Ski Resorts in Summer
Looking for scenery, endless activities, few crowds, and family fun? New England’s ski resorts may be the best summer and autumn destinations around. And the best bargains. Here is a sampling of ski resorts that have transformed into summer destinations. Remember to look on your favorite ski resort’s web site for summer and fall packages.
Smugglers’ Notch, Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont
Smugglers’ Notch Resort has long defined how a winter playground transforms itself in summer. In the summer of 1976, when Montreal hosted the Olympics, the adults who owned ski condos at Smugglers’ wanted to go to the events, only two hours distant. The resort staff said they could watch over the owners’ children. They hiked, played games, went swimming. The kids loved it. Their parents loved it. A kids program was born and became the envy of resorts everywhere, both in winter and summer.
Smugglers’ in summer is a shirt-tail out, sneakered style village. Joggers and walkers and bike riders criss-cross the meandering paths. You hear the shouts of children and grownups as they plummet down waterslides into blue pools. On any given week there may be from 200-400 children in organized camps, divided by ages.
If you are a child Smugglers’ looks like this: You step out of your condo shortly before 10 a.m. You roam freely because walkways and grassy lawns connect wherever you need to go — a neighborhood where all paths lead to other kids. Depending on your age you hook up with either Adventure Rangers (ages 6-10), The Notch Squad (11-14), or Mountain Explorers. (15-17). If you’re a little tyke, your parents bring you to Discovery Dynamos (3-5). And if you’re still getting your legs under you you’ll go to the spanking new “Treasures” for ages six weeks to two years. You explore the resort, swim, hike, play games, and hang out with new pals, all the while you are parent free.
And if you just don’t want to join a group (Smugglers’ week long packages make it hard to resist joining up) then you can light out on your own Huck Finn style to see what strikes your fancy within some 1000 acres: hiking, swimming pools, driving ranges, tennis, mountain boarding, or simply just hanging out and watching all the other children and teens. You make friends. If you’re in camp it ends at 4, but more likely than not, you make plans to hook up in a few hours at the waterslides, or at one of the centers devoted to kids and teens.
If you are a grownup Smugglers’ looks like this: You drive four miles through the steep and winding Smugglers’ Notch pass and drop into lovely Stowe. You bike the Stowe Bike Path, one of the biking jewels of New England, that hugs the West Branch River for five miles. Or have lunch along the bike trail, perhaps sitting on an outdoor patio.
Or maybe you climb Mount Mansfield watching Vermont’s valleys spreading below. Or you play golf. Or you head into Burlington and stroll along Lake Champlain, or browse the shops in the pedestrian mall. You have all day. And when you come back to Smugglers’ you’ll find your kids, their faces flushed with news of their day. Maybe you’ll take a short family trek to Rum Runners’ Hideaway to see the sun setting. As twilight settles in you’ll smell dozens of barbecues grilling steaks and burgers. Kids again spill onto their private campus playground. You hear their laughter rising into the sky.
Smugglers’ Notch Resort, 4323 Vermont Route 108 South. Smugglers’ Notch, VT 05464-9537.800-451-8752.
Waterville Valley Resort, Waterville Valley, New Hampshire
This may be the most beautifully situated summer-ski resort of them all. The little town of Waterville Valley waits 15 miles north of Plymouth at the end of an 11-mile road that skirts the Mad River. The resort lies burrowed deep in the White Mountain National Forest. Rising above the valley are four 4000-foot mountains. At the hub of the resort lies Town Square, with its shops, restaurants, athletic center, ice skating rink, and shuttle busses picking vacationers up and taking them home. This is a place where town ordinances say businesses must mute their lighting at night so the star light can pierce the night.
So much scenery begs to be used.
Begin with hiking. More than 100 mils of marked trails wind deep into the forest and along the flanks of mountains. Want more adrenaline? Mountain bikers can choose from 60 miles of marked trails. Some trails follow the cross-country ski network, or old logging roads; others plummet from mountain peaks (you put the bike on chair lifts to get up) down thrilling single tracks. Do your teens want to bring their skateboards or BMX bikes? The Waterville Valley Super Park near Town Square has what they look for: 10-foot high, 24 foot wide halfpipe, a vert ramp, and pyramids, banked ramps, handrails — all the stuff that makes parents look away and make teens say “yeah!” Want to play tennis? Waterville Valley has evolved into one of New England’s tennis meccas. The red clay courts number 18, and its adult and junior clinics draw vacationers who come just to improve their game.
Need more physical exertion? Corcoran Pond, named for former Olympic skier Tom Corcoran who developed the resort, gives you canoeing, kayaking, paddleboats or just a long, lazy swim. And when all those muscles say “pamper me” then the saunas, whirlpools, steam rooms and massage therapists in the Town Square Athletic Center await.
Waterville Valley Resort, 1 Ski Area Road, P.O.Box 540, Waterville Valley, NH 03215 . 800-468-2553.
Sugarloaf/USA, Carrabasett Valley, Maine
Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.