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Smuggs for a Family Ski Trip?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

I am planning a three day weekendski trip for Northern Vermont in Late January/Early February for my family.  I hear great things about Smugglers Notch, but I have only skied there once, so I don't have enough knowledge.  I am planning to have the kids in some sort of ski school for at least part of every day.

 

I usually go up to MRG every year with my wife, but this year we are bringing our six and five year old kids.  I was thinking about taking everyone up there, but I know that not having lodging on the mountain would make our getting to the mountain and our down ski times a little more difficult (ex.  What if my daughter wants to ski later in the day, but my son doesn't?).

 

I think that Stowe can get crowded on a weekend.  I also considered staying near Sugarbush North and spending our time between Sugarbush North and MRG. 

 

Thoughts?

 

Thakns

post #2 of 24

I've actually never skied at Smuggs, but they do get consistently good rankings for their kids programs.

 

Everything will be crowded on a weekend if the snow conditions are good, but Stowe probably moreso than the other places you mentioned.

post #3 of 24

Now that Jay has the waterpark...

 

http://www.jaypeakresort.com/pumphouse/waterpark

 

...it has to be high on the list of family vacations possibilities.

post #4 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by cometjo View Post

Now that Jay has the waterpark...

 

http://www.jaypeakresort.com/pumphouse/waterpark

 

...it has to be high on the list of family vacations possibilities.

 

 

Not sure if that is a good thing. I might have a hard time getting my kid out on the slopes.

post #5 of 24

Stowe can definitely get crowded on the weekends, or at least on Saturdays.  It seems to be somewhat quieter on Sundays as people sleep in / leave early.  Your kids would probably be over at the Spruce Peak side where the beginner / easier intermediate terrain is.  There is never a line on the Spruce Peak side chairlifts, and there is still some fun terrain on Spruce, so when Mansfield gets too crowded, I just head over and ski Spruce for a while.

 

I have never skied Smuggs, so I don't have any first hand experience with it.  I've heard it can get just as crowded as Stowe does, but again -- I don't know.  They do consistently get top marks for their kids programs.

 

One other thing to be aware of...  Smuggs and Stowe are geographically next to each other, but the road between the two is closed in the winter, so in reality, it's about a 50 minute drive from Stowe village to Smuggs.

post #6 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by cometjo View Post

Now that Jay has the waterpark...

 

http://www.jaypeakresort.com/pumphouse/waterpark

 

...it has to be high on the list of family vacations possibilities.

 

Waterpark is pretty cool, but my kids were done with it in a few hours. Nice diversion, but it's not going to trap them forever.

post #7 of 24

Do they still have the same SLLLOOOWWW lifts?  I think it's been 6 years since our trip to Smuggs.  The worst part was dropping the kids off in the lesson program in the morning.  Then take a slow 20 minute ride up the lower mountain.  Then a long, slow, thigh-burning traverse over to the upper mountain.  Then another slow 20 minute ride up the mountain.  Nearly an hour burned without an enjoyable turn.  Smuggs seriously needs some updated lifts but the last I checked: nothing.

 

And the village was dead.  Lousy food choices.  Oh, and the hot tubs had a definite green tinge to them.  

 

On the plus side, it snowed every night on our trip.  Amazing conditions.  Awesome tree skiing.  A lesson program came with the condo we rented and I had a blast skiing with the two instructors.  Fix the lift system and I'd go back.

 

Craig

post #8 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by cossak View Post

Do they still have the same SLLLOOOWWW lifts?   Fix the lift system and I'd go back.

 

 

Did they look like they have an extra $20 million kicking around?

post #9 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by cossak View Post

Do they still have the same SLLLOOOWWW lifts?   Fix the lift system and I'd go back.

