Glorious skiing and snowboarding? Check. Swanky ski resort with fun for the whole family? Check. Mellow, easy-going town with everything you need nearby? Check. Crazy-chic scenesters at the bar with wild après action and gridlocked traffic? Not so much. Smugglers’ Notch Resort and the nearby towns of Cambridge and Jeffersonville offer all the fun of a Vermont ski adventure without any of the ski-scene hassle. Well-known for its spot-on family activities and entertainment, Smugglers’ Notch has carved its own niche into Vermont’s outdoor-sports domain.
Located on the north side of Mount Mansfield, the mountain towns and the resort itself are easily accessible to visitors, offering opportunities to appreciate Vermont’s natural beauty and innate charm without the tourist glut common on the other side of the hill. Cambridge boasts a population of fewer than 4,000 folks, and its town center, the village of Jeffersonville, hovers around 700 citizens. Though they may not be big, these towns have everything a visitor needs to feel right at home, whether he’s passing through for a day or staying for a while.
A four-season destination, Smuggs, as it is affectionately known, has made itself the go-to resort for families. It provides all the challenge of great ski and snowboard terrain, but realizes that with a family in tow, shredding down triple black diamond slopes isn’t always in the cards. In addition to skiing and boarding and the lessons that go along with them, the resort also offers tubing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, airboarding, and snowmobile tours.
Once these possibilities have been exhausted, guests who aren’t tired out yet can enjoy a huge indoor pool, hot tubs, and the FunZone, which has an arcade, a bouncy house, an enormous indoor slide, obstacle course, and lots of other activities and games to keep kids, teens, and fun-loving adults busy. And just because there aren’t tons of people packed into a few crazy bars, it doesn’t mean there isn’t nightlife at Smuggs; Bootlegger’s Lounge and the Black Bear Tavern at the base lodge provide ample opportunity to loosen those boots and toast your day on the slopes. They often feature après parties, special events, live music, sports on TV, and nightly entertainment.
Independent of the resort, the Lamoille River and surrounding valley provides a stunning backdrop for hikes, ice climbing, and many other winter sports. It’s worth another trip later in the year to experience summer time in the area; the natural landscape offers a plethora of opportunities for hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing.
While the flashier ski towns in Vermont may get more attention, the village of Jeffersonville and the surrounding town of Cambridge hit a sweet spot for locals and visitors alike. The family-owned and operated Vermont Maple Outlet, on Route 15 in Jeffersonville, has every kind of syrup, candy, or maple treat imaginable, plus a wide selection of other Vermont-based foods and gifts. For those interested in the opposite end of the spectrum, the Smuggler’s Notch Distillery on Main Street in Jeffersonville welcomes visitors to taste their small-batch vodka, gin, rum, and bourbon, and take home a bottle, or a few, for later. The short but sweet Main Street hub also features several art galleries and jewelry shops as well as a grocery.
158 Main Restaurant and Bakery in Jeffersonville, and the upstairs Jeffersonville Pizza Department, feature breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch, and dinner downstairs, as well as a bakery; upstairs has pizza, pasta, calzones, and other standard Italian fare. Chef Jack Foley recently opened the new El Dorado Tavern nearby, branching out into innovative Mexican dishes. Heading out to the surrounding area of Cambridge, the region’s peaceful beauty is showcased no matter what the season; a visit to the Boyden Valley Winery is essential. Open daily, they offer tours of their wine-making facility and tastings of their many varietals of wine, as well as a Vermont apple hard cider.
People return again and again to Cambridge, Jeffersonville, Smugglers’ Notch, and the reason is the warmth, friendliness, and laid-back attitude of the place. Welcoming families, serious skiers, and non-athletes alike, there’s something for everyone at this hidden treasure on the “other side” of the hill.