Author Archives: Mike Chait

Achieve Vacation Success With These 10 Travel Tips for Families

Family water balloon fun

With the first day of summer quickly approaching, is vacation travel on your mind?

Our tips will help make your travel a smooth experience for your entire family!

Planning

  • Making the entire family part of the planning process will build anticipation for your vacation. With young kids, share information about your destination and highlight features they are likely to be excited to experience.
  • Traveling with your baby? To minimize packing stress, check to see what baby equipment is available at your destination. Maybe you can rent a stroller, crib, or high chair rather than pack yours.
  • There is value in speaking with a staff person at your destination if you want your questions answered quickly and thoroughly. While many travelers like to rely on online information, don’t forget that front desk staff and reservations agents can be informative resources.
  • A relaxed vacation offers priceless family time as well as one on one or individual time. Have a family chat prior to vacation about what your goals are – time together as a group, or a mix with some individual or paired activities? It can be fun to enhance family connections through new activities and new pairings.

Packing

  • Provide kids with a small suitcase (kids’ roller bags are great!) and a small bag that can hold favorite games or a stuffed animal that might be going along for the ride. Encourage kids to set out clothing they would like to bring.
  • To entertain young kids during a long travel day, you might consider packing a secret stash of small toys or books that are brand new. You can pull those out when a fun diversion is needed.
  • With young children, pack snacks that they prefer, and a sippy cup (or two!). You never know what you might find once on the road – best to be prepared.

On your way

  • Whether you’re driving or flying, plan activities that will break up your travel. Airports often have special exhibits of local art or history that are interesting for all ages. If driving, find a few family-friendly spots to stop at so everyone can have a stretch or grab a bite to eat.
  • Heading to a vacation condominium with the convenience of a kitchen? Stop en route to purchase your groceries – who wants to head back out right after you’ve arrived at your destination?

During your vacation

  • Look for special souvenirs, like a storybook with a connection to your vacation area. Or, find an art or craft session where you make something together that you can bring home as a memento of your vacation.

Have fun, and happy summer!

Smugglers’ Notch is a year-round mountain resort offering acclaimed vacation experiences for families. Summer activities include the enjoyment of 8 pools and 4 waterslides, hiking, children’s programs for ages 6 weeks to 17 years, and adventures such as a treetop aerial trekking course and mountain bike skills parks. In the winter, the resort’s three mountains are a breathtaking playground for enthusiasts of alpine and cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowboarding. Smugglers’ resort village is located 35 miles from Burlington, Vermont, in the Green Mountains.

 

A Lesson in Memory-Making

Kid and Dad on Snowboards

Out making memories with dad.

Lessons from dad

Growing up as a North Side Chicagoan, baseball was part of life. My father being a die-hard Cubs fan, there was always an expectation for both enthusiasm and patience when cheering on our local “dream team” come summertime. As a family of Cub fans, we spent many long hours together within the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. From this, my sister and I learned many valuable lessons. There were the obvious ones of course, like “keep your eye on the ball,” and “always re-apply sunscreen when sitting in the left field bleachers.” Then, there were life lessons. The ones that my father, especially, would bring up time and time again. Of those, one lesson stands out in particular.

You win some, you lose some, and some are rained out.

What does this have to do with skiing and snowboarding? Simply put, everything. Whether applied to your personal on-snow experiences, or those shared with your kids, I find so much value to this phrase. See, when we would go to a ballgame, it wasn’t about the Cubs. Well, maybe for dad it was, but for my sister and me, it meant so much more. From the moment we’d wake up in the morning, we knew it was going to be a special day. We’d talk to one another about hoping to make it onto the TV broadcast— “look for me, I’ll be chewing gum!” We’d share fond memories of games past, and even the vibe on the train was special on a game day. It was the whole experience that made these memories so great. Sure we got to spend plenty of time with dad outside of the ballpark too, but those memories were unbeatable! Everything from the smells to the sounds, even the times when dad would argue with the other fans over whose pitching was garbage and who was a real gem. Those memories were special. Those memories kept my head in the game of life.

Rained out, but still a win.

