If Disney had its own ski resort, I am pretty sure it would be just like Smugglers' Notch family ski resort in New England. Like Disney, there is a “mousescot” – called Mogul Mouse, instead of Mickey Mouse. There are dreamy staff members who make your kids feel special. You'll enjoy fireworks, entertainment, down-hill rides (snow tubing), sky rides (ok, technically they are chairlifts), and family-friendly accommodations. If you are looking for an amazing family-friendly ski vacation, look no further than Vermont's Smugglers' Notch Resort. It is the MUST DO family ski resort in New England. This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link. Please see my disclaimer.
About Smugglers' Notch Family Ski ResortSmugglers' Notch is located in Jeffersonville, Vermont, about 45 minutes from the famed Stowe, Vermont. In fact, “Smuggs,” as it is affectionately known, shares a mountain range with Stowe Resort. While known for its incredible winter activities, namely its excellent ski lessons for toddlers through adults, it is a year-round resort. Smugglers' Notch is a fantastic family resort for every season, with significant programing for visitors year-round. But, let's focus on winter, and why it is a must-do, family-friendly ski resort in New England.
Why Smugglers' Notch Is Family-FriendlyWhenever someone asks me where they should take the kids for the winter school break, my first response is Smugglers' Notch. While there are many family-friendly ski resorts in Vermont and throughout New England, Smuggs does it just a bit different, such as:
- Thoughtful and comprehensive childcare for kids ages six weeks to three years.
- Baby ski gear rentals for your condo.
- Ski lessons for toddlers (aged two and a half) through adults.
- Family-friendly activities, like festivals, family evening events, fireworks, the “Cookie Race” for ski students to showcase their skills, babysitting, and kids' night out.
- Après-ski activities for the family like a two-level indoor activity center and arcade, indoor pools and hot tubs, and snow-tubing.
- Character appearances from Mogul Mouse and Billy Bob Bear.
- Home-like accommodations with kitchens, laundry, and fireplaces.
- Programmed non-skiing activities every day.
- Free lift tickets for kids under five years old.
Our ExperienceWe first took our family to Smugglers' Notch as a multigenerational trip. Our crew was complete with our toddler twins – aged three years old at the time – our six-year-old son, and grandparents (one of whom didn't ski.) We enrolled all three kids in ski lessons. The staff was amazing with settling in the kids, especially the toddlers. Being their first time in ski equipment, it was a bit overwhelming for them.
Ski LessonsThe Snow Sport University team runs a well-oiled operation with processes for checking kids in, making them comfortable, keeping them busy with coloring pages and legos while they wait, and getting the kiddos out in the snow. If kids have trouble separating, the staff are pros at working through that. Kids are grouped in small, close-in-age groups. They are with kids not just at their skiing ability, but at the same place developmentally. In other words, you aren't going to have a six-year-old and 14-year-old beginning students in the same group. Each child is also fitted with a GPS tracker. Not only can you keep track of where they are, but you can see where their instructor took them during their lesson. Instructors also give “report cards” at the end of the lesson so you know what your child learned and what level they are in. At pick up, our kids were always quite content sipping on hot chocolate and enjoying the magic show, movie, or musical entertainment while they wait.
More Than SkiingNot only did our twins get up on skis and go down a hill – at age three – but our non-skiing grandparent had plenty to keep her busy with the myriad of activities, from walks to cross-country skiing to the spa. We also enjoyed all of the family activities in the evenings and on our non-skiing days. It was a wonderful way for us to enjoy a family experience together and enjoy each others' company. Our first visit to Smugglers' Notch was such a fantastic experience, we returned twice more. Our three kids are very proficient skiers, which we attribute to their earliest lessons at Smugglers' Notch. And we have a family sport to enjoy together, all thanks to this family ski resort in New England.
Check out a Smugglers' Notch ski lesson in action!
