by: swetsb - 2nd February 2010

  • 4
  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Expert
  • 5All-Mtn. Terrain
  • 5Family Friendly
  • 2Nightlife
  • 4Terrain Park
  • Value
Terrain variety, no lift lines
Slow lifts, basic lift lodge, snowmaking not used

Full review

I just returned from a non-holiday weekend at Smuggs. While I enjoyed the mountain and would probably return, there were a number of things that could be improved. First, the positives. The three mountains, Mores, Madonna and Sterling, offer a great variety of trails. Morse is basically a beginner's mountain, with one short blue and a black thrown in (I can't say anymore because I didn't ski there). Madonna is the biggest of the three mountains and is served by two double chairs. For the most part, the blues on the two mountains are long cruisers on mostly wide open trails. I found these to be monotonous after a couple of runs. The exceptions were Catwalk, Upper Drifter, and Ruthies. All three had some traverses (Drifter being the longest with some uphill), but the trails were narrower and required skiing as opposed to long carves. Unfortunately, Catwalk and Drifter were really thin (more on that later). Red Fox Glades is also on Madonna, and is a short intermediate glade. Make sure you ski it well, because you exit under the lift. Gary B's NW Passage is listed as a black, but was no harder than any of the more difficult blues. I'd recommend that trail for intermediates looking to practice skiing moguls without having people on the lifts watching. The expert terrain on Madonna looked pretty good (steep and often bumped) and had some really nice glades. I did not ski them as they were either closed or too thin/icy. There was also a short but free racing course, which a lot of kids were taking advantage of. My group preferred skiing on Sterling. While not as big as Madonna, it still was long enough and had a nice mixture of options. Intermediates again had some cruising options, but the trails were a little narrower and not as steep as Madonna. Those looking to graduate to steeper bumped trails could practice on Harveys and Treasure Run, which are shorter and flatter then say, Doc Dempsey's Glades or Upper FIS (both on Madonna). Most of the experts stayed on Upper Exhibition, the trail under the lift. It could essentially be broken into five or six segments, with flat areas in between. Usually one half of the trail was bumped and the other half was steeper but flat. This was the run that showed how good the skiers and boarders are at Smuggs. I consider myself a good intermediate skier, but at any given moment I could be the worst skier on the mountain, that's how good the people are here. If you go into the parking lot, you don't see a lot of out-of-state plates, and it shows as you ride up Sterling. My big problem with Smuggs was the lack of snow making. It was cold enoughto make snow the entire weekend , but they didn't turn any of the guns on at any point. While I will say that the grooming done between Saturday and Sunday really made a big difference (we all thought Sunday was a much better day to ski with no appreciable drop in crowds), I didn't understand why they didn't add snow overnight. Many people have commented in other reviews about the slow lifts. The lift to the top of Madonna is about a 20-25 minute ride (with the option of getting off about half way up), while Sterling and the second Madonna lift are about 15. Some have defended the slow lifts by arguing that it limits the number of people on the trails, thus preserving open space and conditions. The lift lines were non-existent while I was there, so I'm not sure if the "limits people" argument really holds water, but where you fall on this is up to your own personal preference. The one base lodge is old and plain. Although I didn't particularly care about the lack of amenities, it would have been nice if there had been a fireplace or something like that to dry off/warm up clothes when taking a break. The silver lining is that the mountain doesn't need to pay for the upgrade, so ticket prices ($62) and food (you can easily eat a meal for less than $10) are much cheaper than any other major mountain I've been to, and parking is free. This also might explain why there were so many kids here. I would estimate that easily half of the people skiing/boarding there weren't old enough to drink (this is not meant as either a negative or a positive, just a statement of fact). Everyone, young and old, was friendly, and I didn't have any problems with overagressiveness. Maybe this is a result of the high quality skiers and riders. There are no options for nightlife if you don't stay on the mountain. We stayed in Stowe (35-40 minute drive), which was a lot of fun. I didn't see the Village so I can't what it was like, but the map seems to say there isn't much there. If you don't mind the drive, I'd recommend staying in Stowe and "commuting." FYI, don't let the street maps fool you like they did me. Although Stowe and Smuggs are on the same road, it is closed between the two areas in the winter, so if you're in Stowe, you have to drive all the way around to get to Smuggs. I would definitely recommend this mountain to others, especially experts. It has a distinct throwback feel that I like and is very reasonably priced. I wish they would make more snow, but that didn't decrease my level of satisfaction all that much.
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