New Hampshire
Rhode Island
Madonna and Sterling as seen from Morse (2015)
Smugglers Notch
Smugglers' Notch, Vermont
Status: Open
First Season:1950s
Vertical Drop:2610 feet
Standing Lifts:6 doubles, surface lifts
Past Lifts:Surface lifts
Left: Madonna and Sterling as seen from Morse (2015)
Recent News:
6/1/2023: Plans Emerge for Smugglers Notch to Stow...
1/8/2015: Smugglers Notch Snowmaking Pump House Bu... Profile
Located north of Stowe, Smugglers Notch is a unique resort that features plentiful family learning terrain, aggressive expert trails, and a chairlift infrastructure composed solely of fixed grip doubles.

Early Years

Smugglers' Notch ski area possibly dates back to the early 1950s as a small rope tow ski area. Not much is known about this development, but it is possible it was not located within the footprint of the present day resort.

On April 30, 1956, Smugglers' Notch Ski-Ways, Inc. was incorporated in Vermont. Dr. Roger Mann was elected President at the first annual meeting, held on June 4, 1956.

The never-constructed Snowflake Lodge
The never-constructed Snowflake Lodge

In a stock offering document, the founders described Stowe as the "Ski Capital of the East" and that the new upstart and the Mt. Mansfield Company "will have lifts terminating on Sterling Mountain" which "will enable skiers to enjoy both sides" via a "ski across a lake." Initial trails and lifts were to be developed on Sterling Mountain, followed by a joint venture between Smugglers' Notch and Mt. Mansfield Company for a chairlift on Madonna Mountain. Morse Mountain and Whiteface Mountain were also slated for future development.

An elaborate building named the "Snowflake Lodge" was planned near the base of the ski area, featuring lodging, dining, a lounge, and a ski shop, all to be owned and operated by the corporation. The State of Vermont was to operate the parking lots and a snack bar.

Developed (with the help of Vermont Department of Forests and Parks and nearby Stowe) and managed by Warren Warner (formerly of Okemo), Smugglers Notch debuted for the 1956-57 season with two Poma lifts on Sterling Mountain. The state of Vermont built a 300 car parking lot and a 1,600 foot warming hut, while the ownership built a smaller building to host a ski shop and ski patrol. The Southwest Passage trail was cut to provide the connection from the new ski area's Sterling Mountain to Spruce Peak at Stowe, while the Northeast Passage trail provided a link from the top of Spruce Peak back to Sterling Mountain.

Smugglers Notch in the late 1950s
Smugglers Notch in the late 1950s

The lower mountain was served by a 2,000 foot long Poma lift. From the top of that lift, skiers could ski over to a 3,300 foot long Poma, which then carried them to the top of Sterling Mountain. Trail names such as "Rum Runner," "Hangman's Noose," and "The Black Snake" were derived from smugglers who frequented Smugglers Notch during the War of 1812. The combined ride time of the two lifts was billed as 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, IBM CEO Thomas Watson Jr. and his family had a ski home in nearby Stowe. In 1957, IBM opened a facility in nearby Essex Junction.

Smugglers' Alley was added for the 1958-59 season, increasing the trail count to 6, ranging from beginner to expert. During the following off season, Warren Warner was hired as manager of the Belknap Mountain Recreation Area, which would soon become Gunstock.

The 120-day 1959-60 season was a profitable one, resulting in planning for future development of trails, lifts, and peaks. Caution flags were thrown following season when the area "suffered the severe washout of 1961" in February, which washed out slopes and skier visits and put operations in the red. Nevertheless, a new novice Poma lift was installed in 1961 and surveys conducted for the installation of a chairlift on Madonna Peak. In addition, the company pushed state officials to either begin winter maintenance of the road through the notch or construct a tunnel.

Becoming a Major Ski Area

Madonna Mountain in the late 1960s
Madonna Mountain in the late 1960s

Allegedly a minority Stowe shareholder, Tom Watson became frustrated with a real estate issue perhaps around the turn of the decade. As the legend goes, one day Watson skied around to Sterling Mountain from Spruce Peak and saw the potential for a massive ski development in Smugglers Notch.

Watson joined the Smugglers Notch Ski-Ways Board of Directors circa 1962, providing outside vision and planning for the area as it reached a crossroads. Despite good natural snowfall during the 1961-62 season, sales growth had stagnated, as skiers began to seek chairlift served skiing. As a result, the company decided to go full steam ahead on becoming a chairlift served area.

