The Family Place
By Mitch Kaplan
wonderful things have happened for us at Smugglers' Notch. The good times were
plentiful. But nothing topped the Cookie Race. Nearly ten years after the event,
Laina - by then a teenager - insisted that we revisit the site of her triumph.
It was here on the beginner terrain that the five year-old had
culminated her first-timer, learn-to-ski week by zipping through the
obstacle course, managing to scarf down a cookie en-route, and emerging
A year later she would finish a NASTAR race quickly enough to rank in
the top five nationally for her age group. But, not even a national
ranking held a candle to the cookie race.
Smugglers' Notch creates those kinds of memories. The kind that glow
warmly in your heart long after the fun subsides. The kind that binds
I'd taken my kids to Smuggs "back in the day" because at that time it
was among the few destination resorts that had developed specialized
children's programs. Back then, too many ski areas simply assigned to
kid-duty their least experienced instructors. Not Smuggs. They assigned
only the ones who were truly interested, and trained them well.
So, think about it. If this resort was among the first, it logically
follows that they've had more practice and experience than most.
In the fifteen years we've been trekking to the place, it's only gotten
better. By our second visit a few years later, a state-of-the-art
children's center had been built. A new 5400 square-foot Treasures Child Care Center opens for '02-'03 with features like radiant floor heating, remote access cameras, heated snowmelt walkways, ski-in and ski-out convenience, easy drop off and pick up, and a 4,000 square-foot outdoor playground.
The next time, we were lured by one of
their frequent special events. In this case, clowns from the Big Apple
Circus were in residence. Laina was pretty shy at that stage, but she
blossomed into broad smiles and loud laughter during the après-ski
clowning workshop. And, as to skiing with the clowns. Well, it even beat
skiing with dad.
in time for my kids, along came a teen center and a variety of specialized programs
for adolescents. Now you'll find two supervised teen centers: Outer Limits Teen Center for ages 16 and older, and a new, Teen Alley for 13s-15s, with a new snow deck park outside the door.
Last time we were there, a room had been set up in which kids who were
missing school could do their homework, complete with the aid of a
There is, by the way, terrific skiing and riding at Smuggler's Notch.
Oh, certain problems remain: it can be a long traverse from the main
mountain back to the base village; even though Madonna Mountain holds
some of the best challenging terrain in the east, the bottom half is
pretty flat; and the lifts, well, you have to admit they're slow - although the Madonna 1 lift was recently lowered to screen chairs from the wind, a nice improvement.
But, the hill does hold some of the east's best snowsliding. New glades
have appeared, a new superpipe and, as I said, some of the advanced
terrain can't be beat.
Still, Smuggs' strength is families, Nobody does it better. Period. The
base village is self-contained so your kids can pretty much run free.
The programming - on-snow and off - is consistently high-quality and
always innovative. (Check out "The Wacky Wizard Science Show." Very
cool.) And a basic understanding of family dynamics pervades. These
folks know, for example, that parents run out of steam long before kids
do, and they schedule activities accordingly. They also know that mom
and dad need time alone together, and that adolescents don't want to
appear anywhere before late morning.
They innovate constantly. This year, they've added learn-to-snowboard camps for four and five-year-olds. Called Discovery Dynamos Snowboard Camp, these all-day camps offer small child-to-instructor ratios to facilitate young children's needs and learning styles. The Smugglers' Notch Ski and Snowboard Club will also add All Mountain All Terrain Camp in which teens aged 14 and older explore Smugglers' varied terrain including trees, natural hits, powder, groomers, halfpipe and other features.
But, they don't abandon activities that work. Which is why ten years
after Laina experienced the thrill of Cookie Race victory, we stood by
the trail and watched a whole new generation slide and chew their way
through the course. We laughed till we were in tears.
Archived articles & info relating to
Smuggs and Vermont:
Smugglers' Notch Review
… by Mitch
Kaplan. Mitch explores New England haunts by day. More on