We were hosted media guests at Smugglers’ Notch this summer. My opinion is all my own and also truthful.
Have you ever seen a Luna moth? They have an impressive wingspan, a lime green colour that makes them look almost bioluminescent and streamers trailing behind as they fly. If I’d never seen this moth, I’d still believe all moths drab and grey.
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Looking Through a Different Lens
If I’d never experienced a Smugglers’ Notch summer I might have missed seeing all the fun ways you can play at a ski resort when the snow has long since melted.
Sometimes, a different lens is all you need to see something seemingly familiar in a new light. Take a Smugglers’ Notch Summer for instance.
Every year we travel to Vermont as a family to ski. In the winter, the hills are formidable and alive with skiers and snowboarders. In January 2016, we took our first ever Vermont trip to Smugglers’ Notch and we skied our hearts out. Oh the mountains were incredible, but the people were the thing that stood out most for us then.
So what’s there to see at a ski resort in the summer?
Weeks ago we started considering taking a summer trip to Vermont. Part of me wondered what there was to see at the Smugglers’ Notch family ski resort in the summer months, but my skier’s heart was beating to the tune of NO for months. It’s too sad to see a mountain and not be able to ski it. And yet we were curious, so in the end that curiosity won out.
How Do I Get to Smugglers’ Notch?
On a Friday morning earlier this month, we drove to Vermont and checked in to Kestrels condominiums at Smugglers’ Notch. Smugglers’ Notch is in the northern portion of the state and so, for us, travelling from London, Ontario, it’s a bit of a drive at roughly 9 to 9 1/2 hours. The route is slightly different than it is when we visit central or southern Vermont, which is simple via Buffalo and through Upstate New York. Instead to get to Smugglers’ Notch we headed through Toronto and over to Quebec entering the US past Montreal. From the border, the drive there was just a bit over an hour. These small town border crossings are efficient and fast so consider that. In 2106, in the winter we flew to Smugglers’ Notch with Porter out of Toronto.
In fact, Toronto travellers love Smugglers’ Notch any time of the year. The drive there is super straightforward from Toronto.
The Resort Activities Guide
Just like in the winter months, there are dozens of activities to keep families busy. Consult the Resort Activities Guide every day and find something new to try. It is an invaluable resource for families and one of my favourite tools here.
My Tips for Planning a Summer Day at Smuggs
- Check the Resort Activities Guide the night before
- Plan out your schedule in the evening and keep a bag of sunscreen, bug spray, towels and swimsuits handy all the time.
Plan Ahead for Food
- Tuck some protein bars into your backpack or beach bag.
- Before you check into Smugglers’ Notch stop at a nearby grocery store to grab a few staples. Many of the condominiums are fully equipped with kitchens for cooking meals. We always do this in Vermont when we have suitable accommodations.
- Start with a hearty breakfast. A lot of activities are very physical so you want to be sure you have fuel for the day ahead, just as you do in the winter during ski season.
Add the Smuggs App and Text Alerts
- Add the Smugglers’ Notch text alerts number so that you get updates on your phone.
- Add the Smuggs’ shuttle phone number to your phone too so that you can call for one anywhere on the property.
- Tuck those Notch cards (RFID passes to get into many activities) into your purse or wallet or backpack and do not lose them. You need them for many things.
- Download the Smugglers’ Notch app also for the map and the ideas on what to do and where to do it.
A Smugglers’ Notch summer is very much a case of SO many choices, so little time actually. We had to prioritize. The good thing about this kind of trip is that it always leaves you wanting more, so you will be inclined to return.
On Day One
We arrived around dinner time on a Friday night, so we settled in, got dinner at Morse Mountain Grill, took a walk around after dinner and sat out by the outdoor fire pits in the village. Then we got ready for our first full day at Smuggs. See my notes above on preparing for your day ahead.
On our first full day at Smugglers’ Notch we had planned to go for the Water and Wine Canoe Trip. But it rained heavily, so we went to the Fun Zone 2.0 with the kids and enjoyed playing arcade games together. Upstairs there’s an area for the younger kids and also a small indoor mini golf, inflatable slide, plus ping pong tables, a pool table, and basketball nets.
Downstairs, Ainsley did the Ninja Climbing Course to see if she could do it. Your kids will love this spot. Dozens of fun arcade games await and there’s also an indoor rock wall.
After the storm passed, we headed to Notchville Park for some swimming. There is a lily pad walk and crossing pool that kids can climb across using the ropes.
Waterslides, Did Someone Say Waterslides?
I think most of my readers know by now that we are huge fans of water slides. So, we set out to find them all and I think we came close to testing them all out. Now, obviously we didn’t do the toddler ones. But we attempted all of the others.
