Smugglers Notch Resort, often referred to as “Smuggs”, is a ski resort in Northern Vermont. It sits on the north side of historic Smugglers’ Notch on VT Route 108. Smuggs is located on the opposite side of the notch from Stowe Mountain Resort. In fact, the two resorts are so close, you can easily bootpack from the top of the Sterling chair at Smuggs, over to the top of Spruce at Stowe in under 30 minutes.
Despite its extreme proximity to Stowe, Smuggs has a far different atmosphere. Where Stowe has a modern, luxurious feel, Smuggs has a true, local, hardcore feel. The parking lot at Smuggs is populated by locals sitting on their tailgates while Stowe offers valet-parking. At Smuggs, all of the lifts are slow double chairs, there is minimal grooming, and the snowmaking capacity is mediocre at best. When skiing this majestic mountain, it is easy to feel like your stuck in 1975.
The terrain at Smuggs is nothing short of fantastic. There is an exceptional amount of unmarked tree skiing as well as dozens of sidecountry “notch runs” where you bootpack out of bounds and drop down onto the closed highway that runs through the jagged notch. In addition, the line dubbed “Shack to Shack” down the Madonna liftline is certainly one of the rowdiest in-bounds runs in the east. If you like an intimate, core, mountain experience, there are very few resorts that can match Smugglers Notch.
With Vail’s acquisition of Stowe, most find it inevitable that Smugglers Notch is next in line to be purchased. There is no shortage of whispers about financial struggles on the north side of the notch. In addition, if Vail can make a deal, you could ski between the two mountains. This would make Stowe/Smuggs the premier ski destination in the East.
While there is no arguing how epic (pun intended) the acquisition of Smugger’s Notch could be for skiing in Northern Vermont, it would mark a brutal hit to the Vermont and East Coast ski scene. Areas like Smuggs and Mad River Glen offer an intimate feel that is becoming more and more rare. As Vail and Alterra go on their buying sprees, these quality, independent resorts are becoming more and more rare. There are plenty of excellent local ski hills in the Northeast, but few have the incredible and prized blend of snowfall, terrain, and history like Smuggs does.
Skiing does not need more high-tech and plush resorts. Nobody will argue that it is nice to buy one pass and be able to visit a large number of resorts. What is far more important is the pure, unadulterated, skiing experience at Smuggs. It is clear that you are there to ski and take pride in riding the rickety double chairs while the Stowe crowd is using gondolas and high-speed quads just a couple of miles away. This place has a truly unique attitude and it will be heartbreaking should it fall victim to Vail.