Fathers And Sons - A Diary - My Family Travels

Follow three generations of Spielmans throughout a wonderful family reunion in peaceful northwest Vermont and find out what the family- friendly, non-theatening Smuggler's Notch Resort has to offer you.

The summer of 97’s best memory was our first experience with “multi-generational travel.” The participants: my father, Joseph, 82, who lives 700 miles away in Charlotte, NC; my son, Jesse, 11; and me, Ralph, well past 40. We had been invited to beautiful northwest Vermont by Smuggler’s Notch Resort in order to experience their new family programs. June is a special month at the Resort complex, and with 425 condominium units, over 170 counselors, and more than 1,200 acres, there was much to do and see. 

From our journals:

Jesse’s impression of Day One:

Back from the pool. Water Slide? Two Thumbs Up! I realized it looked like fun. I came down very fast, twisting all the way. On the way back up (you climb stairs) I asked one of the water slide counselors if you can go straight, and if it was faster that way. The answer to both was “Yes”. Then I went down for the third and final time. After dinner across the way near the horse stalls, I walked home by myself — the place is very big.

Joseph, my Pop’s thoughts on Day One:

Past Stowe we entered Notch Road, a well paved narrow twisting two lane road. Four miles and 15 minutes later, we entered Smuggler’s Notch Family Resort. The facility assigned surpassed my expectations. The rooms, baths and kitchens were immaculate. Lush towels, washer-dryer, excellent TV reception, microwave, and adequate kitchen accessories gave us a sense of home way from home. Our togetherness had energized a leap over the generational chasm that geographic distance and infrequent short visits deepen. Conversation continued during and after dinner with lovely touches of humor and dramatic flair provided by my grandson, Jesse.

Somehow, coping with everyone’s needs wasn’t so bad. The next day while Jesse went off to organized activities, Pop and I had lunch at the on-premise Mountain Grille (an informal family dining area) with Scott Tobin, Director of Sales. As a fourth generation resident of the area, he enthusiastically transmitted local history and insights into the way in which the resort staff are valued.

Pop? Your thoughts on Day Two?

Ralph and I spent a few hours riding around the property. It has several hundred undeveloped acres, a self-contained village with Post Office, restaurants, and a general store, pools, ski slope trails, and hiking and climbing sections. In our viewing, we passed smiling camp groups accompanied by counselors. After dinner prepared by chef Ralph, one of Jesse’s new friends appeared and off they went to the video arcade. Another special day. We slept soundly.

The proximity of this part of Vermont to Canada fostered trade in contraband in the 18th century, hence the name –Smuggler’s Notch — which opened in 1950 as a small ski resort. A majority of guests are from New York and Massachusetts, but visitors come from all over.

OK, Jesse. Your Day Two?

Smuggs is a fun place for people of all ages. For the younger kids there is a day care program. For each age group there are age-related activities. I met a few kids who were really nice and I went home with them to their condos, which were rather large. I loved the pools. There is a lap pool and a swimming pool. Both had water slides. During the kid’s program there was an emphasis on hiking which was tiring, but fun.


Joseph on Day Three:

We headed to Burlington, for lunch at a restaurant overlooking Lake Champlain’s large expanse. After our return, Jesse reentered the scene. Day Camp activities had ceased and he prepared for an overnight at a nearby lodge that was to include hiking, dinner, games, a bonfire ceremony and a later than usual bedtime. Ralph and I attended a Resort-sponsored wine tasting with an Emcee who entertained and questioned the audience. Many guests came from distant points. Most were parents of camp-age children. A retired couple, married 50 years, were hosting a family reunion of four married children with spouses and four grandchildren. Their enthusiasm mirrored their joy. A film of Smuggler’s Notch history and a brief presentation made for a rather pleasant hour and a half.  After dinner, we returned to our quarters that seemed less lively without Jesse. As eye-to-eye conversation with Ralph progressed, the spirit of love, mutual respect and confidence was effervescing.

A higher plane of understanding had been reached. My little boy was a person of achievement and character. And I saw my grandson Jesse reflect the influence that loving parents have on a child: the excitement of learning and an awareness of responsibility, both personal and societal. Thank you, Fran (wife and mom) and Ralph. I looked forward to another day!