 

 

High-speed, high capacity lifts have their downsides as well...  They might reduce the amount of time it takes to reach the top again, but they also lead to some crowded trails...  And crowded trails don't maintain those "amazing conditions" you talked about for long.  There are trade-offs for everything.  Epic mentioned that they might not have the $20million lying around to do anything about it, and they might not want to do anything about it.

post #10 of 24

What others have said about the lift system at Smuggs is true. Considering you usually go to MRG I don't think that would matter much to you. I've been there many times but only with adults so I can't attest to their kids programs but they're usually rated #1 in New England in that category. They offer slopeside accomodations with packages that include lift tickets & full day programs for your children. This will allow you & your wife more time to ski together without having to worry about your children. It's also very convenient for getting the kids together since you'll be staying slopeside & won't have to get everyone in a car then drive to the mountain.  It is a skiers mountain that offers substantial vertical & challenging terrain but also has ample intermediate terrain. There is a whole separate mountain for novices where your children will likely be. The mountain has an old school vibe similar to MRG which you seem to like. The mountain isn't known for their snow making or grooming but it is much better than MRG's. They are very much dependent on natural snow just as MRG is but also receives above average snowfall for New England. I don't know about local or on mountain dining options so I can't rate it. If the weather & conditions are good I think your family would have a good time at Smuggs, especially considering the age of your children.

post #11 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by epic View Post

 

Did they look like they have an extra $20 million kicking around?

 

Maybe they would if the lifts were better.  My family was in Smugg's prime demographic.  With decent lifts, I would have made a trip each year.  As it is, we went once and didn't go back.  I wish someone had told me the truth before we went.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinF View Post

 

High-speed, high capacity lifts have their downsides as well...  They might reduce the amount of time it takes to reach the top again, but they also lead to some crowded trails...  And crowded trails don't maintain those "amazing conditions" you talked about for long.  There are trade-offs for everything.  Epic mentioned that they might not have the $20million lying around to do anything about it, and they might not want to do anything about it.

 

Are you suggesting that other places should take out their high-speed lifts?  ;)  I believe the lack of development area around the base (State forest?) constrains them. No real estate to sell means no money to upgrade lifts.  Makes some prime territory out of bounds, too.

 

Craig

post #12 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by cossak View Post

Are you suggesting that other places should take out their high-speed lifts?  ;)  I believe the lack of development area around the base (State forest?) constrains them. No real estate to sell means no money to upgrade lifts.  Makes some prime territory out of bounds, too.

 

Craig

 

No, I'm not suggesting that areas remove high-speed lifts.  I'm suggesting that different areas have different priorities.  Some areas are covered in high-speed lifts; their priorities might be to maximize your time actually skiing (as opposed to riding the lift or waiting in liftlines, etc).  Getting you on snow quicker though has the side-effect of getting others on snow faster too, leading to a degradation in snow quality, overcrowded main trails, etc.

 

Smuggs might prefer to keep you waiting in lines at the bottom in order to preserve the snow quality and have less-crowded trails.

 

Neither solution is perfect for everybody or every resort.  Some people prefer areas with high-speed lifts for all the conveniences they provide.  Some people prefer areas without them.  Smuggs doesn't seem to be in any danger of going out of business; I'm guessing they know their clientele pretty well and they don't see the need to invest tens of millions in new lifts.

post #13 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by cossak View Post

 I believe the lack of development area around the base (State forest?) constrains them. No real estate to sell means no money to upgrade lifts.  Makes some prime territory out of bounds, too.

 

Craig

Smuggs has had significant real estate development over the years. In fact that's one of my gripes with the area. They've invested a ton of money in real estate & next to nothing in the mountain. I have heard rumors that they plan on replacing the old Sterling double chair with a new HSQ however.

post #14 of 24

We've done Smuggs in the past with another family and would rate it very highly for a family trip.

 

Kevin's point about the lifts is valid.  The lower uphill capacity means fewer skiers to contend with on the downhill. I was always amazed how we could find a trail with no other skiers in sight on a Saturday in March!  The mountain has that classic New England feel to it and the terrain is amazing. Downside is longer lift lines and a slow ride to the top, but I found the trade off worth it for the uncrowded weekend slopes.