Each summer, Smugglers’ top kids’ snowboard coaches head to Central Park in Manhattan for the annual Adventures NYC event. Now in our seventh year participating, we bring a Riglet Park setup to the city in hopes of sharing the snowboarding experience with kids up to about age six. It’s always a great time, but last year was a bit different. From right about the moment the parks department canceled the event due to Manhattan falling under a flood warning, I couldn’t help but think about my father’s famous words, “You win some, you lose some, and some are rained out.” Sure, we were soaked to the bone. Sure all of our equipment would sit in the van for the 6-hour drive home, wet and quickly becoming smelly like gym socks. But the experience up until that point was on a whole new level of fun. See, these kids who participated out there in the pouring rain, they didn’t care about getting wet. They were having fun. Their coaches set the tone for fun, and the kids followed. It wasn’t about getting wet or staying dry, it was about these kids coming out to try something new, making the most of it, and going home with some unforgettable memories. They will never forget that first time they got to stand on a snowboard in the pouring rain, in the middle of Central Park, in June.

The takeaway

The lesson we can all learn from this experience is one we should carry with us every single time we come to the mountain. When heading out to the hill with young ones this winter, make this your mantra. Even if just going out for some turns on your own, keep this in your head. Whether it’s a powder day, an icy day, a windy day, bluebird, or a rainy one, it’s about the memories we create with one another. When your four-year-old shuts down after a mere fifteen minutes out on the snow, make the day into a memory rather than writing it off as a failure. Count your losses and head to the FunZone 2.0, grab a cone from Ben & Jerry’s, or simply reflect on the positives from the day. Your time on snow was fifteen minutes of sharing the greatest thing in the world with a very special little one. There’s no failure in that, for either party involved.

Four outdoor adventures your family will love

Most parents of more than one child will agree, there’s no set of rules to determine the personality of your kid. When your first child takes the go-with-the-flow approach, but the second one needs constant structure, you know you fit into this category. Luckily, Smugglers’ Notch Vermont offers such variety that there’s hope for every kid in the bunch! Read on to learn four amazing ways to try new adventures that are sure to bring the family closer together this summer, without having to trek halfway across the Himalayas.

Family TreeTop adventures

ArborTrek Treetop Collage

ArborTrek Treetop Obstacle Course

 

On ArborTrek’s TreeTop Obstacle Course, adventure-seekers of all walks will slide, balance, jump, crawl, climb, dash and swing, as they make their way along a variety of courses through the trees. This self-guided adventure through more than 80 elements offers challenges that test any participant’s strength, balance, and agility. Parents rave about how approachable the Obstacle Courses are for anyone from those afraid of heights to those looking to leap from the very top of the tallest tree. With 3 height levels of challenges, these courses provide fun for children 4 years and older, and deliver memorable experiences for all ages.

 

Waterfall adventures

Bingham Falls Waterfall

Waterfall at Bingham Falls in Smugglers’ Notch

Nestled in the heart of Vermont’s Green Mountains, Smugglers’ sits in the middle of prime waterfall country. Enjoy pristine spring waterfalls which provide opportunities for everyone in the family to connect with the natural side of life. With nearby hotspots like Bingham Falls (pictured), Irish Springs, and the Brewster River Gorge, all sorts of water-based adventures await. Bring a picnic lunch, pack a beach towel, and head out to enjoy the peace and quiet of flowing waters. Enjoy the sounds of laughter and the excitement of new discoveries as your kids climb, jump, and play in some of the oldest rivers in the world! Don’t worry if swimming’s not their thing. The rocks in these rivers can entertain all ages for hours on end. Search for precious stones full of quartz, jasper, and even gold!

 

Mountain biking

Mountain Bike Skills Park

Smugglers’ Notch Mountain Bike Skills Park

Make this the summer you learn to mountain bike! Modeled on the learning experience provided by Smugglers’ ski and ride school, the Mountain Bike Center at Smugglers’ offers camps, clinics and special sessions such as guided tours for all ages and abilities. Hone your skills on a pump track or in beginner and intermediate level skills parks. Beginner, intermediate and single track trails can be found on the property, with an extensive network of additional trails within an easy drive. Even the youngest ones are able to join in on the fun with entry-level balance bike tracks.

