So many great choices from the top of Madonna Mountain at Smugglers' Notch. (Smugglers' Notch)
With a slew of awards for family programming in its pocket, Smugglers' Notch Resort is known as a mecca for groms and their parents who are eager to find fun on the snow. But if you only recognize Smuggs as the place to learn to ski, you’re missing out on some of Vermont’s most challenging and interesting terrain.
“Something falls in the shadow to the family thing and that’s our mountain. The terrain at Smugglers' is awesome. It’s steep and deep and there’s tons of trees and it's a blast,” Smugglers' Mike Chait told SnoCountry.com.
With a the new FunZone 2.0 scheduled to open this March, kids are still a strong part of the Smuggs experience, but so is challenging terrain for any age. With a trail system that boasts 25 percent expert and six percent extreme terrain, there’s a fun zone waiting for advanced skiers and riders, too.
From the peak of Madonna Mountain, you’ll find the Fab Five and The Black Hole, the East’s only triple black diamond run.
“Madonna Lift Line is one the most challenging in-bounds trail in the East,” Chait told us. It’s an ungroomed steep with a double fall line descent filled with cliffs, bumps, trees, chutes, and stumps. “When I want to get myself out of my comfort zone, I head to Madonna.” Madonna is also site of the Extreme Skiing Challenge, a qualifier for the U.S. Freeskiing Championships and one of six stops on the Ski The East Freeride Tour.
Of Free Fall, a trail that’s more sheltered from the wind than Madonna, Chait told us, “it’s the kind of trail you’ll be talking about in the bar afterwards. It fills right in with snow, and over the course of the season, skiers push the snow in from the top - some insurance for the spring.” Chait suggests checking in with patrol for conditions before hitting this “all-in” trail.
Robin's Run is a classic, old-fashioned, narrow, windy and steep trail that doesn’t offer a lot of options for routes. A series of “waterfalls” where the wet rock turns to ice, is a challenge for some, but alluring to others. “Given it's so narrow, you can’t traverse - you’ve got to commit,” said Chait.
In addition to 300 acres of marked trails, an additional 700 acres of unmarked woods welcome skiers and riders to the trees. And for more fast and furious fun, the groomers hit trails like Pipeline and Hangman’s Drop, and “sometimes we’ll put the winch cat on FIS and lay down some corduroy,” Chait told us.
All this challenge isn’t just for adults, either. “if you have kids who rip, all this terrain is available,” said Chait. “If the kids are ready, and conditions are right, we’ll take them there.”