Those who have travelled the world visiting dozens, maybe even hundreds of resorts may begin to feel that one ski resort seems very much like the other. All have abundant snow of course, all have picturesque scenery, all say they're 'friendly' and every time anything new comes out, they've all got it. Smugglers' Notch, located in Vermont's Green Mountains, feels genuinely different. The 'corporate plastic' feel that prevails at many of North America's top ski centres isn't there and the 'genuinely friendly service' which all claim actually feels, well, genuine at Smugglers. For those that take an interest in the 'bigger picture' of winter sports development around the world it's also slightly ironic that whilst many North American ski centres have gone through a cycle of 'boom and bust' over the years, trying different ways of making money, Smuggler's has quietly grown, largely thanks to selling and maintaining lodging at its resort base; the model that is now fuelling the biggest and most successful resort chains in the continent. Whilst those big corporations employ consultants and focus groups to work out what people want, the folk at Smugglers seem to have no problems working out that people want a good time, a relaxed, high quality experience. They want something to do pretty much every hour of the waking day, they want to be able to do it as a family and also to be able to separate off from each other and they want to be able to do it all at a reasonable cost. Somehow Smugglers seems to have found the answer where others have failed. Perhaps its just that so many resorts fight for the rich top end of the market, or feel that 'real' ski resorts have to be based on the "if you're not skiing, you should be sleeping", purist model or perhaps even they just can't grow enough in the Smugglers model to be physically able to cope with the operational costs required in having all the answers. Whatever it is, Smugglers remains one of the very few ski areas that can deliver the complete ski holiday, to a high standard at an affordable price. The biggest beneficiaries are Families, and the resort has won numerous 'Best in North America' awards for its family-friendliness - awards that have come from overseas as well as from top publications in the US. It markets itself as 'America's Family Resort' and offers a "Fun Guarantee". But in order to be great for families it shouldn't be forgotten that this resort has to be great at pretty well everything in order to keep each individual member of the family happy. There's wide ranging skiing and boarding, wide ranging après ski opportunities, a huge selection of on and off snow alternative sports and leisure, excellent accommodation choices and a good choice of eateries ranging from incredibly high-value family eateries to gourmet a la carte. Unlike most US resorts (at least until the past five years), Smugglers centres around a relatively compact base area, largely car free, so you can easily walk (or take the free shuttle if you prefer) to all resort amenities and the base of the lifts. The resort has a good natural snowfall record and a vertical which is likewise better than that of many neighbouring resorts. Top to bottom snowmaking cover has been greatly enhanced in recent years and the resort's claim that it cares deeply about the environmental impact of its operation does ring true when it goes to great lengths to explain how it endeavours to operate at maximum efficiency to minimalise environmental impact.
Compact New England condominium-only resort with reputation for excellent child-care, whilst also having the greatest vertical in North Vermont and an impressive snowfall record. Strong emphasis on enjoyment of guests, with 'fun guaranteed' for parents as well as children and a strong program of on and off-slope organised activities. Freefone reservations from the UK on 0800 1698219.