In June 1963, Dr. Mann announced the Smugglers Notch had signed a contract to install what would be one of the largest chairlifts in the Eastern United States on Madonna Mountain. Installed by helicopter, the new lift expanded the ski area's vertical drop from about 1,500 feet to 2,150 feet. Three new trails were expected for the start of the season, with a few more soon to follow.

In 1964, Thomas Watson Jr. and his brother, IBM World Trade Corporation President Arthur "Dick" Watson, likely acquired a majority ownership stake in the ski area. Big changes were in store for their first full season in charge of the ski area.

For the 1964-65 season, a double chairlift was installed on Sterling Mountain, providing skiers with a modern ride to the summit as compared to the two Poma lifts. Now a major area, Watson decided to change the name of Smugglers Notch ski area to Madonna Mountain in honor of Madonna di Campiglio, Italy.

Three more trails were added for 1966-67, while larger changes were working their way through the pipeline.

Becoming a Major Resort

Morse in the 1970s
Morse in the 1970s

Rumors of a large 2,000 acre land acquisition via a Watson agent spread around New England in January 1967. In April of 1967, General Manager Rolland Vautour announced a dramatic 10 year, 8 phase expansion plan, which was expected to quadruple the size of the ski area. The first phase of this plan was realized immediately, as about $750,000 was spent to develop the Morse Mountain area.

The initial Morse Mountain development included a 5,155 foot Hall double chairlift, four new trails, and a two million gallon snowmaking pond. At the bottom of the new area, a large four season village was started. $300,000 was invested in Morse snowmaking infrastructure for 1968-69.

Watson Steps Down

Madonna Mountain circa the 1970s
Madonna Mountain circa the 1970s

In November of 1970, owner Thomas Watson suffered a heart attack. Though he recovered from it, he cut back on his business interests, first stepping down as CEO of IBM in June of 1971. Three years after his heart attack, Madonna Mountain Corporation sold the ski area to a subsidiary of Stanmar, Inc., called Smuggler's Notch Corp. While Thomas Watson would still have more adventures ahead of him, such as becoming US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Arthur Watson would die a few years later as a result of a fall at home.

Headed up by Stanley Snider, Smuggler's Notch Corp. focused on Snider's specialty, resort development. One of the first changes took place immediately, as the ski area was renamed Smuggler's Notch for the 1973-74 season.

Its first noticeable on-mountain addition took place in 1979, when the Madonna II chairlift was installed.

In January of 1987, former AT&T Vice President William P. Stritzler became Managing Director at Smugglers' Notch.

A second double chairlift, purchased from defunct Timber Ridge-Magic Mountain ski area, was installed on Morse Mountain for the 1993-94 season. The following year, a T-Bar was installed on the Sterling Practice Slope.

New Ownership

The Catwalk trail on Madonna Mountain (2004)
The Catwalk trail on Madonna Mountain (2004)

Deciding to retire, Stanley Snider sold Smugglers' Notch to Stritzler in late 1996. Former Stanmar Comptroller Robert F. Mulcahy remained on board in upper management.

Three years later, the Morse Highlands complex was developed, served by a small double chairlift.

Though one of the largest ski areas in the state, Smugglers' Notch has had relatively modest lift infrastructure for decades. In fact, Smugglers' Notch is the only ski area in New England with a 2,000 foot vertical drop that has not replaced any of its original aerial lifts. To date, all of the chairlifts at Smuggler's Notch are Hall doubles, which have been kept in excellent condition thanks to modifications with Doppelmayr-CTEC parts. Reports
Month Average Percent of Terrain Open
November10%    (1 report)10 Open
December58%    (23 reports)58 Open
January71%    (43 reports)71 Open
February85%    (37 reports)85 Open
March78%    (34 reports)78 Open
April79%    (12 reports)79 Open
Recent Conditions Reports
Mar. 6, 2023 by rocket21
Packed Powder, Powder
Mar. 6, 2023 by brianna
Powder, Packed Powder
Feb. 13, 2022 by rocket21
Loose Granular, Frozen Granular
Jan. 10, 2021 by nhalex
Loose Granular, Frozen Granular
Jan. 9, 2021 by nhalex
Loose Granular, Wind Blown Snow
Smugglers Notch on

Expansion History
Whiteface Mountain
Madonna Mountain
Morse Mountain
Morse Highlands
Upper Morse Mountain

Image Gallery
1957-58 Eastern Ski Map1960-61 Eastern Ski Map1961-62 Eastern Ski Map1962-63 Eastern Ski Map1964-65 Eastern Ski Map1965-66 Eastern Ski Map
View All Images in Smugglers Notch Image Gallery

