All Mountain Mama Rachel and her daughter Aria went to Smuggler’s Notch Ski Resort, in Jeffersonville, Vermont for a winter experience like no other. 

“You’re it, Mom!” she called over her shoulder as she disappeared into the dark.  We ran in opposite directions, both of us with the intent to duck, dodge, and hide from our opponents on the laser tag course. It was then I realized that we were in for a lot of fun over the next few days. From the mystery and excitement of the laser tag course to the quiet peace on the snowshoe trails, Smuggs off mountain adventures had us covered.

Set Up for Success

Upon arrival at Smuggs, we made our first stop at the welcome center. We got the lay of the land, grabbed a trail map, and checked out the hours at the country store. The country store has everything you could need in terms of provisions for a stay on the mountain—from grocery items to souvenirs. There is even an order form that you can use ahead of time to have your groceries delivered to your condo. After checking in to our clean and spacious accommodations at the Trailside Highlands, we realized how easy it would be to get to the trails during our time on the mountain.

Smuggler’s Notch is made up of three mountains; Morse, Madonna, and Sterling. Staying at the Trailside Highlands meant that we were conveniently located close to the Morse Highlands Lodge and ski lift. This made for easy access to beginner terrain. Learn more about lodging at Smuggler’s Notch here.

Pro Tip for caregivers: Order your groceries (at least 10 days in advance of your trip) to have them delivered to your condo.

snowshoeing at Smuggs
Follow the fox trail for winter fun!

Outdoor Off Mountain Adventures: Snowshoeing & Winter Survival 

 The next morning we were scheduled to meet our guides for a Snowshoeing adventure at The Nordic Ski & Snowshoe Adventure Center. We prepared ourselves for a snowy day ahead as the forecast called for powder. Talk about luck!  Smuggler’s Notch has a wonderful shuttle system that allows you to park your car and forget about it for a few days. The shuttle runs Daily 8:00 am – 10:45 pm, so it was the perfect way to get back down the hill to meet our guides. The Nordic Center is a blue building between the Courtside Pool and FunZone 2.0. It has everything you’ll need for a day on the snowshoe trails. Our guide was knowledgeable, great with kids, and highly adaptable; working to get the different folks in the group outfitted and up to speed about the day ahead.

Pro Tips for Caregivers: Don’t forget to pack extra layers, winter gear, water, and snacks for the day ahead. There are a few outdoor cubbies available but be prepared to carry what you need. Rentals are available at the Nordic Center if you don’t have gear. You can wear hiking boots or snow boots as there isn’t a need for specialized footwear when snowshoeing. Snowshoeing is a great way to experience winter sports without a ton of equipment and provides a lower barrier to entry for folks new to the activity.

Smuggler’s Notch has a variety of guided snowshoe and cross-country ski trips and lessons available on their 30 kilometers of trails. You can seek our forest friends like moose and white-tail deer, join in on a family-friendly scavenger hunt, have a high-elevation experience, or even witness the evening fireworks. The guided tours at Smuggs are an awesome way to learn more about Vermont and try out some of the more advanced snowshoe techniques.

starting fire survival lesson Smuggs
Learning how to start a fire in a snowstorm was a big highlight!

Winter Survival Trek

We booked the Winter Survival Trek. Once we were out on the trail, our guide showed us all of the local flora and fauna that could be seen and tracked in the snow. The weather was on our side, and the trails were overflowing with drifting snow. Trails were well marked, even in deep snow conditions, and were named after woodland animals, which the kids in the group especially loved. As we made our way on the Fox Trail, we were instructed in outdoor survival techniques by our guide. We learned the difference between a snow cave, debris shelter, and lean-to, as well as the basics of fire making in the snow.  We also learned how to identify trees in the winter, including the Yellow Birch tree, the peeling bark of which we used for a firestarter.

The snowshoe trails vary in difficulty and length. You can check your map or the Smuggler’s Notch App for recommendations on which trail to choose if you are going without a guide. The Fox Trail is a great place to start—a 1.5-mile loop with intermediate terrain. We also loved The Moose Trail for a slightly longer experience which is 2.2 miles with extremely friendly beginner slopes. The trip was about three hours, and we were able to make some new friends as our trip included other families as well.

Smuggs snowshoe trail map
A large trail system offers a lot of opportunities to explore this winter wonderland.

After our snowshoe adventure, we made a quick stop at the bonfire to warm up and chat with our new friends. Smuggs has so many opportunities to explore and play on and off the mountain, and the bonfire became our meetup spot with other families that we befriended along the way. There are activities throughout the day for adults, kids, and teens alike, and we checked the events schedule regularly throughout our trip to make sure that we got the most out of the experience.

The Ozone at Smuggs
The Ozone at the FunZone 2.0 offered lots of free play options for kids of all ages.

Indoor Off Mountain Adventures: Fun Zone 2.0!

After a warm-up and some laughs at the bonfire, we were ready to change up and head over to The Fun Zone 2.0! The Fun Zone 2.0 is uniquely divided into a couple of areas: The Ozone and The Go-Zone.

The Ozone

All you will need for The Ozone is your day pass or Notch Card, a pair of socks, and a sense of adventure. The Ozone is home to lots of ways for your littles to get their sillies out before bed—ping pong, mini golf,  inflatables (like the giant slide and bouncy houses), and even a creative play kids area called the Little’s Loft. Aria loved spending some of her time winding down while building a huge chain reaction maze out of foam blocks.

Pro Tip for Caregivers: Socks are not provided, so don’t forget to pack your own.

warrior course at Smuggs
The GoZone offers more challenging options, like the warrior course.

The Go-Zone

 The Go-Zone boasts two warrior courses and a unique multi-lane see-through climbing wall which allowed for us to climb on opposite sides of the wall. It’s a nice touch for nervous climbers or if you have multiple kids along for the ride. It also includes a Leap of Faith, a 2,000-square-foot arcade with tons of games, and of course laser tag.

The laser tag is not to be missed! The sprawling 3,500 square-foot course has plenty of room to plan your attack on the opposite team, explore, play, and partner up (or compete) with your little ones. There is a leaderboard just outside the main entrance of the Fun Zone 2.0 where you can see your scores and those of other laser tag veterans staying at Smuggs. There is an additional fee for laser tag: $10 per game or $16 for two games.

Pro Tips for caregivers: To play in the Go Zone, you’ll need to complete this Participation Agreement, and have your close-toed shoes in tow (this means no flip flops, but cross with a backstrap are okay!) There is an additional fee for the Go-Zone or  $15 per hour, $25 per day. This is also an awesome spot to have a birthday party if local of bringing a large group.

Outdoor and indoor adventures abound at Smuggler’s Notch, and there is no shortage of things to do. One of the many things that makes Smuggs such a joy to visit with kids is that it has a little something for everyone, and the helpful staff as well as the well-oiled logistics both on and off the mountain make getting some time away with the family an absolute joy.

snowshoeing Smuggs
Happy memories for this mom and daughter.


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