2001 Number 9 Resort in the East: Smuggler's Notch, Vt.

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number 9 resort in the East: Smugglers' Notch, Vt.

Smugglers' has earned No. 1 family resort honors so consistently, it's nearly earned itself a Webster's entry. But beyond the first definition of well-crafted programs and warm, fuzzy mascots like Mogul Mouse, you'll find enough menacing terrain to make even Glen Plake goofy. With three interconnected peaks and a slopeside village, Smuggs has it all. As one reader puts it, "Just for families? This mountain will whip any expert into shape, guaranteed." On-the-hill, it's classic New England cruisers, 800-acres of tree skiing and vertiginous steeps such as the aptly named Freefall. When the snow's fresh, it's training for Tuckerman's. When it's not, only the brave will want to test their knees on the razorback moguls. Most guests choose an easier alternative and return to the gentle trails of Morse Mountain. Singles complain that "when the lifts close, so does everything else." But parents know the action just shifts to the FunZone, an indoor Romper Room, or The Outer Limits, Smuggs' teens-only yurt. As a haven for families and a haunt for in-the-know skiers, Smugglers' has created a delicious contradiction in terms: a family resort for all ages. Top-flight service in a down-to-earth atmosphere are area hallmarks. But beneath that friendly veneer beats a skier's steely heart. Try cozying up to a bark-chewing local for the skinny on his favorite stash and you'll likely find him as nippy as the prevailing north wind. "The Back Bowls?" a denizen of the Smugglers' outback once told me, "I've heard good things about them ... they're in Vail aren't they?"

WHAT'S NEW A 40 percent increase in snowmaking and five new gladed areas for when Mother Nature provides.

A GOOD DEAL Free child-care at Alice's Wonderland. Stay five days or more from Feb. 4-11, and little ones (ages 6 weeks to 2 years) play slopeside in this award-winning nursery. Call (800) 451-8752.

MEDALS GOLD Service, Family Programs; SILVER Terrain, Challenge, Lodging, Off-Hill Activities.

HIGH/LOW RANK Family Programs (1), Lodging (9), Service (12); Snow (71), Grooming (79), Lifts (82).

DON'T MISS A pit-stop at Jana's Cupboard Bakery at the intersection of routes 15 and 108 for fuel and a quarter-pound doughnut.

READER REMARKS (+) "By all means, go with a young skiing family. The programs are great for kids." (-) "Limited snowmaking." "Lift system is slow and antiquated."