Jesse on his overnight (Did someone say “overnight”?) – Day Four

It was at a ski lodge that was cool. On the overnight there was a bonfire, ghost-story telling, and hay fights.

On Day Four, I wondered what made this such a special vacation.

Our five-room condominium could sleep eight — the space comes in handy. There are three Cable TV’s (with the Resort’s own information channel), a washer/dryer, and two telephones. Jesse seemed amazed that I who can be pretty grumpy with work-stress, have become domestic, providing breakfast, dinner and doing the laundry! A leisurely family breakfast is great. With the porch door open, looking at the Green Mountains— it’s the best!

Pop? – Your Day Four?

Jesse returned from his overnight stay at 8am, and left at 8:45 to begin his last day of camp activities. He was happy and tired. Ralph and I went for a tour of countryside towns and villages: Warren, Waitsfield, Waterbury and Waterbury Center were particularly noteworthy for their quiet streets, small groups of attractive stores, and lack of litter and gaudy signs. Shortly after 4pm, Jesse appeared and gave us a detailed account of the overnight. He also went to sleep at 8pm that night! We all slept soundly. On the fifth day, we left early in the morning and reminisced all the way home!

Your rating Pop?

Our experience at the resort was a source of review and enjoyment, and we parted with an escalated thankfulness for having been together. Smuggler’s Notch is an exceptional family resort. The on-premise staff that I had occasion to meet and speak to were informed, pleasant and committed to visitor service and understanding. I was only sorry that there weren’t more activities for grandparents such as card games and perhaps a seniors get-together time. I got to see Jesse swim and get some physical exercise, but there weren’t many activities all three of us could participate in at the same time. More organized group and social activities for retirees would be great.

Jesse – your review?

I liked it for the most part. Since there is a lot of skiing in this area, there are a lot of cross country ski/hiking trails. Bring hiking boots! More features that I liked at the resort were the volleyball courts, playground, game room, video arcade and a nature program.

Then, Pop asked his son for his opinion, and Jesse asked his Dad for his. 

I vote with Pop. Service, activities for all, and the natural splendor of Vermont allow for stress-reducing time to create multi-generational excursions. This is the kind of experience we should all have once in our lifetimes, or maybe even annually. Don’t miss this opportunity!


Smuggs for Juniors

Since Jesse had so much fun, I wondered what was available for younger kids at Smuggler’s Notch and looked at Alice’s Wonderland, their early childcare center [Editor’s update: the kids center is now called, “Treasures” and what follows are the details about the current program].  Its professionally trained, state-certified staff can accommodate up to 100 6-week to 3-year-olds (still in diapers). It provides full-day care, with some group activities, arts n’ crafts and storytime, plus evening care on selected nights so Mom and Dad can get to act like adults. Located in a brand new facility near the edge of the resort, it offers dedicated parking, and slopeside access.  The service is availible for $72/D, and private babysitting is also availible for $10/H for the first child, and $1 extra per additional child, though there are somne discounts for using these services off season.

Four and 5-year-olds have something new, too, now that they can participate in the Discovery Dynamos Snowboard Camp. Daily from 9am-2:15pm, this program caters to pre-schoolers and will teach groups of three to five children on a gentle slope (they then head inside until 4pm). Three-year-olds can participate in group ski lessons. Excellent ski and snowboard camps are also available for kids 6-10, 11-14 and 14-17 years old. 

Teens can enjoy family vacations, but they crave a place to hang out, so to accommodate these guests, Smuggs has added a second supervised teen center. Teen Alley caters to 11 and 12-year-olds around dinnertime and 13 to 15-year-olds at all other times, while the Outer Limits Center is for kids 16 and older and is open from 5pm to midnight. Both facilities offer Internet access, video games, music, night volleyball, pool parties and dances and are “parent-free zones.” 

Smuggler’s Notch Resort can be reached at:
US and Canada 800/451-8752; Fax 802/644-2710
United Kingdom 0/800/89-7159
e-mail: [email protected] | www.smuggs.com

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1 Reply to “Fathers And Sons – A Diary”

  • Hello, Ralph. An email voice from the past. Would like to catch up some time. I left Amtrak in '95 and have been living in the Boston area since '97. Have wonderful wife and 3 daughters (the oldest a senior at Barnard). Hope you and Fran are well. Send me a note some time.