As my family trekked through the fresh snow in our snowshoes at Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Vermont, our guide, Laird, stopped to point out a huge maple tree. Soon, he told us, it would be time to tap the maples and begin the maple sugaring process. And that means time for the maple festival!
Maple Festival: So Much to Enjoy!
Making maple sugar, a rite of early spring in the Northeast, comes with hard work, tradition, and celebration. And you can get a front row seat to the maple sugaring process at Smugglers’ Notch Resort.
From March 19 – April 3, 2016, Smuggs (as it is affectionately known) is celebrating MapleFest, where you can immerse yourself in all things maple sugar. You can, of course, enjoy spring skiing at the resort, but you can also tour a sugarhouse, learn and taste during a maple sugaring snowshoe tour, and indulge in maple-themed dining options. And don’t miss the 80-minute Maple Sugar Meltdown body treatment incorporating massage, body scrub, hot stone relaxation, and body butter. Whoa.
Must-Do: Snowshoe Tour
One thing I highly recommend from my family’s recent trip to Smuggs is the snowshoeing tours. Ours was “Soup & Snowshoes,” a one-mile trek to Zeke’s Place for homemade soup, hot chocolate, and tea, then more snowshoeing back to the Nordic center. As a homeschooling mom, I appreciated our guide teaching us about the trails, trees, and history of the area. We learned a bit about maple sugaring on our tour (did you know it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup?) and saw a huge tree split down the center by a bolt of lightning. After activities like zip lining, airboarding, skiing, and massages, I wondered if my 16 year old son and 10 year old daughter would find snowshoeing boring. But, much like hiking, they ultimately appreciated being out in nature and they learned a good deal from our guide – even if they complained initially about the effort of snowshoeing up and down the rolling hills!
During MapleFest, you can experience the “Liquid Gold” (2 hours) and “Sugar on Snow” (1 hour) snowshoe tours, where you’ll learn to identify the different types of maple trees and techniques involved in maple sugaring and enjoy a maple sugar sample!
Big Bang for your Buck
Your stay at Smugglers’ Notch Resort during their maple festival includes the following complimentary:
- Tours of local maple sugarhouses (free shuttle provided with advance registration).
- Daily sampling of maple products at the Country Store – from maple smoked cheese to maple pretzels!
- Learning about the maple sugaring process with a visit to Father Winter’s slopeside tipi.
- Thursday MapleFest and Winter Carnival featuring games, sugar on snow, and maple-infused food and beverages. A spirits and beer sampling (21 & older) highlights the award-winning maple enhanced products of Vermont’s Boyden Winery, 14th Star Brewing Company, and Elm Brook Distillery.
- Maple themed activity books for children and maple welcome gift.
In addition to all this maple festival fun, you’ll have access to the FunZone Family Entertainment Center featuring a bouncy house, huge inflatable slides, an obstacle course, ping pong, foosball, arcade games, mini golf, and more. Not maple-themed, but trust me, you’ll have to bribe your kids with maple sugar candy to get them out!
Smugglers’ Notch Resort is like the Disney of mountain resorts. During my visit, I kept marveling at how happy and friendly everyone was and how easy they made our family vacation. Smuggs is a fantastic choice for an authentic Vermont family experience during any season.