by Mitch Kaplan, Ski Editor

When we breezed through the first round of the Smuggler's Notch Family Pictionary Tournament, we thought we were pretty hot. But, the second round saw us going down quickly in inglorious defeat to the eventual champions, a family of three from Boston. "Oh well," said my daughter, Laina, "we had skiing, horseback riding, swimming and a show. That's a pretty full day." Nine years old and already philosophical.

Normally, I don't go in for these games, especially not in public. But, Smuggler's Notch, with its self-contained village and quintessential family orientation, is the kind of place that gets you involved. We've traveled to Smuggler's in northern Vermont many times since I first took Laina and her brother Dan to learn skiing there as preschoolers. On this occasion, the two of us had come to share some quality father/daughter ski time, and to test out some special programs. A Smuggler's ski week always includes a full off-the-slopes activity schedule, and this year, in celebration of Smuggler's 40th anniversary, a special performance called "Showtime" has been created. In the style of the Grinch stealing Christmas, a grinch-like character comes to ruin the birthday celebration by stealing many of the landmark events Smuggler's has created over the years. Pandemonium will prevail, no doubt.

The ski program is anything but pandemonium. With more than 100 instructors just for kids, most beginners are skiing the big mountain by first week's end. The Notch recently introduced "Daddy [or Mommy] & Me," a program that involves parents in their little ones' learning, so that they'll know how to continue the process after they leave. A new "ski-thru" Snowmaking Learning Center explains all about snow and snowmaking. One of the country's most comprehensive teen programs gives adolescents their own place to hang out, and an overflowing activity schedule. Concepts like starting no activity before 11 A.M. make Smuggler's very teen-friendly.


The day after our Pictionary defeat, Laina and I skipped ski school and headed for the steep regions atop Madonna and Morse Mountains. We fell in love with Doc Dempsey's Run, a serious combination of bumps and glades. But, even on the feisty Doc's, the Notch plays it for fun: traffic signs ("Speed Limit 35," "Bump Ahead") are posted on the trees. Kids love adventuring through the woods, and mine led me through the nifty glades that are hidden on both Morse and Madonna. Then she took me back to the beginner's hill so she could ski the terrain garden, a nostalgic trip to the site of one of her greatest triumphs. She had won the "cookie race" (an obstacle course, with stops en route to eat cookies) there five years earlier. But, me, I want another shot at Pictionary.

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