With the holidays right around the corner and an endless to-do list cluttering my thoughts, the idea of keeping things simple this year and embarking on a family winter getaway is more appealing than ever. And I know just the place to go.
My three kids and I discovered Smugglers’ Notch resort in Vermont last year during March break. I was able to put newly-acquired skiing skills to the test (I’d taken lessons the year before) while my children enjoyed all kinds of activities from skiing to swimming to playing computer games with newly made friends.
My family heard about Smuggs — as it’s affectionately called by insiders — from friends in Montreal who have a time-share condominium at the resort. I’d also heard that Smugglers’ Notch had an award-winning ski school and ski camp for kids and adults. Further research revealed that Smuggs has been repeatedly honoured by several national magazines and resort associations as a top family destination.
Smugglers’ Notch was first recognized for all-inclusive family programming and facilities in 1989 when Family Circle magazine voted it one of the Top 10 Family Ski Resorts in the U.S. Since then, Ski Magazine has voted Smuggs number one for family programming at least eight times.
There’s also a bonus for us Montrealers: the resort is just a two-hour drive from the city. Besides the stunning scenery offered by the surrounding mountains, the resort is known for events and amenities that appeal to all ages.
At the heart of the resort is a village-style complex with numerous charming condominium communities, which feel like mini-neighbourhoods. Some units are located in the heart of the village, while other more luxurious condos are perched along a mountain base. Several condos are situated right off a main ski hill, allowing enthusiasts to literally glide right to their front door.
Staying close to the village is a plus for families with young children who may want to walk to the on-site grocery store (equipped with basic supplies, although most people stock up before arriving at the resort), an ice cream shop or some of the free entertainment that is offered.
With fully equipped kitchens in each condominium, several restaurants and snack bars on site, and lots to do in terms of activities, it is possible to check-in and never leave the resort.
Families will appreciate the different age-specific kid centres, including two just for teens, which offer a variety of activities. The Fun Zone Family Entertainment and Recreation Centre is just what the name suggests: a place where kids of all ages can test themselves on an obstacle course, zip down giant inflatable slides or play a game of ping-pong or miniature golf.
The Fun Zone was a hit with my gang, but my 13-year-old daughter got to take advantage of one the resort’s teens-only centres where she could hang out with young people ages 13-15. Called Teen Alley, it features games, music and popcorn. For teens ages 16 and up, there is a similar centre called Outer Limits.
For families with babies or young children, peace of mind is offered at Treasures, a welcoming nursery and daycare centre for kids from 6 weeks to 3 years old. The brightly coloured centre has recently been renovated to the tune of $1 million. Treasures’ staff are screened and experienced, and the centre is situated along a main ski hill, so mom and dad can literally ski to the door in order to check in on the little ones.
Of course, skiing is one of the big attractions here, and there are 78 trails for beginners to experts that twist and turn along three impressive mountains.
The resort is known for its quality ski lessons offered to adults and kids. Under the staff’s patient instruction, I went from beginner slopes to more challenging (and rewarding) intermediate slopes fairly quickly.
My 11-year-old son, who’d had only one lesson before the trip, also went from beginner to intermediate while attending the resort’s ski camp, which includes on-the-go lessons as groups of children explore various areas on the mountains. Snacks, lunch, and an Olympics style “race” and closing ceremonies at the end of each week are included. There are also lessons in skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing geared towards teens.
And when you’ve had enough of skiing, you will find indoor swimming pools and hot tubs in the village at the Courtside pool, and snow tubing hills, cross country skiing, walking/snow shoeing trails and ice skating rinks to keep you busy.
Parents who shudder at the thought of having to schlep tired kids and heavy equipment around all day should know there is a free shuttle bus (service runs from 8 a.m. to midnight) making it easy to get from place to place in the village.
With so much to offer, it’s no wonder that our gang was sad to leave the winter wonderland behind last year, and why we’re itching once again to embark on another adventure.
For information on Smugglers’ Notch Resort programs and fees, call (800) 451-8752 or visit www.smuggs.com.