Click on lift name for information and photos
Standing Lifts
The lift line (2015)
Madonna I Lift
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
The Madonna II Double in 2004
Madonna II Lift
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
The lift line (2015)
Mogul Mouse's Magic Lift
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
The bottom terminal (2014)
Morse Highlands Lift
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
Sterling Double in 2004
Sterling Lift
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
Sterling T-Bar in 2004
Sterling T-Bar
The top terminal (2015)
Village Lift
Chairlift - Double - Fixed

Past Lifts
The base terminal circa the early 1960s
Lower Poma
Installation of the Practice Poma (1961)
Practice Poma
Possible top counterweight remains (2014)
Upper Poma

2023-24 Smugglers Notch Trail Map
1956 Smugglers Notch Development Map1956-57 Smugglers Notch Trail Map1956-57 Smugglers Notch Trail Map1958-59 Smugglers Notch Trail Map1962-63 Smugglers Notch Trail Map1963-64 Smugglers' Notch
View All Smugglers Notch Trail Maps

Year by Year History
Adult Weekend Full Day Lift Ticket; Adult Full Price Unlimited Season Pass
2020s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2023-24$106.002023-24 Ticket Price Graph$746.242023-24 Season Pass Price Graph7.0 daysNovember 24April 142023-24 Skier Visit Graph
2022-23$95.402022-23 Ticket Price Graph$746.242022-23 Season Pass Price Graph7.8 daysNovember 25April 92022-23 Skier Visit Graph
2021-22$94.342021-22 Ticket Price Graph$687.942021-22 Season Pass Price Graph7.3 daysDecember 2April 102021-22 Skier Visit Graph
2020-21$89.002020-21 Ticket Price Graph$730.342020-21 Season Pass Price Graph8.2 daysDecember 10April 102020-21 Skier Visit Graph
2019-20$82.002019-20 Ticket Price Graph$698.542019-20 Season Pass Price Graph8.5 daysNovember 29March 172019-20 Skier Visit Graph
2010s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2018-19$79.002018-19 Ticket Price Graph$698.542018-19 Season Pass Price Graph8.8 daysNovember 23April 142018-19 Skier Visit Graph
2017-18$81.002017-18 Ticket Price Graph$687.942017-18 Season Pass Price Graph8.5 daysNovember 24April 152017-18 Skier Visit Graph
2016-17$72.002016-17 Ticket Price Graph$709.142016-17 Season Pass Price Graph9.8 daysNovember 25April 162016-17 Skier Visit Graph
2015-16$72.002015-16 Ticket Price Graph$709.142015-16 Season Pass Price Graph9.8 daysNovember 27April 32015-16 Skier Visit Graph
2014-15$70.002014-15 Ticket Price Graph$687.942014-15 Season Pass Price Graph9.8 daysNovember 22April 192014-15 Skier Visit Graph
2013-14$68.002013-14 Ticket Price Graph$687.942013-14 Season Pass Price Graph10.1 daysNovember 29April 202013-14 Skier Visit Graph
2012-13$66.002012-13 Ticket Price Graph$656.142012-13 Season Pass Price Graph9.9 daysNovember 23April 142012-13 Skier Visit Graph
2011-12$66.002011-12 Ticket Price Graph$656.142011-12 Season Pass Price Graph9.9 daysDecember 4March 252011-12 Skier Visit Graph
2010-11$64.002010-11 Ticket Price Graph2010-11 Season Pass Price GraphNovember 27April 172010-11 Skier Visit Graph
2009-10$62.002009-10 Ticket Price Graph$634.942009-10 Season Pass Price Graph10.2 daysDecember 8April 62009-10 Skier Visit Graph
2000s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2008-09$62.002008-09 Ticket Price Graph$656.142008-09 Season Pass Price Graph10.6 daysNovember 28April 122008-09 Skier Visit Graph
2007-08$60.002007-08 Ticket Price Graph$634.942007-08 Season Pass Price Graph10.6 daysNovember 23April 132007-08 Skier Visit Graph
2006-07$58.002006-07 Ticket Price Graph$613.742006-07 Season Pass Price Graph10.6 daysDecember 5April 152006-07 Skier Visit Graph
2005-06$58.002005-06 Ticket Price Graph2005-06 Season Pass Price GraphNovember 25April 162005-06 Skier Visit Graph
2004-052004-05 Ticket Price Graph2004-05 Season Pass Price GraphApril 172004-05 Skier Visit Graph
2003-04$54.002003-04 Ticket Price Graph$592.542003-04 Season Pass Price Graph11.0 daysApril 112003-04 Skier Visit Graph
2002-03$54.002002-03 Ticket Price Graph$586.952002-03 Season Pass Price Graph10.9 days2002-03 Skier Visit Graph
2001-02$48.002001-02 Ticket Price Graph$544.952001-02 Season Pass Price Graph11.4 daysNovember 23April 152001-02 Skier Visit Graph
