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  • Dave Philbrick

Smuggler's Notch

#1 Family Ski Resort in the USA by Ski Magazine for more than a decade for good reason; easy access to Stowe, Burlington, and Jay Peak’s amazing indoor waterpark; receives the Northeast Kingdom’s reliable average 280 inches annual snowfall; has the most amenities for active families of any New England ski resort.

Family ski vacations were a cherished childhood memory, and we wanted to create those same memories for our children. After skiing many places all around New England, we chose Vermont’s Smuggler’s Notch as our home resort for the last 15 years for the following reasons:

  • Overall reasonable cost, especially lift tickets at only $65/$85 a day.

  • Its consistent top ranking from Ski Magazine has certainly been earned every time we’ve come up.

  • Free concierge-type service which is a hugely valuable safety net for families – when I called to ask where I could buy baby formula late one night they brought it to my door; when we dropped off our son at ski school not realizing we had forgotten his skis, they left a message telling us not to worry about it because they had already rented him skis for the day at no charge; when we dropped off a wailing child throwing a fit, they took him with a smile and said it was no problem because they would calm him in a few minutes – and they did; they have lent our kids face masks and extra ski clothes to borrow at no charge, etc. etc.

  • Great skiing – 75+ trails, 3 mountains, 23 feet of snow annually, excellent grooming and snow- making, a variety of incredibly scenic views, only triple black diamond in the East, and glades for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers..

  • So many amenities and so much to do besides skiing: fireworks and torch ski show every Thursday; free tubing with a lift and lights; magic carpet and ski slalom course just for toddlers at a first class day care where you can ski by your children on the playground; ‘Cookie Races’ every Friday with an easy slalom course, cookie prize, and priceless sports announcer narrating each race; indoor and outdoor heated pools with two indoor jacuzzis; every week a candlelit dinner at the top of Sterling; a free shuttle that will stop anywhere around the resort (freedom for kids!); shows and family game nights every night; and famously The FunZone, an indoor recreation center with a full-size American Ninja obstacle course, two large transparent climbing walls, laser tag, video arcade, mini golf course, and many large inflatable slides and obstacle courses for all ages. They also have art courses and lectures during the week.

The only drawback to the ski resort is slow lifts – it does not have a single high-speed lift. When they make that investment, expect it to surge in popularity and price.

- 01 -

Cold Hollow Cider Mill. On the drive up our must-do stop is Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury for the free delicious fresh apple cider and their incredible warm cider apple doughnuts. Cute bathrooms and an extensive food and gift store.

- 02 -

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory. If you haven’t done it, a $3 tour of the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory is fun and provides a free sample of a new flavor they’re testing. Nearby is a Vermont-made mall with specialty shops including Cabot cheese, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Lake Champlain Chocolates, and Vermont Teddy Bear.

- 03 -

Picture Perfect Chilcoot. For the best views, bring your camera to Smuggler’s Notch’s signature trail, Chilcoot. Drifter and Snow Snake also have wonderful views.

Mt. Mansfield and Stowe Ski Resort from Smuggler’s (top of Sterling)

- 04 -

The paved rail trail along the Lamouille River is 33 miles long from Cambridge through Jeffersonville to Johnson, and is planned to be an additional 60 miles. A ride roundtrip from Jeffersonville to Johnson takes a few hours, and a great midway stop is the upscale Downtown Pizzeria and Pub in Johnson.


- 05 -

Admiring Sterling Pond

The hiking trail along the Brewster River is 2.7 miles. The most popular hike in Smuggler’s Notch State Park is to Sterling Pond, the state’s highest elevation trout pond. It is essentially climbing rock stairs for an hour, so bring your hiking poles or grab one of the natural walking sticks left against the sign at the base.

- 06 -

Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm ( gives you a chance to try these special short horses that have a unique 5th gait, with a trail ride through the woods and along open fields, away from any road with traffic. LaJoie Stables ( right in Jeffersonville is Vermont’s only year-long horseback riding stable.

- 07 -

Eden Sled Dogging/Peace Pups offers dog-sled rides year round through woods, away from any road with traffic.

- 08 -

Stowe’s Appletree Learning Center is a drop-in indoor play center that will also take your children on hikes to waterfalls with lunch included.

- 09 -

Island Line bike path in Burlington

For a great bike ride, the Island Line Rail Trail in Burlington is 14 miles long and includes a wonderful and unique narrow causeway that extends 3 miles into Lake Champlain, one of the Great Lakes.

WINTER ITINERARY: SUNDAY When driving up and going through Stowe, remember that the short cut to Smuggler’s Notch of Route 108 is closed in winter, so you have to go around through Morrisville and Johnson. In Jeffersonville, stop at Hanley’s General Store which is the local supermarket. Prices are lower there than the market in Smuggler’s Notch village. Arriving at the resort, check into your condo and then stop by 3 Mountain Equipment to rent your ski equipment. Dinner is at the Morse Mountain Grille or what you brought with you, as you will not want to get back in the car!