 

One downside of the mountain layout is that the beginners area on Morse Mountain is bit of a hike from the main base area on Mansfield. If your kids aren't up to skiing the blues, that might be an issue. The first time we went, my younger boy was 5 or 6 and we had him in lessons on Morse.  My wife was content to stay on that side with my younger boy, but if we had all wanted to ski the main mountain it would have been a slog to get back at lunch to pick him up.

 

We stuck the older boys in a morning group lesson on the main mountain. The instructors were pretty amazing and really challenged the boys. The boys were actually asking to go back again for another lesson on the 2nd day!

 

My older son has food allergies and the family we skied with has a boy with Celiac (sp?) disease, so we cook for ourselves in the condo instead of going out to eat. The entertainment options certainly didn't appear up to Stowe, Killington or the Conway area but there are a few options both at the mountain village and in town.

 

If you want a break from skiing we found a bunch of other things to do. The pool and water park were a hit with the boys; midnight sleigh rides; snowmobiling, cross country skiing, snowshoeing were all offered.

 

If you like MRG, I think you'll really like Smuggs. Smuggs is a skiers mountain with an old-time vibe and great terrain.  Plenty of stuff to do in the village for the kids. The crowds are certainly much easier than Stowe on the weekends.  Just be aware that there's a bit of a slog between Morse and Mansfield if your kids aren't up to tackling the blues.

post #15 of 24
Quote:
Kevin's point about the lifts is valid.  The lower uphill capacity means fewer skiers to contend with on the downhill.

 

I feel like I have to point out that when both are running at capacity, "slow" lifts have the same uphill capacity as "fast" ones (unless you're comparing doubles/triples to quads/sixes).  You just end up with more people standing in line at a "fast" lift, and more people sitting in chairs on a "slow" one.  They load/unload at about the same rate (usually 1 chair/6 seconds).

 

However:

  • With a low to moderate level of crowding, a "fast" lift means more people on the hill and fewer sitting on the lift at any given time.  In such a situation an individual skier will also get more runs in with "fast" lifts.
  • If a mountain has a mix of "slow" and "fast" lifts, people may go out of their way to avoid the "slow" ones.  So terrain serviced by "slow" lifts may be less crowded because of that effect.
post #16 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by viva Borracho View Post

I am planning a three day weekendski trip for Northern Vermont in Late January/Early February for my family.  I hear great things about Smugglers Notch, but I have only skied there once, so I don't have enough knowledge.  I am planning to have the kids in some sort of ski school for at least part of every day.

 

I usually go up to MRG every year with my wife, but this year we are bringing our six and five year old kids.  I was thinking about taking everyone up there, but I know that not having lodging on the mountain would make our getting to the mountain and our down ski times a little more difficult (ex.  What if my daughter wants to ski later in the day, but my son doesn't?).

 

I think that Stowe can get crowded on a weekend.  I also considered staying near Sugarbush North and spending our time between Sugarbush North and MRG. 

 

Thoughts?

 

Thakns

Having been there several times when my son was just starting out, I think Smugg's is a great place for a family trip. Your 5 and 6 year olds will love it.  Our first time there my son was sure he'd hate it and he would have the instructors call us and pick him up early.  We couldn't drag him out at the end of the day.  The kid's program was great.  There is plenty to do for the younger kids.

 

There are limited dining options at the base, but with a 5-10 minute drive there was plenty to eat.  Most of the lodging were condos anyway, so they have full kitchens.

 

Yes, the lifts are slow, but as argued above, it keeps the trails less crowded.

post #17 of 24

I have only skied Smuggs once, but I agree with the assesment of the lifts and getting to/from the lower mountain area to the main mountain.  If your plan is to drop the kids off for the day and then bolt, you only have to do it once.  It's really not that big of a deal.  If you want to be around your kids during the day, taking some time from "your" skiing shouldn't be a burden, but a pleasure.  Some of the best memories of my life are skiing on easy trials with my children when they were younger. 

post #18 of 24

We took our daughter for her first ski trip at age 3 1/2, and chose Smuggs because of their reputation for kids programs.  We have been back every year since then as part of their timeshare ownership program.  She spends the whole week in their ski school program, which allows my wife and I to ski together the whole week.  The instructors have a great way with kids, and she has really learned a lot.  We have found the slopeside condo lodging to be ultra-convenient.  Our daughter also loves the tubing, the Fun Zone play park, swimming pools and the kids activity programs.  You can pretty much pick how much you want to do, or do nothing at all but ski.