 

Disc Golf

Disc Golf Fox Run Meadows

Fox Run Meadows disc golf course at Smugglers’ Notch Resort

While relatively new on a professional level, this fun, classic activity is easy to learn and provides a challenge that falls just shy of addictive. The Smugglers’ Notch Disc Golf Center offers two world-class, championship 18 hole courses and an introductory 9 hole course nestled right into the cozy mountainside village. All three courses offer tees for beginners to professionals, providing a fun entry-level experience or even setting the stage for the upcoming 2018 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships. Disc golf is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while maintaining a relaxing pace, meandering through old forests with stone walls, gently flowing streams, and open meadows with sweeping views of the surrounding Green Mountains. Private lessons and clinics are offered for all ability levels through the professional staff at the Smugglers’ Notch Disc Golf Center. Try it out, you’ll love it!

Experiencing adventures as a family can be a great bonding experience as you help each other learn new skills and excel in a new activity. A real sense of self-confidence and achievement comes with getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new.

Visit smuggs.com to find plenty more adventures!

 

 

These Holiday Vacation Planning Tips Will Ensure Your Family’s Success

SmugglersNotchFireworks (1)

Fireworks follow the Torchlight Parade every Thursday night at Smugglers’!

Celebrating the holidays away from home can be an exciting and memorable experience. The benefits? You’ll relax and have fun together, enjoying new experiences and creating memories, without the to-do list that typically accompanies holiday celebrations at home.

With its winter wonderland setting in the mountains of Vermont, Smugglers’ Notch Resort is a favorite destination for families over the holidays. The resort responds to many inquiries about celebrating the holidays away from home, observes Margie Preman, Smugglers’ vacation planning manager. Preman and her staff offer the following tips:

  • Make your reservation as soon as you know your family’s vacation availability. Holiday vacations are popular. Waiting until the last minute to make your arrangements may limit your options for lodging and require flexibility with your dates.
  • Plan ahead for special clothing or gear needs. Planning ahead enables you to jump right into your chosen activities upon arrival. If you intend to ski or snowboard, think about whether you want to rent equipment upon arrival or travel with your own or leased equipment. Renting equipment can take the hassle out of traveling with bulky gear. If traveling by plane and checking your luggage, consider having a carry-on suitcase with a day’s worth of clothing for each family member … just in case!
  • Travel with a few of your family’s holiday traditions. It’s nice to bring along some traditions, whether you choose to hang stockings or tote a fruitcake made from your family’s classic recipe. “Traveling with some of your traditions can help you settle into your vacation destination and make it feel familiar, which will assist young children with the transition,” notes Preman.
  • Take a look at your destination’s website for any events and activities planned for the holiday period. The holidays are typically a special time with many activities and special programs. You don’t want to miss anything!

 

Have a wonderful holiday vacation!

If you’re looking for holiday fun, you’ll find it all through December at Smugglers’ Notch Vermont! The resort’s Holiday Magic activities are designed for young and old and include cookie decorating, craft workshops such as sock puppet making and snow art, themed family challenge races and bedtime stories with holiday elves. There’s even a great big celebration to welcome the Winter Solstice with drummers, fire dancers, fireworks, and much more! Santa will join children each Saturday around the village bonfire for hot chocolate and cookies, and a weekly on-snow carnival features music, food, games and the thrill of watching an ice carving artisan unveil a sparkling masterpiece.

Family Fishing Tips In The Ideal Fishing Environment – Smugglers’ Notch

Casting On Sterling Pond

A fly fisherman casts for rising brook trout on Sterling Pond

There are more things to do while vacationing at Smugglers’ Notch than you can fit into most trips, but you won’t want to miss the opportunity to fish in some of the local waters if you are visiting during the warm parts of the year.

Vermont’s waters are full of trout, largemouth bass, pike, walleye and other iconic gamefish, as well as bluegill, catfish and landlocked salmon. Several noteworthy waters can be found within close proximity of the resort, including Lake Champlain (which is less than an hour’s drive away) and Sterling Pond – the state’s highest trout pond.

