first coffee after giving birth.
My absolute favorite place to eat is a 10-minute drive from Smuggs, a restaurant called 158 Main, open Thursday-Sunday from 7:30 to 2. They use bakery machinery from the 1800’s, and all the French toast, bread for sandwiches, etc. is homemade bread. The historical building with worn wooden floors and the delicious food is a treat. Just call ahead—it seems this secret local spot has blown up in popularity in the winter months.
From New York City, you’ll hop on 95 N the pick up 91 N around New Haven. Once you’re in VT. You take 89N through Montpelier to Waterbury and exit 10 for Waterbury, VT. Follow Vermont 100N through Stowe to Morrisville. In Morrisville, pick up Rte. 15W through Johnson to Jeffersonville.
In Jeffersonville, pick up Rte. 108S. The Resort is located about 5 miles from Jeffersonville on the left. When you get off the major highways, you’ll start to see pretty red barns, covered bridges, and eventually, Morse, Madonna and Stirling, the 3 mountains which make up the range at Smuggs.The total time is about 5 hours, so if you’re renting a car I highly recommend one with a blue-ray player!
Winter in New York can feel long and getting up into the mountains really helps break the monotony. Smuggs is a special gem, with affordable pricing and a ski school full of staff trained to make every child feel special and boost their confidence. We love having this place we return to year after year, and seeing the progress our kids have made as skiers.
Looking for another place to visit this winter? Check out The Best Winter Lodges and Resorts Near NYC for Families!