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The History of Smugglers' Notch

Who were the Smugglers at Smugglers' Notch?

Smugglers. The word alone summons visions of romance, intrigue and excitement — of swashbucklers, adventurers and independent thinkers.

Smugglers’ Notch Pass has a history filled with independent thinkers. Beginning almost 200 years ago, smugglers used the heavily wooded mountain range and the caves and caverns along Vermont’s Long Trail to transport illegal or embargoed goods across the Canadian border.

In the early 1800s, the U.S. Congress placed an embargo on the imports of all English goods. In order to circumvent that embargo, the British merely shipped their food stuff, clothing and medical supplies to Canada and smuggled the materials down the Long Trail and through what is now called Smugglers’ Notch Pass. Since the large caves in the Notch could be used to store supplies, it became an ideal focal point for much of the smuggling from Canada to the United States prior to the War of 1812.

More than 100 years later, the Notch was again used for smuggling when the U.S. Congress passed the law prohibiting the sale of alcohol. Again, our friends from the north were not persuaded that Congress was acting in their best interest and freely smuggled alcohol through Smugglers’ Notch Pass and down to central and southern New England. The caves and caverns in the Notch were ideal for storing alcohol at approximately room temperature, while the smugglers were avoiding the revenue agents.

Many people who visit Smugglers’ Notch Resort in the Summer still hike and explore the many interesting vistas, caves and storage areas and walk the Long Trail that goes directly through The Notch. In the Winter, however, The Notch is blocked with snow, so travel is forbidden except on cross-country skis, snowshoes or snowmobiles.

The beauty of this area was not lost on the local business people of Cambridge, Vermont who in 1956 opened the Smugglers’ Notch Ski Ways. This ski facility consisted of two poma lifts on Sterling Mountain, one of the three interconnected mountains. For 10 years, the folks of Cambridge ran the ski area primarily for their residents until one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world discovered the potential of this undiscovered “diamond in the rough.”

Tom Watson Jr., visionary and primary thrust behind the success of IBM, wanted to duplicate in the East the type of European-like ski villages he saw at Vail and Aspen.

Mr. Watson, along with his brother Arthur, bought the Smugglers’ Notch Ski Ways, Inc. in the early 1960s and began aggressively to expand both the skiing terrain and uphill ski capacity and simultaneously develop a ski-from-your-doorstep village.

In 1967, the village concept was inaugurated when Morse Mountain, the third of the interconnected mountains, was developed. Three interconnected mountains with a village at its base! Mr. Watson was seeing his dream come true.

Stanley Snider, an equally successful developer of resort properties, was asked to plan and build the village complex. In 1973, he bought the entire Resort.

Snider brought William P. Stritzler on board in 1987 as Managing Director. Mr. Stritzler was a Vice President with AT&T at the time and had been a vacation homeowner at Smugglers’ since 1977. His Vermont roots go back to 1960 when he graduated from Middlebury College.

He fell in love with the Resort and decided to buy it in 1996. Since that time, Smugglers’ has continued to expand and improve its family offerings and has become the standard by which other family resorts are measured.
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