“Worth the Trip” Series: Smugglers’ Notch is a mountain of fun!
Why would I go to a ski resort in the summer time? Well, Smugglers’ Notch offers dozens upon dozens of reasons to visit them in every season because really, they are much more of a family resort than a place to visit just for winter sports.
Planning this trip was almost as fun as taking it. We got a weekly guide to activities and amenities about a week before our stay and had mapped out all the great things we wanted to see and do as a family. Smuggler’s Notch has a great ski reputation (named Best Kid-Friendly Resort in the East by SKI Magazine) but we didn’t know much about their summer offerings. We were immensely impressed.
Their website boasts activities that will bring together everyone from tots to grandparents with events that tie the family together. The resort also offers daily camps for kids from survival to adventure and so much more. All ages 3-18 are covered in their camp guides. This provides kids with an opportunity to try something new and hang out with kids their own age while parents can use the features of the resort that appeal to them. Karen Boushie, director of public relations, talked about the strength this is to the resort. It is a place where families can come together and participate in things that interest them together and separately. She also noted that families participate in some of the typical family-friendly resort activities that they may never do at home like Family Karaoke or Bingo!
We planned our stay around activities our toddler, Emma, would enjoy. Her favorite events were ones where the Friendly Pirate and the mascots were present. I cannot overstate how much she loved Billy Bob Bear, Mogul Mouse and Arbor Frog. She still talks about how she gave the bear high fives and the mouse a hug. When I bring up listening to music, she immediately says “Bear? Mouse? Froggy?”
There was a sing along breakfast and a sing along pizza party on the Friday of our stay. Before we walked into these events, I was so sure Emma would be afraid of the giant animals and the pirate, but they approached her in such a quiet nonthreatening way sensing her trepidation. The bear sat down and colored with her giving her a chance to warm up to him. It was amazing to me how much every person who worked there seemed to understand not just their own roles but how to work with and encourage children too. By the end of our weekend, Emma was kissing the Mouse on the nose goodbye.
The other kids treated the troupe like rock stars too: hugs, photo posing, high fives, dancing. It happened wherever the pirate and mascots were. We wished that the mascots were out more often!
The highlight of the weekend though was definitely the Smuggsational Family Social on Sunday night meant to connect people with each other at the beginning of their week stay. It happens right after an event, Courtyard Kickoff, that introduces families to the staff of the camps and the daycare center. It highlights events for the week and connects people. At the social, the DJs Jammin Sam and Goodtime Charlie got kids involved in games with balls, hula hoops, water balloons and more. It also got kids doing conga lines, the chicken dance and the famous sprinkler dance move. Emma had the time of her life dancing with the mascots, and even though she was a bit young for the games, she did her best to play along and made friends with other toddlers in attendance. What a great night!
Other activities we saw included family karaoke, preschool games, nature walks, water games and although we didn’t get a chance to partake due to time constraints, life-size foosball and human hungry hungry hippos sounded like some awesome family fun.
Before we officially arrived, we checked out some of the trails nearby, a mere 10 min drive. There were fantastic short walks with huge boulders to climb on for kids. We checked out a nearby spot “smugglers cave” but didn’t do the popular hike to Sterling Pond, which is known for its amazing views and trout pond. It is a steep but short climb.
The resort has its own set of “walks, wiles and hikes” as well as guided walks/hikes. It is part of the resort’s focus on nature education. You can even go on a trek with a llama (!!) or hike up to a mountain reservoir where families can rent canoes and kayaks.
We were able to rent a Mountain Buggy stroller so that we could hike with Emma without worrying about bringing a heavy duty stroller of our own. They also offer rentals for high chairs, backpacks and more for families with toddlers.
I have been to resorts and since you basically stay on campus, the food can be mediocre at best. This was definitely NOT the case. Food was homemade and ingredients in many cases were local (yes please, Vermont cheddar cheese!)
We loved the Mountainside Grille and the choices for kids were awesome. After ordering, they immediately brought out some applesauce as her starter–very helpful for keeping a toddler happy. This attention to family needs was clear throughout our stay. We made Perk, the resort coffee shop, a daily (sometimes thrice daily) stop which kept us going at a good pace. We loved loved the iced lattes, and our only complaint was the size of the drink – can we get a larger cup? Please?
The pizza was delicious although a little pricey, and there is a Ben and Jerry’s on site! The deli seemed like a popular lunch spot, and the Hearth and Candle was a more serious dining spot but we were assured was still casual dress but five-star dining.