2000-01$48.002000-01 Ticket Price Graph$523.952000-01 Season Pass Price Graph10.9 daysApril 222000-01 Skier Visit Graph
1999-00$48.001999-00 Ticket Price Graph1999-00 Season Pass Price GraphApril 91999-00 Skier Visit Graph
1990s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1998-991998-99 Ticket Price Graph1998-99 Season Pass Price GraphNovember 271998-99 Skier Visit Graph
1997-98$44.001997-98 Ticket Price Graph$369.001997-98 Season Pass Price Graph8.4 daysNovember 221997-98 Skier Visit Graph
1996-97$42.001996-97 Ticket Price Graph1996-97 Season Pass Price Graph1996-97 Skier Visit Graph
1995-96$36.001995-96 Ticket Price Graph1995-96 Season Pass Price GraphApril 211995-96 Skier Visit Graph
1994-951994-95 Ticket Price Graph1994-95 Season Pass Price GraphNovember 26April 161994-95 Skier Visit Graph
1992-93$36.001992-93 Ticket Price Graph1992-93 Season Pass Price Graph1992-93 Skier Visit Graph
1991-92$36.001991-92 Ticket Price Graph1991-92 Season Pass Price Graph1991-92 Skier Visit Graph
1990-91$33.001990-91 Ticket Price Graph1990-91 Season Pass Price Graph1990-91 Skier Visit Graph
1989-90$33.001989-90 Ticket Price Graph1989-90 Season Pass Price Graph1989-90 Skier Visit Graph
1980s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1988-89$30.001988-89 Ticket Price Graph1988-89 Season Pass Price Graph1988-89 Skier Visit Graph
1987-88$30.001987-88 Ticket Price Graph1987-88 Season Pass Price GraphNovember 281987-88 Skier Visit Graph
1984-85$25.001984-85 Ticket Price Graph$525.001984-85 Season Pass Price Graph21.0 days1984-85 Skier Visit Graph
1983-84$24.001983-84 Ticket Price Graph$475.001983-84 Season Pass Price Graph19.8 days1983-84 Skier Visit Graph
1982-83$23.001982-83 Ticket Price Graph$475.001982-83 Season Pass Price Graph20.7 days1982-83 Skier Visit Graph
1981-82$21.001981-82 Ticket Price Graph1981-82 Season Pass Price Graph1981-82 Skier Visit Graph
1980-81$19.001980-81 Ticket Price Graph1980-81 Season Pass Price Graph1980-81 Skier Visit Graph
1979-80$16.001979-80 Ticket Price Graph1979-80 Season Pass Price Graph1979-80 Skier Visit Graph
1970s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1978-79$15.001978-79 Ticket Price Graph1978-79 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 151978-79 Skier Visit Graph
1977-78$13.001977-78 Ticket Price Graph1977-78 Season Pass Price GraphNovember 251977-78 Skier Visit Graph
1976-77$12.001976-77 Ticket Price Graph1976-77 Season Pass Price GraphNovember 251976-77 Skier Visit Graph
1975-76$11.001975-76 Ticket Price Graph1975-76 Season Pass Price GraphNovember 251975-76 Skier Visit Graph
1974-75$11.001974-75 Ticket Price Graph1974-75 Season Pass Price GraphNovember 251974-75 Skier Visit Graph
1973-74$7.501973-74 Ticket Price Graph1973-74 Season Pass Price Graph1973-74 Skier Visit Graph
1972-73$7.501972-73 Ticket Price Graph1972-73 Season Pass Price Graph1972-73 Skier Visit Graph
1969-70$8.501969-70 Ticket Price Graph1969-70 Season Pass Price Graph1969-70 Skier Visit Graph
1960s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1968-69$7.501968-69 Ticket Price Graph1968-69 Season Pass Price Graph1968-69 Skier Visit Graph
1967-681967-68 Ticket Price Graph1967-68 Season Pass Price GraphNovember 231967-68 Skier Visit Graph
1964-65$6.001964-65 Ticket Price Graph$90.001964-65 Season Pass Price Graph15.0 days1964-65 Skier Visit Graph
1963-64$5.001963-64 Ticket Price Graph1963-64 Season Pass Price Graph1963-64 Skier Visit Graph
1962-63$5.001962-63 Ticket Price Graph1962-63 Season Pass Price Graph35,8131962-63 Skier Visit Graph
1961-62$5.001961-62 Ticket Price Graph1961-62 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 15April 1431,7601961-62 Skier Visit Graph
1960-61$5.001960-61 Ticket Price Graph1960-61 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 2127,7401960-61 Skier Visit Graph
1959-60$5.001959-60 Ticket Price Graph1959-60 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 19April 1637,6501959-60 Skier Visit Graph
1950s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1958-591958-59 Ticket Price Graph1958-59 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 6April 1235,0001958-59 Skier Visit Graph

