Smuggler’s Notch with kids: programming for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers

smuggsIf you’re like a lot of families with very young kids (think pre-K), the prospect of a ski vacation is tempting, but overwhelming. Who wants to spend precious vacation dollars taking endless runs on the bunny hill with a toddler while your partner is stuck in the lodge chasing a baby determined eat every French fry she finds on the floor? Family ski resorts like Smuggler’s Notch understand this, and provide age-appropriate programming to help families take (and actually enjoy!) ski vacations with young kids. To put Smuggs’ legendary family-friendliness to the test, my husband and I set out from our home in Massachusetts with Homer (3) and Greta (1) for a three-night stay.

Homer was just old enough to enroll in their Discovery Camp (included in most packages), and Greta spent some quality time at the TREASURES child care center (ages six weeks to three). And what did TJ and I do? We skied all day, ate lunch at the lodge, and lounged in the hot tub. Heaven!

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The Discovery Dynamos program is for kids aged three to five, and accommodates all ability levels. Homer had already been skiing a few times this winter, so he was bumped up to a group that uses the beginner chair lift, but a lot of the younger groups use Sir Henry’s Learning Hill. This is a nice, wide bunny hill serviced by a magic carpet (it is also where the Burton Riglet Park for beginner snowboarders is located). Also, much to Homer’s delight, the program uses a tractor and wagon to haul kids to the upper slope-side condos, where they can enter the run and ski down without having to use the lifts (easier on the instructors, too!). The camp starts at 9 am, breaks for lunch around 11:30, then goes back out to ski until about 2:30 pm. In the afternoon, the kids come back inside for some indoor entertainment (on Homer’s days they had a science show and a movie). Needless to say, they sleep well at night!

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The instructors are friendly, very focused on the kids, and seem to be really excited about reaching a new generation of skiers. If at all possible, I recommend that your child spend a few consecutive days in the program. Homer had the same teacher every day, and became a little more confident and outgoing every day. If your kids are older, keep in mind that there are similar all-day programs for kids up to 15 years of age.

Tip: Though all ski and board ability levels are welcome at the Dynamo level, kids must be potty trained!

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While Homer ripped it up with his instructor, Greta spent her days at TREASURES. The facilities are beautiful, and the staff is extremely helpful and accommodating. They even have their own magic carpet lift in the adorable outdoor play area for the older toddlers to try some skiing (refer to the Little Rascals on Snow program)! They specialize in non-recurrent childcare, meaning that they are good at making your child feel comfortable in a new environment, with unfamiliar adults and children. Snacks and meals are provided, but you can bring your own if there’s something special that you know for child will like. They also ask you about mealtimes and naptimes, and really do their best to stick to your normal routine. At the end of the day, you’re given a card detailing everything your child ate, when they slept, and an overall impression of their day.

TREASURES is located right on the trail coming down into the Village Center, so you can easily ski in/ski out to check on your little one. One of the best features of the baby room (0–16 months) is the two-way mirror by the door that allows you peak in without being seen (and thereby causing a meltdown!). But the proof is in the pudding—Greta, who isn’t in any formal, regular childcare at home, had two and a half great days at TREASURES, which equated to TJ and I having two and a half great days of adults-only, guilt-free skiing!

About the author

Kate Lepore AUTHOR: Kate Lepore is Pit Stops for Kids' east coast editor and a mother of two preschool-aged children. Kate makes her home in Western Massachusetts when not traveling. Find Kate at Google.

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