Smuggler’s Notch Pass (Rte. 108) in winter
Smuggler’s Notch Pass (Rte. 108) in winter

MONDAY Many condos are ski out, or you can hop the free resort shuttle to get dropped off at the Village and its multiple lifts. If your child is in ski school, you’ll want to get there by 8:00 or 8:15 am to sign them in and get them settled. For the first day you’ll want to stay with the lifts around the village which are Morse, Morse Highlands, and Magic. Try the beginner glades opposite the top of Highlands lift, off of Highlander, and Yellow Cat Trail and Bear’s Den off of Magic Learning Trail. Also fun to try is Logjam, a beginner terrain park. Enjoy dinner at the nearby Brewster River Pub & Brewery which has really excellent food and a sports bar atmosphere that is popular with locals. They have great hamburgers with a variety of toppings like guacamole, avocado, fried egg, and carmelized onions, and the hamburgers can be beef, buffalo, or lamb. Not surprisingly they have a large variety of Vermont craft beers on tap, but very surprisingly their fried fish is excellent and light.

Brewster River Trail

TUESDAY Hop the Morse lift and take the Midway run to Madonna Mountain. For the first run take Upper/Lower Chilcoot and enjoy the changing and dramatic scenery. It’s an intermediate trail that’s a lot of fun, and is considered one of the best runs in New England. For the next run take Upper/Lower Drifter and try the intermediate Red Fox Glades, which are the most popular glades. Next take Upper Chilcoot to Mulcahy’s Link which is a really fun long intermediate, and is where Birch Run Terrain Park starts which is a unique terrain park with obstacles made out of birch logs, which gives the illusion that it’s natural ‘parkour’ and not man-made. For dinner join the Top of the Notch Snowshoe Adventure, which is a memorable evening and can be done by beginners who have never snowshoed and is particularly enjoyed by non-skiers. Included in the dinner price is an evening chair lift ride which is turned on just for dinner guests to the top of Sterling, snowshoe rentals, and a shuttle ride home. While served casually, the quality of the meal is excellent, and the only drawback is no bathrooms – it’s a good thing it’s dark and there are plenty of trees around! The snowshoe trek down the ski slope led by a guide will have everyone laughing, and it’s surprising how much light reflects off the snow so that it’s not a problem to see your way down even on a cloudy or new moon night.

Kids on highest Smuggler’s Peak (Madonna)


Hike up to Sterling Pond

Take Midway to Madonna, and then Driftway to get to the Sterling Lift. Upper Rumrunner (which activity

gave Smuggler’s Notch its name) should be your first run, and has stunning views overlooking the Stowe Ski Resort and of Mount Mansfield, the tallest peak in Vermont. Unique for New England, you can ski between resorts. Off Rumrunner on the left is a trail that is roped off (to signal it is not groomed and leaves the ski area) that goes to Sterling Pond and from there to the Stowe Ski Resort, who will honor your Smuggler’s lift ticket once to allow you to ski back to Smuggler’s. By car it would take 45 minutes to reach the other resort! This is the evening we go to Hearth & Candle in the village, which is a fine dining institution for locals as well as tourists.


During the day enjoy choosing among Morse, Madonna, and Sterling Mountains for your favorite runs. Tonight there is a well done torchlight ski parade and fireworks show on the lower Morse liftline, with free hot chocolate by a bonfire at the village gazebo which is a prime viewing spot. The ski pros are well practiced at the torchlight parade, and have good choreography weaving in and out and synchronizing the movement of the torches in waves and other patterns. When they finish skiing down and the crowd applauds, that’s when the fireworks start! It’s an impressive show they put on every week and that they continued to do even through the Covid season (2021). While at the village for the show, it’s convenient to have dinner at the casual Village Pizzeria, and our favorite is their Garden pizza (pesto, carmelized onions and spinach).

View from Stowe’s Spruce Peak

FRIDAY After skiing most of the day, check out the FunZone which is a multi-million dollar play facility for all ages that allows your kids to have fun even in poor weather. Or you could knock off a little early and drive 35 minutes to enjoy Jay Peak’s incredible glass-enclosed waterpark (with a retracting roof) that includes a rapid river, a double FlowRider surfing machine, and tubes that loop the rider upside down! Grab a drink at the balcony bar that overlooks the surfers and enjoy the spectacle. Any day the weather isn’t cooperating for skiing, Jay Peak is a great destination that also includes an indoor skating rink. For dinner back at the resort enjoy the nearby Martell’s at the Red Fox, which has excellent food in a casual ski lodge atmosphere.

SATURDAY The weekend brings the crowds, but when the Madonna lift has long lines, Madonna II almost never does and takes you close to the top. This is a day we often just ski the morning and knock off before lunch. We will use the day to visit Stowe or Burlington (Echo Museum is a favorite), and Montreal is less than 2 hours away! We also make sure to go tubing at least once, because it’s free and also effortless thanks to the magic carpet lift. You’re never too young or too old to enjoy tubing!


Check out day is Sunday, but before we go we make sure to stop at 158 Main Street which has a fantastic breakfast, interesting menu, and amazing fries depending on how late you’re leaving!

Smuggler’s Notch Ski Resort from vineyard on Rte. 108

Burlington Greenway in Fall
Fall foliage on Rte. 108 in Stowe

Top of Prospect Rock

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