Smug­glers’ Notch

SKI - - WEST - —Joe Cutts

Smug­glers’ Notch? The No. 1 ski re­sort in the East? Be­fore you spout off (look­ing at you, Stowe snob), con­sider this: Read­ers rank it No. 1 for kids. What, are you go­ing to ar­gue with cute lit­tle groms who like to ski? We didn’t think so. At Smuggs, mak­ing fam­i­lies feel wel­come is a trade­mark, a rai­son-d’etre. Its own­er­ship and man­age­ment—real Ver­mon­ters, by the way, un­be­holden to any cor­po­rate over­lords or real-es­tate in­vest­ment trust—long ago made the fam­ily thing their mis­sion, and they’ve stayed un­fail­ingly on-mes­sage ever since. To that end, there are cozy slope­side con­dos, cud­dly mas­cots, pools and play­grounds, cook­ies and milk, daily rein­deer games, and miles of novice and in­ter­me­di­ate ter­rain on the slopes of Morse and Ster­ling moun­tains. A beloved stuffed an­i­mal left be­hind? Staffers will cheer­fully Fed-Ex it to you, one reader at­tests. But here’s the thing: The ter­rain on Smug­glers’ Notch’s sig­na­ture sum­mit, Madonna Moun­tain, will kick your ass—nar­row, gnarly, bumps-up-to-here and in many places as steep as any­thing in the coun­try. So as pop­u­lar as Smuggs is with fam­i­lies, it’s also a fa­vorite of many a boot-up-in-the-lot Burling­ton ski bum, who will vouch for its high rank­ings for Chal­lenge, Va­ri­ety, and Snow. And what does it tell you when a place that doesn’t have a sin­gle high-speed lift—and al­most no nightlife what­so­ever—can be the top-ranked re­sort in the East? It tells you that read­ers ap­pre­ci­ate a place that keeps it real. To wit: “An af­ford­able re­sort with great ter­rain that caters to ev­ery­day fam­i­lies.’” “Au­then­tic Ver­mont ski­ing with amaz­ing ter­rain and tree ski­ing.” “Ex­treme ded­i­ca­tion to cre­at­ing the best cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence pos­si­ble.” “A skier’s moun­tain and a great value.”

Smuggs nabs the top rank­ing for pleas­ing fam­i­lies and hard­core skiers alike. No easy feat.

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