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.