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2019 Jan

Hit the Slopes at Smuggler's Notch

Smuggler’s Notch doesn’t forget the needs of parents and offers a number of activities that allow Mom and Dad to enjoy some much-needed time together—both on and off the slopes.

When I was in college and my buddies would take off for a day of snow skiing, I’d politely decline their invitation to come along, saying I had research to do in the library or something. Truth is I really had no interest in donning a pair of unwieldy skis and a bunch of bulky clothes and sliding at breakneck speed down steep icy slopes while freezing myself to the bone. It just didn’t sound like fun to me. And, to be truthful, I was afraid to try it.

But when the folks at Smuggler’s Notch Resort in Vermont’s lovely (and tall) Green Mountains asked my family and me to visit their resort, it was time to put my fears to rest. Besides I knew my husband and two older sons would really love the sport. And even if I didn’t, I welcomed any excuse to return to cozy Vermont, where my family had once enjoyed a brief summer visit.

After a week’s worth of fun at Smuggler’s Notch, I can honestly say, we had one of the best family vacations ever! This resort truly puts family first: every program it offers has the needs of families in mind. What’s more, Smuggler’s Notch doesn’t forget the needs of parents and offers a number of activities that allow Mom and Dad to enjoy some much-needed time together—both on and off the slopes.

Spring Skiing on Morse Mountain

Don’t Miss a Parent’s Night Out at Hearth & Candle

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We headed north Easter weekend. Besides the fact that the kids were out of school for spring break, choosing to do some “spring skiing” sounded a little less harsh than the blizzard-like conditions I’ve always associated with this winter sport. But as we drove north I found myself wondering what happened to spring—already blooming here in Hampton Roads. Seven hundred miles up the road, however, winter was still king, especially as we climbed high up among the mountain peaks.

Our condo at Smuggler’s Notch Resort was comfortable and located at the bottom of Morse Mountain, which at 2250 feet is the smallest of the three peaks at Smuggler’s Notch and one I would get to know intimately before our week was through. The condo kitchen was well equipped, a plus since we planned to do a lot of cooking ourselves to keep costs down. We shopped for groceries in advance of our arrival since resort grocery stores tend to be expensive and arrived armed with plenty of goodies to keep us fueled for a week of active winter fun.

Of course, I didn’t want to cook every night, so we decided to give the resort restaurants a try. One night we took the kids to Morse Mountain Grille, a family-style restaurant which features tasty fare. Prices were reasonable, and the food was satisfying. We also enjoyed some delicious pizza one night ordered from the Village Pizzeria.

Another evening Peter and I hired a babysitter so we could go out for a meal by ourselves. Then we chose the romantic Hearth and Candle Restaurant, where we sat by a cozy fire in a tavern-like atmosphere and enjoyed a peaceful meal. I especially loved the Vermont chicken breast I ordered: a tender, juicy breast stuffed with Vermont cheddar cheese, bits of cob-smoked ham, and tart pieces of apple covered with a light maple cream sauce. It was a real treat!

While eating well is an important part of any vacation, my family and I were at Smuggler’s Notch not for the food but for the skiing. While Peter had skied in his youth, the boys and I had ever skied before. As we tried on our rental skis the first evening, we joked about how many broken bones we’d have by the end of our stay. Well, I’m happy to report, except for a few bruised elbows and egos, we came through the week totally intact.

FamilyFest Package Includes Lessons

Treasures Child Care Perfect for Kids up to 3 Years Old.

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On our first full day we dropped off Ross, our youngest, at Treasures Child Care Center for children age 6 weeks to three years. Ross had never been in a day care setting before, so Peter and I were a little nervous about how he would like it.

The staff warmly welcomed Ross, who immediately began inspecting the toys and equipment in the toddler room to which he was assigned. Turns out he loved the “play place,” as we called it, so much that he didn’t want to leave at the end of each day. Of course, having Ross in a happy environment while Peter and I enjoyed ourselves was a wonderful part of this vacation.

Scott and Jasper attended all-day ski camp, part of a package deal the resort offers called FamilyFest. They enjoyed ski lessons each day, lunch, more skiing, and indoor aprés ski activities from 2-4 p.m. each afternoon. Toward the end of our stay, the boys wanted to keep skiing on up until the lift shut down at 4:30, so Peter would pick them up from camp at two o’clock for some family ski time.

