After two March Break ski trips in Vermont, I’m not exactly an expert on the place yet, but I’ve covered a lot of ground. An easy drive from the GTA, Ottawa and Montreal, Smugglers’ Notch Resort is rated the No. 1 Family Ski Resort year after year with good reason. Here’s a list of the 9 things to do in winter at Smugglers’ Notch Resort:
Take advantage of Canadian-at-par packages and rent an onsite condo.
Do the Summit Package.
Put the kids in camp.
Book your kids for mini snowmobile rides.
Rock a family Cat Trax tour.
Turn Mom Time into Me Time with the Women’s Clinic.
Eat at Hearth & Candle.
Après in FunZone 2.0.
Read on for more about these winter musts…
Let me start off by saying that this place is so special and has captured our hearts once again. You arrive and instantly feel such warmth. And the vibe is infectious because there’s positivity brimming over everywhere. This is probably a good time to mention that there is still LOADS of snow and the mountain is still open! With all the Nor’easters, Smuggs in particular has been dumped on and there’s no sign of winter letting up just yet. Check its website for a great deal in the next couple of weeks.
Without further ado, let me tell you why you have to make plans to experience Smuggs in winter:
1. Take advantage of Canadian-at-par packages and rent an onsite condo.
When you package up your accommodations and lift tickets at Smuggs, you can use your Canadian residency to your advantage. Just call instead of booking online, and they’ll take 25% off your package to even out the currency. When you’re booking a $2-3,000 week-long vacation, this discount is kinda huge.
The condos onsite are clean and huge, so you won’t be disappointed. All of them are either accessed by the free, on-demand Resort Shuttle and/or are ski-in and -out properties. We’ve stayed in both the Eagles and Falcons condos and loved them both for different reasons.
2. Do the Summit Package.
There are several different packages available for your stay at Smugglers’ Notch Resort. To me, the best value comes wrapped up in the Summit Package. For only a few hundred dollars extra when you’re looking at a week’s stay, you get:
- Mountainside lodging
- Ozone access in FunZone 2.0 (the top floor)
- Indoor heated pools and hot tubs
- Teen Alley Center
- Many day and evening activities (like a hot chocolate meetup at 3 p.m. each day, karaoke several nights a week and the awesome Thursday night Carnival with fireworks!)
- Daily guided winter walks
- 24 km’s worth of snowshoe trails
- 30 kms of cross-country trails
- Lift tickets for everyone in your party
- All-day Discovery Dynamos camp for 3-4 year olds
- Daily two-hour lessons for everyone in your party (5+)
- 50% off Trail Blazers all-day camp for 5-6 year olds
- 25% off TREASURES all-day child care; Little Rascals on the Snow all-day camp for 2-3 year olds; Adventure Rangers all-day camp for 7-10 year olds; Notch Squad all-day camp for 11-15 year olds; and any adult mountain experience (like the Women’s Clinic I’m going to get to in a bit)
I dare you: price out a ski trip at basically any other resort and add up the cost of lodging, lift tickets and daily lessons alone and you’ll see the value here is incomparable.
3. Put the kids in camp.
All those camps I mentioned up there? Yeah…do them. Not only will it free up a good chunk of your day for your own lessons but you’ll also be able to eat lunch on your own every day! This was GOLD for Big B and me this year. Last year, we only put them in the daily two-hour lessons, so we would race back from our lesson each day to pick them up and whisk them off for lunch.
With the camps, they get dropped off at 9 a.m., ski for a couple of hours in a group lesson — with the same instructor day after day, I might add — and then head in for lunch. There’s something different on the menu from Monday through Sunday (think chicken fingers, pizza and burgers) plus kid-friendy staples like pasta that are always available. The kids eat together with their group — their new friends for the week! — and then head back out to the slopes for more snow fun in the early afternoon.
We met back up with our kids at 2:30 p.m. every day, but there’s also more indoor time for things like movie afternoons and arts & crafts until 4:30 p.m. if you or your child so desire.
The camp setting ensures your kid has some consistent instruction during your stay and provides familiarity for those who may struggle with separation anxiety. Both of our kids moved up a level in the six days of camp they attended, with Miss Q even heading with her group on the shuttle to the second-biggest mountain at Smuggs to ski some tougher runs!
But perhaps the biggest accomplishment of all was getting them comfortable with riding the chair lifts on their own — without an adult by their side. THIS.WAS.HUGE! They refused to try it last year and the camp setting combined with the confidence their instructors instilled in them meant that they mastered it quickly this time.
4. Book your kids for mini snowmobile rides.
So. Much. Fun. And cuteness overload to boot. Each ride is only $29 and lasts about 15 to 20 minutes — which turned out to be just perfect. Kids are outfitted with a helmet and given a full orientation with their sleds. Then they ride around on the bunny hill around pylons (long after skiers have gone for the day). Dress them as you would for tobogganing — including hand warmers if they usually have frosty fingers. Details here.
