Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont: The “Quiet Side of the Mountain”
n the extreme northeastern part of the USA there are 6 states that are collectively called “New England”. These states are: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, and there is no lack of timesharing opportunities among them.
Each of these states has its own separate claims to fame, its own landscapes, its own distinct culture and accents, but together these states are home to more historic sites, are more steeped in the American patriotic tradition, than any other region in the USA.
“From the Pilgrims’ 1621 feast of Thanksgiving, recreated each year at Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, to the Revolutionary War battlefields of Lexington and Concord, to the dramatic influence of political families like the Adams and the Kennedys and writers such as Twain, Stowe, Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Melville, many of the ideas that have shaped and continue to guide the destiny of America were born and nurtured in New England,” says About.com’s section on New England, and that’s just scratching the surface.http://gonewengland.about.com/)
Vermont is the second largest state in New England after Maine. It is called “the Green Mountain State” because it is dominated by the Green Mountains, one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. Because of the great age of these mountains they have eroded down, so there are no towering ranges such as you see in the western USA, but still there are some 223 mountains over 2,000 feet in elevation rising above fertile valleys that support an extensive dairy industry. The nation’s sixth largest lake, Lake Champlain, runs along the state’s western border.
Though Vermont is especially famous for its flamboyant fall colors, it is spectacular in every season of the year. In winter its mountains and valleys are blanketed with the purest snow, which yields to spring’s pale buds and colorful flowers and then to summer’s rich variety of greens. Vermont is also known for its steepled churches, rural landscapes, meandering lanes and covered bridges that evoke a time past when life moved at the pace of a horse.
Vermont can claim a number of “firsts” for itself. After playing an important role in the American Revolution, Vermont resisted the advances of the neighboring colonies and declared itself an independent Republic in 1777. Also in 1777 this state’s Constitution abolished slavery, the first ever to do this. Fourteen years later it was the first state to join the original 13. In 1903 a Burlington doctor, Horatio N. Jackson, was the first person to cross the entire USA by car, a rather amazing feat at the time. It elected the first woman Lt. Governor in the nation, Consuelo N. Bailey, in 1954.
In the heart of northern Vermont is the Lamoille River Valley. The Lamoille River’s headwaters begin in the wilds of Vermont’s famed “Northeast Kingdom”, and flows steadily west to its delta in Lake Champlain. This stunningly beautiful area is within the Temperate Zone — far enough north to have both comfortable summers and cold winters— and is home to Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield. This is where you will find the famous village and mountain resort of Stowe (http://stowe.com/), an upscale and world-class destination known throughout the world.
On the other side of the mountain from Stowe, what locals call “the quiet side of the Mountain”, is where you will Smugglers’ Notch Resort, which is a Gold Crown resort affiliated with RCI. Fondly known as “Smuggs” by its slew of fans, this four-season family resort area has outstanding natural beauty, great recreational opportunities, and unspoiled Vermont villages combined with modern shopping and services, lodging, and restaurants to provide visitors a unique experience. It is a region that is greatly loved.
Smugglers’ Notch is a spectacular pass at the foot of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, and the road through the notch (closed in the winter months) is one of two highways in the state officially designated as “scenic.” It got its name from the smugglers and bootleggers who brought in forbidden English goods from Canada during the War of 1812 (and booze during Prohibition), storing the contraband in caves between Madonna Mountain and Mt. Mansfield.
Favorite warm weather activities include hiking, biking, swimming, fishing and traveling country roads.
Autumn is, of course, leaf viewing time. Fall foliage and Vermont are synonymous, and the Smuggs area hosts some of the most colorful displays, year after year. The changing color starts in the north, spreading south as the season advances, and usually peaks in Smuggs at the end of September. (Local papers and gazetteers provide maps of the state with regions keyed to expected peak color dates, and the state offers foliage and general tourism information at 1-800-VERMONT.) If you are visiting during this time, the most popular fall color tour winds through the Notch, along Pleasant Valley Road and the many back roads in the hills above Cambridge, Jeffersonville, and Johnson, east along the Lamoille River, and up towards Craftsbury Common.