Notchville Park also has the Twister Waterslide and Cascade Pool. The pool in Notchville Park cascades over three levels and the water seemed to be warm whenever we visited any of the pools, so that’s a bonus. The beauty of Notchville Park is that it is tucked away and a little bit of a hike. No worries. Just call the Smuggs shuttle and head over. It’s a bit quieter than some of the other pool areas, because it is further away from the base of the mountain.
That night there was a dive in movie at Mountainside Pool, which we all started out watching. But then the kids ditched us and went to Teen Alley. This was a recurring theme. The dive in movie was super popular though and we stayed to watch, because it was a How to Train Your Dragon movie and we hadn’t seen it before. Also, the water was warm.
Smugglers’ Notch has:
- 8 Pools
- 4 Waterslides
- 2 Freshwater Reservoirs
We only had time for one of the freshwater reservoirs, but since we tried many of the pools and waterslides we felt pretty refreshed and accomplished.
On Day 2
On our second morning at Smuggs we went on a Wike with about 6 other people. The hike (Wike) was welcoming and informational and gave everyone a quick tour of the layout at the base of the resort. Then we headed off on the trails for just under two hours. We enjoyed the physical activity and learned a few things about the hiking trails in Vermont. There are hikes and wikes for every level. If you do this every year you could definitely progress to taking the longer hikes together.
On the third morning there we had breakfast and coffee in the spacious condominium and then we took the shuttle up to Morse Mountain Lodge. There, we paired up in teams and did a STEAM activity that involved building roller coasters from scratch with insulation tubing, masking tape and a marble. My daughter and I built The Twilight Zone and our roller coaster worked! Towards the end of that STEAM activity our educator Marissa asked if we had noticed the Luna moth that landed nearby. We had almost missed it actually.
Right after that, we headed over to go mountain biking at Mountain Bike Park. We had never tried mountain biking before so we gave it a shot. Naturally, it kicked butt. Our butts actually. Kidding, not kidding. Ainsley and I both took a little bit of warming up, but once we got started it was no problem.
Loved the challenges of trying mountain biking for the first time. Jim hopped on and took off down the practice obstacle course like he’d been on a mountain bike a million times. (Rolls eyes.)
After the rigorous mountain biking, we hit the pool at Mountainside Water Playground. We spent a couple of hours just relaxing and racing down waterslides. That was a spectacular day! There’s a small poolside cafe where you can buy a soda, bag of chips, ice cream or alcoholic beverage. Plenty of lounge chairs to go around.
Bootlegging on Day 4
Monday morning, we were up early to go to the Farmers’ Market. Bought a tasty bottle of a maple and apple wine from Boyden Valley Winery. All sorts of fresh vegetables and berries were available. This occurs every week in the summer.
After breakfast we caught the shuttle to Bootlegger’s Basin. Free shuttles to Bootleggers start at 10 a.m. and run to 4 p.m. It was a beautiful sunny, hot day and we really wanted to see the trampoline and try paddle boarding too. Bootleggers’ Basin is about a five minute drive by shuttle. Most of the activities are included here, but if you want to try paddle boats or paddle boarding then there’s a nominal $5 fee for about 30 minutes, or $10 for an hour.
At the reservoir in Bootlegger’s Basin there’s a seven foot tall inflatable iceberg you can climb, a wading area, a great little swimming hole, a dock, a water mat that you can balance on and also a big trampoline parked in the middle.
Watch the adults jump on the edge of the trampoline and try to launch their kids in the air before they hit the water. Life jackets are required and provided on site.
Our Last Day
On our fifth day at Smuggs we had to get ready to leave. But first, we tried to squeeze in all the playing possible before hopping in the van for our drive home.
Ainsley and I woke up early and raced off to the Gazebo to see if we could find Martha.
The first winter we visited Smugglers’ Notch, we skied our hearts out. The lessons were more than worth the time and the terrain was impressive and challenging. It was hard to leave. Our kids did ski university during that visit and they connected with a great instructor there called Martha. Over the years, they’ve asked a few times about reconnecting with Martha at Smuggs.
Eventually, we found her with a little help from some people who work at Smugglers’ Notch. Together we headed off on the Birds and Blooms hike with Martha before grabbing a photo with her again. She’s a great example of the calibre of staff here.
We spent the rest of the morning doing the waterslide by the North Hill Community and then we went back to Fun Zone 2.0 for a few rounds of games before we left. There are also fun life-sized games scattered around the resort, like human foosball.
Back to the Beginning
Luna moths are indigenous to the eastern US. They changed the way I look at moths and opened my eyes to seeing something new.
Find a New Perspective This Summer
So what can you find at Smugglers’ Notch Resort in the summer?
Luna moths, or a teenager trying paddle boarding for the first time, or your spouse jumping from the top of an inflatable iceberg. There are new friends and old ones and hikes, and wikes and waterslides and swimming pools and all the trails you can imagine. Maybe you find a new passion trying mountain biking for the first time. Smuggler’s Notch will open your eyes to something new this summer.