 

Everything mentioned about the lack of high-speed lifts is true, and the morning drop-off at Morse and trek to Sterling/Madonna does take some time.  You will also not find the kind of nightlife that you would at Killington, etc.  For a family trip with kids, however, I don't know of a better place in the East in terms of the benenfits/compromises Smuggs offers ... just my $.02.

post #19 of 24

I have never been to Smuggs but I was planning on going this March with my two kids. I was hoping to do Bolton Valley one day and Smuggs the next.  The reason I'm thinking of Bolton Valley is so I can leave a little later in the day and ski from noon until 8pm versus leaving at at 3am in the morning to get to a better hill for opening. Smuggs of course would be the highlight. I have heard nothing but great things about Smuggs, however I would be worried about slow lifts if it was really cold other wise I think it's a non issue.

 

Enjoy your trip.

post #20 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by EasternCanadian View Post

I have never been to Smuggs but I was planning on going this March with my two kids. I was hoping to do Bolton Valley one day and Smuggs the next.  The reason I'm thinking of Bolton Valley is so I can leave a little later in the day and ski from noon until 8pm versus leaving at at 3am in the morning to get to a better hill for opening. Smuggs of course would be the highlight. I have heard nothing but great things about Smuggs, however I would be worried about slow lifts if it was really cold other wise I think it's a non issue.

 

Enjoy your trip.

 

By the time March rolls around, the brutally cold days of a Vermont winter are usually in the rear view mirror.  I wouldn't worry about the cold and the slow lifts for a March based trip.

 

Bolton Valley has nothing but fixed-grip (i.e., slow) chairlifts as well.  BV is a great little area as well that is often overlooked by the crowds heading to the bigger places.

post #21 of 24

Last March, the last thing anyone in VT was worried about was the cold. I was at Stowe in the middle of March and had 4 days in a row of temps in the high 70s and low 80s. By my last day there, I was going down one trail that I had to do on one ski because the "trail" was less than a foot wide. But that was a freak event (I hope). March is usually a great month in VT. I think it is the snowiest and the temps are usually nice, 20s, 30s, and sometimes into the 40s.
 

post #22 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by hobbes429 View Post

We took our daughter for her first ski trip at age 3 1/2, and chose Smuggs because of their reputation for kids programs.  We have been back every year since then as part of their timeshare ownership program.  She spends the whole week in their ski school program, which allows my wife and I to ski together the whole week.  The instructors have a great way with kids, and she has really learned a lot.  We have found the slopeside condo lodging to be ultra-convenient.  Our daughter also loves the tubing, the Fun Zone play park, swimming pools and the kids activity programs.  You can pretty much pick how much you want to do, or do nothing at all but ski.

 

Everything mentioned about the lack of high-speed lifts is true, and the morning drop-off at Morse and trek to Sterling/Madonna does take some time.  You will also not find the kind of nightlife that you would at Killington, etc.  For a family trip with kids, however, I don't know of a better place in the East in terms of the benenfits/compromises Smuggs offers ... just my $.02.


+1

 

went for first time last year, this sums it up succinctly

post #23 of 24

Smuggs is a great place to take the family. Not incredibly crowded, and is very simple and easy to get around. Consistently ranks high for kids lesson programs.

post #24 of 24
Thread Starter 
Just a quick follow up. Just got back yesterday and the trip was great. I was really concerned that conditions would be awful after the rain and warm temperatures that preceded out trip, but trails open we're decent. Would have been great if the woods were open, but the groomers that were open were not bad. Conditions were pretty firm, but edgeable.

Most importantly, the kids had a great time. It was pretty cold this weekend and the kids instructors did a great job managing it. We got a one bedroom that had a queen bed and a set of bunks. Worked great for us. More places should have one bedrooms set up like this.

We will be back next year.
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