Be sure to stop along the way to shop for antiques and native crafts, and buy some maple syrup, apples and cheese. Don’t forget your camera!
Winter time is prime time for any winter sport you can think of. For instance, with three mountains to enjoy, Smuggs offers many options for snowboard instruction that include all-day children’s camps for ages 3 to 15, group lessons for ages 6 to adult, private lessons, and Night School for Boarding, an evening session for all ages. In fact the 2012 SKI Reader Survey puts Smugglers’ Notch at the top of the list again as #1 for family programs for the 13th year. In addition to skiing and snowboarding the resort provides
- Dog sledding for all ages of mushers
- Airboarders steer rubber rafts on snow
- Snowshoeing to dinner on a mountain top
- Motoring through Smugglers’ Notch pass on tracks
- Flying through the trees on a zip line tour
- And much more, of course
Smugglers’ Notch Resort itself is only 30 minutes from Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace, 220 miles from Boston, 291 miles from New York City, a short drive to the village of Stowe, and less than two hours to Montreal– so it is easy to get to and a favorite base for exploration. Voted year after year to be North America’s favorite family resort, it is one of the few true destination resort villages in the East located at the base of three major interconnecting mountains. Morse Mountain is primarily for beginners and it rises from the village. Sterling Mountain is well-loved by intermediates, and Madonna Mountain is the place to go if you ski well.Comprised of several “neighborhoods”, each “neighborhood” features a community center with swimming pools and meeting rooms and is linked to the center of the resort via a free, on-demand shuttle service (summer and winter). Each “neighborhood” has a range of activities, specifically designed for people of different interests. The resort emphasizes both fun and learning during the summer, winter, and fall months. Its timeshare portion (now affilliated with Wyndham Vacation Ownership, which controls 40 of the resort’s 300 timeshare condos) offers condos all the way from 1- to 5-bedrooms that are complete with everything you could possibly want, and you can walk to everywhere or use the Shuttle ride to all Village amenities. Lose the car keys.
Note that fractional ownership and full ownership are also available at Smuggs, with 3 types of fractional ownership to tempt you. All of these programs also come with the option to exchange worldwide through the RCI network.
Bringing the kids? There’s Alice’s Wonderland Child Enrichment Center, Adventure Rangers or The Notch Squad Ski or Snowboard Camps, Discovery Dynamos Ski Camp, The Notch Squad, Mountain Explorers, and The FunZone featuring Winston the Wonder Whale. If that isn’t enough, there’s Bingo Blast, Showtime Theatre and a torchlight parade and fireworks. The kids can even earn their Scout merit badges here.
For grownups (and the rest of the family) they have a dance night, a Karaoke night, sing along bonfire night and plenty of stuff in between. Some of the activity choices are unique to the resort, like the three mountainside waterslides and an on-mountain “hideaway”. The Notchville Park has two pools, a climbing wall, volleyball, croquet, BBQ. There is also a golf driving range. The area offers hiking and llama trekking as well as bicycling and canoeing.
You really owe it to yourself to give Smuggs a try, at any season of the year, though many facilities and amenities are only available seasonally. It is beyond me why any time here would be rated blue, though, because there is never a bad season or a bad day for visiting Smuggs.
Some Web sites you may want to visit for more information:
- http://www.smuggs.com –The resort’s website
- http://www.smugnotch.com/ –Area Chamber of Commerce
- http://www.travel-vermont.com/ –Travel Vermont
- http://www.vtlife.com/ –Vermont Life Magazine
- http://vermontvacation.com/ –Vermont Vacation guide
- http://www.foliage-vermont.com/ –Everything you need to know about Vermont in the Fall
- http://www.visitnewengland.com/ –Guide to the New England states.
- http://www.newengland.com/ –Another excellent New England guide
"On the Road" is a compilation of destination ideas, resort reviews, videos and more gathered from a variety of sources that includes our readers.
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