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Smugglers’ Notch was founded in 1956 by a group of local businessmen as Smugglers’ Notch Ski Ways. The first lifts were two pomas (or platter lifts) on Sterling Mountain. In the early 1960s, Tom Watson, Jr., Chairman of IBM, became involved with the mountain. Watson envisioned a village patterned after those found in Europe, and he soon developed the nearby Morse and Madonna mountains. It is said that Watson placed the bottom of the Madonna I chairlift several feet below the lodge to obtain the honor of owning the world’s longest bottom-drive chairlift at the time. Over the last few decades the resort has undergone significant expansion, including development of a vibrant village center; mountain improvements in snowmaking grooming, and trail expansion; and the addition of many of the resort’s most popular recreation facilities and amenities.
Smugglers’ Notch Resort’s three interconnected mountains offer northern Vermont’s biggest vertical drop at 2610′ and 78 trails for all levels of skiers and riders with 1000 acres of all-terrain access. The Black Hole on Madonna Mountain is the East’s only triple black diamond trail. The resort’s Snow Sport University instructs children (3-17) and adults in alpine and telemark skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. The extensive menu of activities includes snowtubing in the evening, snowmobiling, swimming in the indoor pool, enjoying a craft or wellness class, and romping on climbing inflatables in the indoor FunZone Entertainment Center. A year-round zip line canopy tour offers a thrilling mountainside descent between tree platforms on zip lines, suspension bridges and rappels. There’s also ice climbing and a winter Via Ferrata adventure. Smugglers’ has been voted #1 for its family programs by the readers of SKI magazine for 15 years and was voted #1 Overall Resort in the Eastern U.S. and Canada in SKI’s 2014 reader survey.
The resort’s namesake is Smugglers Notch, the rugged mountain pass just up route 108 from the ski area. Legend has it that the smugglers over 200 years ago used the thick forest on the mountain range and the caves and caverns along what is now the Long Trail to transport illegal or embargoed goods across the Canadian border. The Notch was most likely involved in bootlegging during the Prohibition-era of the 1920s, using the same caves as a cache for smuggled Canadian beer, wine, and spirits. Scenic Smugglers Notch proper comprises the Sterling Mountain/Spruce Peak ridgeline to the east and Mount Mansfield to the west. Extremely steep terrain drops down into the Notch where Vermont Route 108 winds through switchbacks below, connecting Smugglers’ Notch Resort with adjacent Stowe Mountain Resort a few miles to the south. The road is closed to cars November–April, but open to snowmobilers and winter sports enthusiasts.