But the fishing fun isn’t just for adults. In fact, Smugglers’ Notch makes an ideal location to introduce your kids to the sport. You’ll both have a great time doing so and form memories that will last for long after your trip is over and you’ve returned home. However, it is important that the kids actually catch fish to ensure they enjoy themselves. Children rarely have fun watching a bobber in the water all afternoon, and they’ll soon grow bored if they aren’t getting bites.

This primarily means outfitting your kids with the right type of equipment, fishing in productive locations and targeting child-friendly species, such as panfish. You can do all this yourself, but it is easier to just take advantage of the excursions provided by Smugglers’ Notch. The guides will provide you with all of the tackle, bait, instruction, and guidance you need, allowing you to kick back and just enjoy spending time with your kids. Or, if you prefer a do-it-yourself approach, head on over to the stocked trout pond near the resort entrance. Wild trout are often rather challenging for kids to catch, but this pond is full of easily caught, farmed fish.

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about the best ways to catch fish with your children and introduce them to the activity, check out Outdoor Empire’s comprehensive review of the subject. There, you’ll find more strategies, tips and tricks for maximizing your time on the water and ensuring your kids have a great time.

Tips from the pros: Hiking with kids

Want your kids to love hiking as much as you do?

Family hike Smugglers' Notch VermontIf you’re a parent who loves to hike, how do you foster that same enthusiasm in your children? One of Smugglers’ Notch Resort’s veteran hiking guides, Martha Gamble, a parent herself, offers the following suggestions.

Think like a kid, your kid! What does your son or daughter love to see or do when they are outside? Do they like waterfalls, playing in streams or swimming in a pond? Would they enjoy scrambling over rocks and jumping down? Would expansive scenery wow them, seeing mountain ranges lined up to the horizon, or looking down on their house or city? Whatever is fun for them needs to be the focus for the day. Remember, for kids, it is all about the journey, not just the goal.

Stream exploration Smugglers' Notch VermontMake sure your first hikes together are within their capabilities. If your child decides they only want to go a little way or play in the brook for a while, let them be the leader for the first hikes. Even if you haven’t gone far, if they are done for that day turn around so that they will remember a fun experience and want to go again. Young kids can hike for miles if they have started with smaller hikes and had a great time.

Use all the opportunities you have to help make hiking more interesting. Take a gondola or a toll road up the mountain and then explore from there, allowing your child to have the “eye candy” of hiking. If they are more athletic, scramble up a fun rocky trail and then take the gondola down. Go out with a guide who can show them different aspects of nature that will get them hooked on exploring the outdoors. Once you have stimulated their interest in hiking they will overlook things like a bit of rain or a less interesting section of trail.

Family hike Smugglers' Notch VermontBe prepared … in so many ways! Pack lunch and your child’s favorite snacks, as well as drinking water, sunscreen, bug dope, and clothes appropriate for the conditions of the day and your destination. Keep in mind that it is colder and windier at the tops of mountains and the weather can change quickly. At first, carry equipment for small children. As they get more experienced, teach them to be responsible for planning for the day and carrying their own supplies. If they choose the trip they will work harder to get to the destination, and they may enjoy carrying a backpack like mom or dad, especially if it is a hydration pack.

A bonus: hiking is a great way to get in shape for the winter snowsports season!

Have fun!

We welcome your comments and would love to hear what has worked for you on your family hikes!

Sterling Pond Trail Offers Chances to Make Memories Abound

At Smugglers’ there is no shortage of hiking options. Ask just about anyone who has visited the Resort and surrounding mountains about where to find a great, accessible hike, and they will most likely point you in the direction of Sterling or Madonna Mountains.
Recently, our friends at Burlington-based Zero Gravity Brewery celebrated the release of a new brew with a hike to their favorite peak, Madonna summit. If ever there was a reminder of the joys of spending time in nature with friends and family, their recent blog post is it!
NO. 15 HIKING MADONNA MOUNTAIN

Madonna is a double IPA that we’ve been brewing in small batches for the past few summers and this year we knew it was time to put this beauty into a can. The crew decided that the most appropriate place to crack open the very first cans was atop the beer’s namesake – Madonna Mountain, at the peak of Smugglers’ Notch Ski Resort.
Madonna Peak sits on the Long Trail – a 272-mile trail running over the spine of the Green Mountains from Massachusetts to Canada – and offers nearly 360 degree views of Mount Mansfield, Sterling Pond, and even Mount Washington in New Hampshire on a clear day. Our Sunday afternoon trek brought us up to Sterling Pond and then along the ridge line to the summit of Madonna Mountain where we laid back and enjoyed some of the best views that the Green State has to offer.