As I expected, my older boys and my husband took to the sport right away. For me, it was another story. After my first lesson, during which I had felt awkward and helpless to control the slippery skis my feet seemed glued to, I walked back to the condo thinking skiing just wasn’t for me. I really didn’t like it.

I took the next day off and reveled in some “me” time, a rare treat as moms everywhere can attest. On the third day I rose again, but this time I headed to the Smuggler’s Notch Nordic Center for a cross-country skiing lesson. After being fitted with light-as-a-feather boots and skis, I tried cross-country skiing, a slower, more sedate winter sport that was more to my liking. Unfortunately, the cross-country trails were experiencing spring thaw, so I couldn’t go for a trek in “them thar” hills.

Choose Between Cross Country and Downhill Skiing

Daring Skiers Brave Madonna Mountain’s Triple Diamond.

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There was nothing for me to do then but try another downhill lesson. By this time, Scott had advanced to Sterling Mountain at 3040 feet with Peter and Jasper close behind. In fact, before the week was through, Scott ended up on the highest peak, Madonna Mountain at 3640 feet, which boasts the East Coast’s only triple-diamond slope. He loved the thrill of skiing. I was still hung up on my fear of the sport.

Lucky for me, Floyd, my downhill instructor, helped me overcome my fear and learn how to manage those wild, slippery skis. Overall, the caliber of the instructors at Smuggler’s Notch was excellent. I watched a number of the children’s instructors exhibit endless patience and good humor as they helped teach the wee ones to ski. Amazingly, they start teaching the tots to ski as young as age 3. Even more astonishing, those little tykes whiz by, fearlessly, taking a tumble here and there, but happily picking themselves up and heading downhill again.

I too had a tumble or ten, but only once did I fall really hard. That was my last day, and I was at the top of Morse Mountain. Up to this point, I’d only skied down from mid-station (i.e., halfway from the top). I looked down from the mountain’s peak and thought, “I’m going to die.”

I had no choice but to head down. I got going a bit too fast right from the start, and all of a sudden the ground seemed to drop from beneath my feet. My head hit the snow first—face plant! I even managed to eat some snow in the process. I picked myself up (not as happily as the little ones did) and realized I still had to get down. Suffice it to say, I found my way to the bottom. I guess you could say, my first-ever skiing experience ended with a bang.

Torch Parade and Bonfire End a Perfect Day

Summer at Smugg’s Is Also a Blast!

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Smuggler’s Notch Resort promises families will have fun. To ensure this, they pack each week full of activities and programs, like snow tubing, warming up at the daily bonfire with hot cocoa, playing bingo, doing the limbo at the resort’s weekly welcome party, and swimming in the indoor pool.

Peter and I tried out the health club with its outdoor (!) hot tubs, steam room, and sauna. The resort also offers a wine and cheese party for parents and even takes care of the kids while you enjoy the delicious spread.

One of the highlights of our visit was the once-a-week torchlight parade. As dusk fell, crowds gathered at the foot of Morse Mountain. Toward the top of the peak, mysterious red lights began to glow. Slowly the lights formed a line, which soon snaked down the mountain. Carrying red torch lights, dozens of ski instructors dressed in silly costumes came whooshing down to cheers and applause. After the parade a thrilling fireworks display capped the evening.

The resort offers action-filled summer vacations as well. Moms and dads can enjoy peaceful mountain hikes while the kids stay busy with children’s programs. Besides hiking, families can play tennis, try mountain biking, ride horseback, fish, canoe, or swim in one of 8 pools, four with waterslides.

In the evening family activities include bonfires, entertainment, movies, and lots more. Autumn at Smuggler’s Notch offers visitors a quiet opportunity to enjoy spectacular scenery and fall-getaway rates.

One vacationer at Smuggler’s Notch summed up his family’s experience, saying: “We’ve taken lots of vacations before, but Smuggler’s Notch is the only one we’ve had where we can’t wait to come back again.” My family and I heartily agree.

For information on Smuggler’s Notch, call 800-419-4615; e-mail smuggs@smuggs.com; or visit www.smuggs.com/

Peggy Sijswerda

Peggy Sijswerda is the editor and co-publisher of Tidewater Family and Tidewater Women magazines. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University and is the author of Still Life with Sierra, a travel memoir. Peggy also freelances for a variety of regional, national, and international magazines.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com