5. Rock a family Cat Trax tour.
Smugglers’ Notch has modified 12-person groomers called the Cat Trax Express that do a few different tours each week — some mid-afternoon, one at sunset and one on Thursdays ahead of the fireworks. Although the fireworks tour will give you a nice vantage point for the fireworks, you do miss out on the Carnival. Plus it’s on Morse Mountain, which is the smallest of the three.
For my money, the sunset tour on Madonna is better. It gets you to the highest summit at Smuggs and gives your kids a chance to play there for a bit before descending during sundown — a magical time for photos. This was the beginnings of sunset when we did this tour last year:
Remembering this beautiful #sunset we saw during our Cat Trax tour at @smugglersnotchva. Descending from the 3,640-foot #summit, Miss Q and I got to sit in the front seat and watch the #groomer move thousands of pounds of #snow to clear the trails — creating perfect #corduroy. . . . #smuggslove #smugglersnotch #Vermont #skivermont #beautifulviews #landscapephoto #natureloversgallery #skylines #skitrail #skiweekend #hosted #lpfanphoto #lppathfinders #exploretocreate #writetotravel #travelblogger #travelawesome #travelstoke #smuggs #familytravels #adventuretravel #snowscape #lifesgood
6. Turn Mom Time into Me Time with the Women’s Clinic.
Part of the Snow Sport University programming at Smuggs, the Women’s Weekly Clinic is a four-hour session broken up with lunch and ending with a cocktail. I tried it for the first time this year and was paired with a coach and two other women who were roughly the same level.
After introductions, we discussed our goals and comfort zones. The other women were working on dipping into the woods…I had tried last year with my daughter and after hitting the third tree finally removed my skis and walked out of the treeline. I decided off-piste wasn’t my thing then and there. But during the clinic I was gently encouraged and guided back into the trees, using some new skills we learned that day on moguls. By the end, I’d done three wooded areas — some more gracefully than others — and a bunch of other terrain I probably never would have explored on my own.
The instruction is by women for women, with a woman’s physiology in mind. We have a different centre of gravity. We have different ways of expressing discomfort. We support each other differently. It was a far slower pace than my previous lessons that week (predominantly with men where I tested my limits with speed — in a good way), but more intricate in terms of the hows and whys of skiing, specifically in a woman’s body. It also gave me four uninterrupted hours of time to focus solely on me.
(Pssst… Big shout-out to my instructor, Julie! Thank you for taking all of the hard work I did with Glen all week and making me even better.)
7. Eat at Hearth & Candle.
You’ll find something yummy at every restaurant around the Smuggs property, but if there’s one restaurant you absolutely must visit during your stay, it’s Hearth & Candle. The atmosphere is both romantic and fun, the service is excellent and the food will WOW you. There’s even a kids’ menu. I’ve been twice now and both visits exceeded my expectations. Make a reservation!
The menu changes frequently because of its commitment to local food, so by the time you get there, some of the dishes I’ve had may be gone, but the current menu is on its website. During this visit, I loved the Vermont cheese board, braised wild boar and flourless chocolate cake. If the bourbon cake is still on the dessert menu — OMG, get it! The Boyden Alexander (made with cognac, Godiva and local Boyden maple cream) was also a divine after-dinner drink.
8. Go tubing.
On select nights, the bunny hill (Sir Henry’s) opens up for tubing, which is included in your Smuggs Pass. Kids and adults alike can travel up the magic carpet with their tubes and take turns sliding down one of two tracks. It’s a fun way to spend time on the hill after hours.
9. Après in FunZone 2.0.
Although a long day on the slopes may tempt you to spend your evenings curled up in front of a fire in your condo or soothing tired muscles in a hot tub, there’s a pile of kid fun that awaits at the new FunZone 2.0.
After a massive investment last year, Smuggs opened the upgraded space in April 2017 so this was its first winter. What a spot! Two floors of inflatables, mini golf, arcades, climbing wall, a timed obstacle course, a mini race track (a replica of the entire resort), laser tag, a laser maze and an entire area dedicated to the eight and under set.
A family of four can have a lot of fun — including laser tag and plenty of arcade games — for $50, so it’s not going to break the bank. Miss Q in particular loved the Ozone area on the second floor, which is also part of your Smuggs Pass so it won’t cost you an extra dime if you choose to stay up there.
And listen up, parents: the place is LICENSED! Yes…just flash your ID and you can carry your beer, wine or cider anywhere in the facility. Price-wise, a tallboy will only set you back around $6, so we loved that Smuggs isn’t trying to gouge parents just because they know you’re captive and desperate.
FUNZONE PRO TIPS: Do NOT leave your condo without your Notch Card. You won’t be able to take advantage of your included FunZone activities without it. Make sure your kids bring or wear socks and running shoes. They won’t be able to access the climbing wall or obstacle course if they show up in winter boots (we learned the hard way). If you forget socks because you’re an UGG gal like moi, you’ll be glad to hear there’s a bin of free socks upstairs to use. They’re cheap tube socks, but what do you want for free? At least they’re new and clean!
Please, please, please consider Smuggs for your next winter vacation. You won’t be disappointed.
DISCLAIMER: Smuggs welcomed us as guests for review purposes. We tell everyone about this place because it’s so amazing.