It's a segregated society at Smuggs, and that works just fine. How else could vacationing families and adrenaline-hog local rippers co-exist in such peaceful harmony. Over here you’ve got self-contained Morse Mountain, with its family-friendly condos, kid-centric activities, and gentle slopes all leading back to home base, perfect for launching little learners on a lifetime love of skiing. And over here, the fearsome steeps of Madonna Mountain, along with—out in the famous Back Bowls—some of the East’s best and most expansive tree skiing.
You might see some mingling of the two species here and there, but for the most part, neither has to worry about the presence of the other. That’s how a place can rank high in shut-up-and-ski criteria like Terrain (No. 2), Snow (No. 3), and Challenge (No. 3), yet still please visitors in categories like Service (No. 1), Lodging (No. 2), and Charm (No. 3).
Once again, Smuggs ranks No. 1 in the East for families, and the boot-up-at-the-car crowd over in ski-in/ski-out Lot 1 is like, “Huh, really?” Remember, there’s still not a single high-speed lift on the hill. The Madonna 1 double, for instance, clocks in at a quad-rejuvenating 15-plus minutes. It’s part of the charm, as is non-conglomerate ownership and No. 4-ranked scenery—all adding up to Smuggs’s No. 1 ranking in Local Flavor and No. 2 for both Overall Satisfaction and Value. “Cliffs, chutes, trees … still some of the most underrated terrain out there,” says one Smuggs lifer. Another: “A place that will reconnect you with your family 100 percent.” That’s the Smuggs dichotomy. And both readers would agree with a third, who says, “Don’t ever change this place!” — Joe Cutts
Smugglers' Notch 2020 SKI Magazine Reader Resort Survey Rank: 2nd in the East
- LOCAL TIP: Even if you’re staying in one of those really nice condos over at Morse, you might want to pack the car and make Lot 1 your base. It edges right up to the slopes and hums with awesome tailgate après action most days.
- DINNER PICK: As one reader rightly suggests, check out the pub at Smugglers' Notch Inn down in Jefferson Village: “Locals’ bar. Food is phenomenal, drinks are strong, plenty of friends to be made.”
- MANDATORY RUN: Ride the Madonna 1 double, a slow, nostalgic, and historic lift that accesses killer terrain. Novices welcome— there’s an easy way down from the summit.
SKI Magazine's 2019 Review of Smugglers' Notch, Vermont
It’s time to stop referring to Smuggler's Notch as “underrated.” Everyone knows it’s the East’s original family-friendly resort, with activities, accommodations, and a genuine top-down desire to make parents’ lives easier. In the age of conglomerates and real estate investment trusts, everyone loves the fact that it’s still independently owned, reasonably priced, and locally controlled. And everyone knows it’s a place that doesn’t have a single high-speed lift. But no one gripes, and many prefer the leisurely, restful ride up knowing there’ll be fewer skiers on the trails.
As for what might still be underrated, it’s the breadth and real-Vermont of Smuggs’s expert terrain, from the rowdy steeps of Madonna to the innumerable tree shots of the out-of-bounds Birthday Bowls. Even terminal intermediates can brag that they’ve skied from the summit of fearsome Madonna. The Madonna 1 chair offers a sobering view of Smuggs’ expert terrain on the way up, one of the East’s best views from the top, and an easy way down on Chilcoot.
Best of all, beginner and expert areas are so effectively sequestered from each other that everyone’s happy. Readers from both camps rave about Smugg’s authentic Vermont charm paired with amazing snow, minimal crowds and terrain for everyone. - Joe Cutts
Kids’ Club swag bags are presented upon check-in to groms 12 and under staying at a Smugglers’ property. Also: Fat-biking joins the robust list of off-slope activities on tap at the resort this season.
Come to Smugglers' Notch for the...
- TRAVEL EASE Get to the mountain early and snag a spot in Smugglers’ famous Lot 1. It’s ski-in/ski-out, with easy access to and from the Sterling and Madonna lifts. On nice afternoons it’s a hoppin’ tailgate scene.
- TERRAIN VARIETY By the numbers: 78 trails; 19 percent green, 50 percent blue, 31 percent black and double-black. And that’s not counting the 750 acres of glades.
- LOCAL FLAVOR Beer? Wine? Whiskey? Head out to nearby Smugglers’ Notch Distillery (bourbons and whiskeys made with Vermont spring water) or Boyden Valley Winery (Vermont ice wine and local cider).
- FAMILY ACTIVITY The whole place is one big family activity: skating, swimming, tubing, sugar on snow, and more.
- BRAGGING RIGHTS Is there really such a thing as a triple black diamond? Pure marketing hype? Try Black Hole, then decide for yourself.
- MANDATORY RUN Cruise FIS top to bottom and imagine a time when FIS-sanctioned downhills were run on such narrow, winding trails.
- BEST VIEW For anyone who can handle a blue run, the top of Madonna serves up what might be the best panorama of any Eastern ski area.
- APRÈS SPOT Sneak off campus for a cold one at Brewster River Pub and Brewery. They make their own and offer a nice selection of other Vermont brews.