What To Do at Smugglers' Notch Family Ski Resort
Ski and Ride LessonsSmugglers' Notch Snow Sport University is a top-notch program that thoughtfully designs kid-friendly programs with the age and developmental stage of kids in mind. Lessons for kids range from ages two and a half to age 20. There are also dedicated adult, women's only, and adaptive ski programs available. For the tiniest learners, kids ages young as age two and a half to three years old have a dedicated mini slope and carpet at Treasures nursery, which is unique as many resorts do not begin lessons this young. Kids ages three and up can be in half or full-day programs and will include afternoon entertainment while they wait for parent pick up. Snowboarders age seven and up can learn at Night School. Lessons for snowboarding and jibbing (snowboard tricks in the terrain park) are available even for beginners.
- Daily hot chocolate warm up by the bonfire, with Mogul Mouse or Billy Bob Bear
- FunZone 2.0 Family Fun Complex, a 26,000 square-foot indoor playground, which includes:
- Arcade Games, Lazer Tag, and Lazer Frenzy
- The Ozone (for the younger kids) with bouncy houses, ping-pong tables, mini-golf, kid-sized country store, and more.
- The Go Zone with Smuggs Warrior Courses, climbing wall, slot car races, and more.
- Indoor heated pool with aquatic programming (even swim lessons!) and two hot tubs
- Teen Center Teen Alley and Teen programming (for teens ages 13 and up)
- Winter Activities
- Snow Tubing
- Glow Tubing
- Ice Skating
- Snow Shoeing
- Winter Walks
For Adults OnlyBVWK Must Do Recommendation: The Top of the Notch Snowshoe Dinner If you are looking for a very special experience, definitely experience the Top of the Notch Snowshoe Dinner. You and other attendees will take an early evening ride up the Sterling ski lift to a candle-lit cabin at the top of the mountain. Enjoy a snowshoe walking tour of the area while your catered dinner from the Hearth & Candle Restaurant is prepared. Afterward, you'll indulge in a gourmet meal with appetizer, salad, choice of main course, and a famous dessert. The group will then descend down the slope on a 40-minute snowshoe, under the stars, led by a guide. Snowshoes are provided. Important note: You will snowshoe down an intermediate (blue) slope, so persons with mobility or health concerns should check with the resort before booking to determine if it is appropriate. The Top of the Notch dinner is offered Tuesday evenings throughout the winter. Current pricing is $85 per person and is for adults only.
Additional Adults Only Activities:
- Yoga & Wellness Programs
- Talks and workshops, like candle making, art classes, drink making
- Dog Sledding
- Ice Fishing
- Culinary Adventures
- Evening Entertainment
Childcare at Smugglers' Notch Family Ski ResortFor kids ages six weeks to three years, Treasures nursery is available for booking. For evening babysitting, so moms and dads can enjoy some of the “adult-only” offerings, babysitters can be booked through Treasures to come to your vacation home in the evening. Cost is $20 finders fee to Treasures, plus $15 to the babysitter for the first hour and an additional $1 per hour for each additional child paid to the babysitter. Call 802-644-1193 to make your arrangements for private babysitters. Kids' Night Out is available on Tuesdays, from 5:30-9:00 pm for kids ages three to 11 years old at the FunZone 2.0. This is especially helpful if you are planning to attend The Adventure Snowshoe Dinner. Cost is $55 per night per child.
Where To Stay at Smugglers' NotchSmugglers' Notch family ski resort has quintessential, cozy New England-style lodging. In fact, we have received a bottle of pure Vermont maple syrup on arrival! When you book your stay, you are essentially renting someone's owned condominium, which is great for families. Sizes range from studios up to five-bedroom condos, making it ideal for larger or multi-generational family ski vacations. Most of the condominium options are within walking distance – or skiing distance – to the main Village or to the Resort Shuttle area. Where you book will depend on availability, as well as what areas you would like to be near. The condominiums are very cozy, family-style, with kitchens, cable TV, phones, internet, linens, and all the kitchen items you need for a home away from home. Laundry is either available inside the unit or in the building, and daily maid service is an optional add-on. Many of the units have board games, books, or video games for your use by the owner. You can also rent DVDs from the Village store, as well as stock up on some groceries. There is a village market about a five-mile drive from Smugglers' Notch if you want to do a bigger grocery shop.