The condos are a wide variety of size, bedroom number and layout. I was encouraged to remind future attendees to call ahead and explain the family dynamics and activities so they could place the family in the best condo for their needs. If a child is going to be at Treasures everyday, they can place them close to that building, but if a family is traveling with multi-generations, a townhouse in the village that has two stories and four bedrooms on different floors may be a better option for them. Karen said that the customer service is right on site and they know the building layouts and activity options better than anyone. We can attest to the great customer service we received.
Our condo had two bedrooms, mountain views and a hot tub outside our deck. There were grills around the resort including outside our building. It had a full kitchen, two bathrooms and a Jacuzzi tub. It felt like a luxurious spot to live for the weekend!
Between the splash pads and lagoon, our two year old was pleased as punch with the pool amenities, but we barely scratched the surface of all they had to offer. There were numerous water slides for all ages and sizes, a lily pad obstacle course across a pool, a “sugar house” with water guns and indoor and outdoor pools. Different communities had their own hot tubs and basic pools to avoid crowding at the pools in the center of the village. It was never overcrowded when we were at the pool, which is something I had expected and seen at other water resorts. One of the pools also features a “lap swim” for adults in the morning hours so that people can use it for exercise before the pool opens for normal hours. The one downside was that no pool opened before 10am which is a bit late for us, especially as parents of a young child. On the other side though, some of them are open as late as 10pm.
We did a round of mini golf by a trickling mountain creek and walked by the giant swing and giant rock walls as well.
Zip lines, tree canopies, Segways, disc golf, a skatepark, mountain biking, playgrounds and more are available for people to enjoy. There really are endless possibilities and the resort caters to a variety of interests so the entire family has a great job.
Because it is a mountain resort, the walk from place to place can be far but also hilly. The AMAZING shuttle service shows up quickly and gets you to wherever you need to go on the property. The shuttle drivers were helpful and friendly and the service is available from 8 a.m. until midnight. It was a lifesaver service as we stayed up one of the sides of the mountain in the Falcons resort.
During our stay, we toured Treasures daycare located right on site for ages 0-3 where Emma stayed for one of the days on our trip. We were very nervous about leaving her with strangers for a few hours as she is a fairly shy child. She ran right into the children’s room and began to play without looking back (thanks a lot kid!). But we were relieved to know she would have so much fun with other kids her age while we checked out the resort through different eyes.
We were told that the staff there is trained to handle nonrecurring children. In other words, there are kids that will go to their daycare and come back for a few days, but won’t be there long term. They asked us questions about her before we left like “what are some things that would cheer her up if she gets sad?” We knew she was well cared for. When we picked her up, she told us she hiked with the other children beaming with pride, and her and one of the staff workers was dancing in the hall before we left. In the summer, staff told us activities, aside from playing on the playground and in the well-supplied daycare center, include hiking or playing at the splash pad (zero depth) for some water play.
A highlight of Treasures for the winter months is their toddler ski lift and ski slope. They will teach toddlers how to ski while parents are enjoying the slopes! Kids get their own little course and enjoy an end of the week “race” and party to celebrate all they have learned with caregivers who want to come watch them go down the course.
The Family Feel
What spoke to us throughout the weekend was how much the resort really geared toward families. Scattered throughout the resort were small playgrounds, sandboxes or places where kids could play and enjoy themselves. The kids menus were diverse and the activities for families were endless. Smuggs staff recognized families from previous years. We overheard the pirate chatting up a family and congratulating them on a new baby. The family hugged him goodbye and wished him well “until next year” they called out as they left. The barista at Perk talked to the girl in front of me in line about her love of the reservoir nearby and asked what her brother was up to today. It was clear that this place had a strong community even though it is a vacation spot!
Karen Boushie tells me that it is a strength of the property because it has been something the resort has geared toward (families) since the 1970s when they sent parents up to Montreal to watch the summer Olympics while the resort put together a day camp for kids to enjoy while there parents were gone. Now the camp of course has grown and expanded to include almost any activity you can think of.
Would we go back?
Yes, please! We had such a fun weekend and we need to bring Emma back to see her favorite celebs Mogul, Arbor and Billy Bob.
I had a chance to speak with Karen Boushie about the rest of the year activities. The fall months are a different feel and sound like a perfect parent getaway complete with hard cider tastings, apple picking, day trips to Montreal and guided nature walks. The season picks back up again when skiing starts the day after Thanksgiving. Their daily activities and weekly events in the winter months are similar to summer but are geared more to winter spots. Hikes become snowshoeing treks and the summer camps are winter camps with a focus on snowboarding and skiing.