Finding Your Family’s Perfect Vacation At Smugglers’ Notch Resort

Take a look at skiing forty or fifty years ago. What was the appeal to the ski vacation back then? Exhilaration, scenery, and connection to nature all might come to mind, but not necessarily accessibility. Bringing the whole family never really became part of the equation until a few decades ago. Now, thanks to developments in equipment, teaching methodology, and grooming machinery among many other things, the idea of the family ski vacation has never been so appealing. With this increase in appeal and accessibility came crowds, and with those crowds, the shape of the typical ski resort took on some big changes. These changes tend to detract from that ideal, sought-after experience.

It’s important to remember our beloved sport’s roots when choosing a vacation destination. When we take the time to slow down and reflect on these “old fashioned” characteristics, we can find so much value.

  • Trail diversity: This refers not only to the variety of terrain a mountain has to offer, but also the degree to which each trail differs from the others. Trail diversity helps build well-rounded skiers and riders. A good rule of thumb is the more diverse the trail selection, the more fun there is to be had!
  • Uphill capacity: The higher the number of people who can access the mountain at once, the better, right? Not exactly. The real value lies in how these people can spread out over the terrain. How accessible is the mountain from the top of each lift? Some mountains can be spread way out, requiring the skier or rider to have to traverse and ride multiple lifts to access certain hard-to-reach places. Others are laid out in more of a reverse funnel style. This helps maximize time on-hill and makes that first day in unknown territory that much more productive.
  • The more, the merrier. Trails that have been widened to accommodate more people, while fun for ripping fast powder turns before it’s all gone, tend to lose their snow sooner due to wind scouring. Narrower trails tend to hold more snow longer, which leads to happier skiers and riders!
  • Woods: Also known as powder stashes, glades hold snow even longer than open trails! Gladed terrain gives skiers and riders the chance to diversify the shape and size of their turns, but more importantly, puts a strong emphasis on the importance of slowing down. Northern Vermont has old, beautiful woods. Glades are your ticket to interacting with that natural beauty.
  • Fun for everyone: The family dynamic is a tough one. Usually, there’s a pretty wide spread of abilities and interests throughout the squad. Make sure everyone is happy, and you, too, will be happy. This, again, emphasizes the importance of terrain diversity.
  • Après-ski: While après-ski usually puts focus on the party scene, for families it means something else. Keep the kids busy enough with off-hill activities to tire them out.

With 1,000 acres of mountain terrain at Smugglers’ Notch Vermont, you’ll find something for everyone. Three inter-connected mountains offer terrain to meet the likes of all types of skiers and riders. Open slopes provide great fun in the powder, while trails that remain narrow and winding keep each route unique from the next, and hold that powder for run after run. Natural features like mounds and ledges remain on the sides to keep things interesting, and with an open woods policy, there’s always a fun new stash waiting to be discovered.

Kids at Smugglers’, as well as adults, are treated to the best ski and snowboard programs in the East. With on-hill activities focused on fun, learning has never been so appealing, especially for the #1 Kid Friendly Resort in the Eastern U.S. and Canada as voted by the readers of SKI Magazine! Snow features sculpted specifically for beginners ease the fears often faced on first days. Games incorporated into lessons and all day camps keep things fun and fresh. Beginners and early intermediates are even treated to their own mountain of welcoming terrain, free from the adrenaline-fueled experts many aim to become. And the best part—it doesn’t stop with skiing and snowboarding! Groups stop by a trailside tipi for warm apple cider breaks, greeted by Father Winter—an expert in Vermont’s natural history. Here, they are introduced to artifacts and specimens which tell the tale of the Green Mountains and the smugglers of Smugglers’ Notch. Guests are given a sense of connection to the mountain experience they have come so far to be part of. All of these elements are what make Smugglers’ Notch Vermont the number one resort for family fun!