Getting To Smugglers' NotchThough it is nestled in Northern Vermont, Smugglers' Notch is actually quite accessible.
Driving Times To Smugglers' Notch From:Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Two to Two and a half hours Boston, Massachusetts: About four to four and a half hours New York, New York: About six to six and a half hours
Flying To Smugglers' NotchThe closest international airport is Burlington, Vermont, which is about a 45-minute drive. Several major American airline carriers fly into Burlington, and car rentals are available from most major car rental companies.
Train Service To Smugglers' NotchTrain service is available from Amtrak to the area near Smugglers' Notch. The closest station is Essex Junction, Vermont, about a 40-minute drive.
Airport and Train Station ShuttleYou can book a shuttle from Burlington International Airport and Essex Junction Amtrak Station to Smugglers' Notch that must be confirmed at least 48 hours in advance of your arrival. There is a fee for this service. To book, contact: Smugglers’ Notch Reservations office at: or 802-644-8851 ext. 1389.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What ages are best for Smugglers' Notch?Smugglers' Notch is ideal for all ages, but especially toddlers to early teens. There is a lot to do for teenagers as well. But if your teens or adults in your party like faster or more “hot dog” style skiing, there are other family ski resorts in New England that are better suited for that experience. For families who want a really family-centered experience, from the slopes and beyond, or for younger children and beginners, Smugglers' Notch is an ideal family ski resort.
How Many Trails does Smugglers' Notch have?There are three mountains at Smugglers' Notch: Madonna, Sterling, and Morse Mountain. Out of its reported 78 trails, its website states that 19% are beginner/learning trails (green), 50% are intermediate trails and glades (blue), and 31% are challenging (black.) It also has the only triple black diamond slope in the East, called The Black Hole!
What are Lift Ticket prices?Current Smugglers' Notch lift ticket prices range depending on ages, time of the season, whether you want a day pass or a season pass, etc. Kids ages five and under ski and ride for FREE all season, yet another reason Smugglers' Notch is so family-friendly.
Can you rent skis and snowboards at Smugglers' Notch?Yes, you can! The main rental shop has equipment rentals and packages for your stay. You can even rent adult and youth clothing! There are a few rental locations at the lodges throughout the resort, as well as ski shops for last-minute essentials like helmets, goggles, socks, hand and foot warmers, gloves, etc.
What are the dining options at Smugglers' Notch?There are several food options on the property at the main Village and at the lodges on the mountains. You will find cafeteria quick-service restaurants as well as a grill, pizzeria, a deli, ice cream shop, and fine dining. There is even a pirate breakfast at the Morse Mountain grille for the kids.
What is a Smuggs' Pass and do I need it?I recommend purchasing a Smuggs' Pass for the length of your stay. Current pricing is $324 + tax, per home per week (it is prorated if you stay less than a week.) Everyone in the party staying in that home that week is covered. It offers:
- Unlimited use of the Ozone at the FunZone 2.0 Family Fun Center
- Use of the indoor heated pool and hot tubs
- Unlimited snow tubing and ice skating
- Access to the family activities such as Thursday character dance party, torchlight parade & fireworks, après ski parties, family & adult entertainment, hot chocolate warm-ups, and Teen Alley Teen Center
- Discounts on ski and snowboard needs
What else is there to do in the area outside Smugglers' Notch?There are several nearby experiences your family can enjoy, such as:
- Montreal Day Trip (book through the resort)
- Taste of Vermont Tour (book through the resort)
- Ben & Jerry's Icecream Factory
- Teddy Bear Company Factory
- Visit Lake Champlain Chocolates
- Visit Trapp Family Lodge
- Tour the Vermont Cabot Creamery
- Shopping in nearby Stowe, Burlington, Jeffersonville, and Cambridge