Reviewed by Greg Duggan
Nov 06, 2008
"Ski It If You Can" is the challenge on Mad River Glen's ubiquitous bumper stickers. The truth is you can ski it no matter what your ability level.
With an average pitch of 36 degrees, 3,241-foot-long Goat is arguably the most challenging trail at Stowe, if not in all of New England.
The ski area offers 111 trails, served by 16 lifts, spread across three peaks, each with its own distinct flavor.
Smugglers’ Notch markets itself as a family-friendly resort, and with good reason. Localized base areas, solid ski school programs and plenty of evening activities (like ice skating and tubing) make the resort enjoyable for all ages. Still, the slogan “America’s Family Resort” masks the burlier side of Smuggs. Beneath the familial veneer lies a playground of steeps, bumps, and glades. Ducking out of bounds can spawn trips to wooded bowls and tree-lined chutes, all filled in with northern Vermont’s plentiful snowfall. The terrain at Smuggs rivals any other resort in the East, and many of the locals who make Smuggs their primary mountain do so because of the mountain’s low-key vibe.
Start Here: Ride the Madonna 1 lift to the summit and, after soaking up the views of northern Vermont, take a high speed cruise down Upper and Lower Chilcoot.
Quick Tip: Lines can back up at Smuggs’ slow double chairs during the earlier part of weekend days, but the whole place often clears out around 2:30 p.m. Stick around and enjoy the privacy.
Must Hit: You can’t leave Smuggs without tackling Liftline, the rugged double black that looms over the base lodge. Scope your line as you ride up Madonna 1, then try to pick your way down through rock bands and steeps.
The Stash: The tight trees of Shakedown hold plenty of twists and turns as the trail spills down the lower flanks of Madonna Mountain. If you continue past Shakedown on Lower Drifter, just about anywhere you drop in will hold the goods.
Powder Day: If you can grab first tracks on Liftline, do so. Otherwise, go straight to Doc Dempsey’s Glades. Follow Upper Chilcoot to Catwalk, then bang a right onto Doc Dempsey’s. Steep bumps give way to open glades, and long-lasting snow means plenty of opportunities for freshies.
Three Days Later: For a run that appears on the trail map, The Black Hole can be damn hard to find. Then again, that means the snow lasts longer. Hang right as you descend Liftline, then duck into Black Hole once you notice enough of an opening in the woods. Powder stashes abound.
Park and Pipe: The beginner terrain on Morse Mountain offers a couple of mellow parks. For bigger hits and more features, head over to Birch Run and The Zone on Sterling Mountain.
Backcountry Access: As you get off the Sterling Lift, head straight back toward the bullwheel. Unless you have first chair on a powder day, you’ll be able to follow a trail past a lean-to and through the woods, emerging atop a series of treed chutes that drop you back onto Shuttle.
Weather: Come March, most of the bitter cold has left Vermont. So have most of the families vacationing from southern New England. In other words, come springtime, there’s better weather and smaller crowds.
Après: Grab a seat at the Black Bear Tavern in the base lodge on Madonna and order a pint of Prohibition Ale. The beer, made by Vermont’s Long Trail Brewing Company, is only available at Smuggs.
Fuel: Warm up at lunch with a chili bread bowl from the cafeteria in the Madonna and Sterling Base Lodge. It’s easily the best item on the menu (second place goes to the sweet potato fries).
Up All Night: You won’t find much in the way of raging nightlife, but the Smuggs access road and the quaint town of Jeffersonville have a few tasty restaurants to choose from. Try 158 Main for quality meals in a laid-back atmosphere.
Digs: Smugglers’ Notch Inn sits at the base of the access road. The historic building has a variety of rooms ($89 to $129 a night; smuggsinn.com), as well as a bakery, restaurant, and tavern.
Elevation: 3,640 feet (summit) Vertical Drop: 2,610 feet Snowfall: 323 inches Acres: 325 skiable acres Info: www.smuggs.com