Visitor Memories
"My husband knew Marguerite E Lichtenthaeler M.D. she was under management back in the 60-70's does anyone remember her? If so could you reach out to my email would love any Information possibly "
Jeff Urban, Jan. 2, 2024
"My Childhood memories 95% start with "While at Smuggs".... My parents moved back to VT when I was 4, in the shadow of the mountain in Cambridge. Unfortunately my first year memory skiing is breaking my left leg on the Sterling Practice slope. This was before the lift was put in and was a tow-rope. How we hated the rope..... My mom would drop off my 3 older brothers and I in the AM with a bag lunch and pick us up at when the lifts closed. A season's pass for Cambridge residents was $25 and my parents wanted their money's worth.....seriously. Tree skiing while being chased by the ski patrol, building jumps, first tracks when it snowed heavy, and so much more fun. This continued through LUHS, VTC/UVM and working at IBM in Essex. While I may ski a bit slower now and favorite trail combo is still Upper FIS, Lower Glades, Goat Path, Lower lift line. Back in the day, I would head to the chair for more. Now I head to the bar...:) I hope the next generation enjoys as much as I did. JW"
John Wyckoff, Feb. 13, 2017
"I worked as a cocktail/food service waitress back in the late 60's when the restaurant on Morse was called the 'SnowSnake Lounge'. Dixie Noll was the operator back then.I had a wonderful time working for the mountain..I was there for 3 Winters. Nice memories and lots of fun...I'm now 70 years old...and still remember the people I worked with."
Marlou Ordelt, Feb. 13, 2016
"smuggs is amazing. I'm 15, and my family has been going since I was I don't know, 5 maybe? Maybe younger! I have a ton of fantastic memories! Here's a few :) 1. To this day, I met a girl when I was about 7 I believe... Smuggs is where I met my first best friend!2. Johanna and Eric! So my brother and sister started snow boarding before me with Johanna and I would go with Eric ( they both don't work there any more) but they are amazing!!!! They showed me So much! 3. Rob!!! Now, I have rob as my instructor, he is so nice!! 4. EVERYONE is friendly. Doesn't matter where you live, when you get to smuggs, be ready to have a ton of friendly people looking to help you or assist you for whatever you need! That's just 4 reasons why I love smuggs. Here, I'm 15 and smuggs is 5 hours away from my house. I am stuck with my older brother and sister in a car for 5 hours. But honestly? For smuggs, I would PROBLEY drive all day! It's totally worth it!!! "
Molly Cooper, Jun. 1, 2015
"My memories skiing Madonna Mt. go back to the early 1970's Skied Madonna several times. Loved that it was not like other places where the NYC sophisticates invaded (Stowe and the like.) If you wanted to be challenged there were plenty of minimally groomed trails back then. I recall having a fantastic basket lunch at the mountain top where what appeared to be a frozen lake oe bowl. There was a narrow trail that connected Madonna to Stowe, You literally could go up slope at Madonna and ski down Stowe ( though I never tried it.) I remember lodging at the Smugglers Notch Inn. Their breakfast was fantastic; home made cinnamon buns were out of this world. A small bar in the basement decorated in alpine wood was a perfect place to tell tales of the runs we took during an afternoon of skiing Madonna. WOW talk about a time travel through memory lane ! Forever a warm spot in my heart. "
Ron Zeman, Nov. 30, 2014
"my grandparents owned a house in Jeffersonville in the 60's and seventies. they were among the origioal plank owners when it was started. someone came around selling shares door to door the push was that the jeff high school ski team shouldn,t practice at thier opponents hill[stowe] the first year they opened I was 5 through the 50's and 60's vacations were a week at acadia and a week or two at jeff I learned to ski at the notch and will always consider this as my 'home hill' i'm 62 now and when I die I want my ashes scattered on the rum runner I want to spend eternity on sterling mountain '"
eric laier, Oct. 11, 2013
"My husband Steve and I met at Smugglers 36 years ago while working at the Red Fox Ski Dorm. Life "
Grace McKearin, Feb. 22, 2013
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External Links
  • Smugglers' Notch - official site
  • Last updated: December 18, 2018

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