Named after an infamous mountain pass that separates Mount Mansfield from Spruce Peak, Smuggler’s Notch, AKA Smuggs, is tucked into the Green Mountains of northern Vermont, not far from Stowe and 30 miles from Burlington. The resort covers three interconnected mountains that pull down an average of 300 inches of snow every year. The resort also boasts northern Vermont’s biggest vertical drop at 2,610 feet. Skiers and riders have 78 trails over 300 acres of patrolled slopes to explore, as well as 700 acres of official, but unpatrolled, tree skiing, for a grand total of 1,000 acres of skiing.
While you’ll find a mix of trails for intermediate skiers to experts across the resort, each of Smuggs’ three mountains is essentially dedicated to a certain level of skier. Beginners will be most comfortable on 2,250-foot Morse Mountain, where the Snow Sports University guarantees that they can teach you how to ski or board. The gradient is generally more mellow on Morse, and the majority of terrain is dedicated to beginners. Easy groomers even wind from the summit to the village, offering new skiers more than 1,000 feet of vertical to play with. Get your basic skills down, then head over to Log Jam, where beginner-friendly terrain park hits await. Midway will connect you to Madonna Mountain, and offer picture-perfect views of The Notch (seriously, stop here and take a picture).
Intermediate skiers practically have all of Sterling Mountain to themselves, including Sherwood Forest, a few acres of blue glades thinned with average skiers in mind. Hit Black Snake for a winding run down Sterling with views of the Champlain Valley. When you grow tired of Sterling, Madonna has longer, slightly steeper trails for intermediates, including more glade runs and a three-mile long trail that runs from the summit to the base.
And then there’s the Black Hole, the only triple black on the East Coast. It’s short, it’s steep, it runs you through the trees, and if you clean it, you earn instant bragging rights. There are plenty of “easier” double blacks to be had as well–Upper Liftline is a showcase trail with ledges and drops that run from the top of Madonna, steeply down the lift line (wave all your new fans above). And tough, expert-only glades can be found on the shaded slopes between Madonna and Sterling Mountains. Wear a helmet.
All that natural terrain, and yet park rats might have it best of all. New riders should stick to the Burton Riglet Park, where snow features ease newbies as young as three years old into the finer points of park riding. Progress through the intermediate Birch Run Terrain Park before hitting the Zone, where the biggest hits and pro competitions can be found. Coolest of all, though, has to be Knight’s Revenge, a massive natural park set in the midst of sprawling glades. You’ll hit downed logs, snowy banks and rock wall jumps as you move through the trees.
The slopeside village has everything you’d expect, including a world-class Nordic center with all sorts of off-piste adventures. If you’re truly adventurous, Smuggler’s Notch has an astounding array of guided ice climbing that you can access straight from the lifts. And families should check out the new Cabin Cat Rides, where you can ride to the summit of Madonna in a heated snowcat. Smuggs even has a snowmobile track for kids as young as six years old. You can also tube, sled on an Air Board ride the zip line, or hit up Fun Zone, a 26,000-square-foot “family fun complex” with all matters of active entertainment.
STAY: If you want to stay in the slope-side village, you’ll have to go with a condo in one of the neighborhoods at the base of the mountain. The Smuggler’s Notch Inn, in nearby Jeffersonville on scenic Route 108, has a B&B feel with its own bakery and tavern.
DINE: The Hearth and Candle goes out of their way to source as much of their menu locally as possible (wild boar gnocchi, anyone?). You pretty much have to order a cheese plate with local Vermont cheeses, then look for anything on the menu with maple syrup.