Smuggler’s Notch with kids: guide to skiing for adults

I grew up skiing in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, so I have a healthy skepticism of New England skiing. The mountains aren’t as big, there’s not as much snow (although there also aren’t as many giant Manzanita bushes to get stuck in…just saying), and there’s too much ice. Well, I still can’t ski on ice, but I’m coming around to New England ski resorts, and Smuggler’s Notch is one of the best spots I’ve seen. There are plenty of sections of intermediate trails (especially on Morse Mountain), but two of the three mountains (Madonna and Sterling) are full of legitimate black diamonds and double black diamonds. Smuggler’s Notch also boasts New England’s only triple black diamond, but it was closed on the weekend we visited (and from the look of it, I wouldn’t have tried it had it been open!).

If you like to go off-trail, Smuggs is the where you want to be! During our stay, I experienced a great session with an instructor who teaches adult lessons, and we barely touched a groomed, marked run the entire time. Off-trail bumps and tree runs are everywhere, and the rule is thus: if you ski off-trail but are able to return to a marked run, you haven’t gone out of bounds. Meaning almost everything is fair game! We even hiked a little bit above the top of Sterling to the Long Trail, and skied down a tree run that finally (and legally!) linked back up to one of the marked runs.

Even if you’re a very good skier, it can be a lot of fun to take a lesson, because it’s a great way to get an insider’s view of the mountain. There were all kinds of great trails I never would have found on my own. I have to say that I haven’t had that much fun skiing in years! It didn’t hurt that it snowed 3–4 inches the night we got there, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky all weekend!

smuggsSkiers will also appreciate the way the mountain is set up. The Village Center, condos, swimming pool, etc. are all located at the base of Morse Mountain. This is also where you’ll find the kids’ programs and Treasures (child care). To get over to Madonna and Sterling, where the big skiing is, you have to ride up the Morse Mountain lift and ski over to the other lifts. At the base of Madonna and Sterling, there is a small base lodge, and not a lot else. (You can also drive directly to Madonna and Sterling, but if you’re staying in the condos, it’s easier to ski over.) This configuration minimizes traffic and congestion at the most popular lifts, so you feel like you’re at a small, funky hill with a lot of great terrain.

Tip: The fact that both Madonna and Sterling lifts are pretty slow doubles really enhances the funky old resort feel, and it’s also why it’s great to come on a day that’s not too crowded. Lift lines can take a while when it’s busy.

Smuggler’s Notch offers morning and afternoon adult lesson sessions, lasting two hours. Afternoon sessions are small (lessons are limited to five skiers), but during both my vacation days, I happened to be the only one signed up, and had a private lesson! If you have older kids (ages 6–17), you can sign them up for morning or afternoon lessons to coincide with your own. This would work well for kids who are independent skiers and don’t want to sign up for an all-day program, but are looking to learn some new skills.