Downhill All the Way
Stowe Mountain Resort
(c) Landewehrle Studio
More than 200 inches of snow each year make winter THE time to come here. Although the area is loaded with ski resorts, most folks pick Stowe and Smugglers' because they get the most powder. Plus, there are sleigh rides and snowmobiling for non-skiers.
Smugglers' Notch: "Awesome" is how kids describe this self-contained village with stores, restaurants, and 550 condominiums. The skiing is great, the instructors are cool, there are two terrain parks for snowboarders, and there's great stuff to do at night.
Parents love it because they can drop kids off at Snow Sport University (a skiing day camp) during the day, and slip away unencumbered. Day skiers, too, can pay to put their kids in the camp (but the rest of the resort's amenities are off limits).
On the slopes, there are 67 trails, including the East's only triple-black-diamond run. It's definitely not an easy ski area, but the academy trains these kids to be great skiers.
Besides skiing, there's also a mind-boggling number of distractions for infants and older kids. One of the most popular is The Outer Limits. This room is fully loaded with Internet access, movies, karaoke, laser tag, foosball, and salsa socials -- total teen heaven. So, while your 14-year-old is hanging with newfound friends at night, put the tots in free child care and ride the lift to Top of the Notch, where you'll be served a candle-lit, gourmet meal.
Stowe: For a more adult-friendly place, try Stowe on the other side of the mountain. With 47 wide trails and more skiable acres than Smuggler's Notch, it's more like skiing in the West or Europe. Stowe's average trail length is 3,603 feet, the longest in New England. Stowe's also a leader in snowboarding instruction for all ages. Once you know how it's done, ride its terrain park, with world-class pipes. Kids' programs are available, but unlike Smugglers', they're not the main attraction. You can stay slopeside, or in nearby motels, hotels, or antique-filled B&Bs.
If you want to ski both resorts, one trail will get you there when the conditions are right (you must ski over a pond, which, of course, has to be frozen). Lift privileges, however, change every year. Officially, you must buy a lift ticket to ski the other side of the mountain at that area's office (Smugglers' Notch packages generally include a lift ticket for Stowe). But, word of mouth has it that both Stowe and Smugglers' give "visiting" skiers one free lift ride back to their original area.