A Vermont mountain known for its super children’s programs makes the thrill of discovery available in an adults-only camp rated M.
There’s something funny about Smugglers’ Notch Resort, a ski area tucked away in northern Vermont at the foot of a mountain pass (Smuggler’s Notch) over which the rum runners used to haul hootch at night. It’s a bit hidden because the condos and base area are tucked into one village, yet it feels remarkably isolated because all the views of the gorgeous Smuggler’s Notch State Forest are free of development.
The mountain is best known in family circles as the home of the Smugglers’ Notch Resort, an award-winning family resort whose fun learning programs, both winter and summer, introduce the magic of the mountains to guests of all ages. Starting with the Treasures Nursery, little ones from 6-weeks to 36-months can romp in the snow, hike in the woods, or just grow with the state-licensed staff, all of whom have early childhood education training.
There are three mountains here: the “beginner” Morse Mountain which rises from the Village, Madonna Mountain which hosts the intermediate and advanced athletes to its east, and Sterling Mountain, the most advanced hill with its own meeting point for Level 5 and higher skiers and riders. Because Morse is self-contained with its own base and mid-mountain lodge, and lots of scenic greens as well as long cruisers, the beginner can get the whole mountain experience right here. Having a dedicated beginner mountain is quite unusual at mountain resorts, where novices are often relegated to base area bunny slopes and can’t gain enough skills in one vacation to take a lift to the top. At Smuggs, everyone of any ability can literally get to the top and soak up the Green Mountain views.
Teaching Experts Aim for Adults
The children’s programs at Smugglers’ Notch are nationally recognized and win awards from the ski magazines year after year. Into this mix comes an adult camp — Smuggs’ new MAX5 Program, a four-day immersion in all things SKI for adults who love the sport. MAX5 evolved from the resort’s successful Mountain Experience Program which was directed at intermediate and above adult skiers. The new MAX5 addresses the needs and dreams of skiers and riders at every ability level, but particularly adults, who feel they need to move beyond their own private plateaus. Smuggs’ goal is to maximize your learning experience.
Over the four days, the resorts’ top instructors take out up to five guests each and work with them to push each guest’s personal envelope and take his or her abilities to the next step and beyond. All reports confirm that spending four days with serious ski and snowboard buffs and expert instructors can be a challenging and exhilarating experience.
During a February family vacation, I spent a day with a few fresh graduates who had extended their four-day experience into a fifth day in order to enjoy new friendships and savor the program a little longer. Our teachers were Glen, a true Vermonter who retired after 30 years at the IBM headquarters in Essex Junction (mixed with weekend teaching at Smuggs), to teach full time for the past few years. His cohort, Mickey, also one of Smugg’s Level 3 certified instructors, comes from a similar background of pure commitment and love of the sport. Their quiet enthusiasm and encouragement, their maturity and reassurance, made the group feel like they had connected with true Masters, with all the “insider” knowledge that promised.
As Jim Johns of Seaford, NY, said, “It’s really a camp for the adults. I have a family of five here and my kids have been part of the snowboard camp for seven years. I love this camp… it gives me the confidence to keep up with my kids… and I am an expert skier.”
Fran Kiernan, father of two from Avon, Connecticut added, “The stuff we’re doing today, in this powder, that’s stuff I couldn’t do when I started on Monday. Having the same instructor for four days makes all the difference; they bring us into stuff that we wouldn’t do by ourselves, then give us tips to get through it.”
The Thrill of Realizing Your Potential
I am a solid intermediate skier and after a day with this bunch, can second all those emotions. The instructors led me onto slopes that gave me pause, but knowing that they believed that I could handle them, made me confident at doing so. I came away from the experience maybe a half-level above the point I entered. And, best of all, it was just plain fun — at times even thrilling — to go beyond where I had gone before.
Instructor Mickey summed it up: “Having the same students for four days, 2.5 hours per day, is what makes the program special. I can get to know them a little, then take them out of their box to do some new stuff. I can make skiing really exciting without being dangerous. And that’s what folks want on a vacation.”
So I say put the kids in their camp, and join the Smuggs’ MAX5 camp. The cost is $300 per person for four days. Individual days are available for just $75; participants are guaranteed a maximum enrollment of five. After enrolling for four days of camp, MAX5ers can add on a fifth day of personalized instruction free of charge.
Call Smugglers’ Notch Guest Service Desk to reserve a place (800/451-8752 , ext. 1293). For more information on this mountain, check the Smuggs’ website: www.smuggs.com.
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