"It’s very sweet,” the no-nonsense waitress at Jeffersonville's Mix Café warns a mother and two preteens about their menu choice. They've taken a break from Facebooking on their iPad to debate ordering the crème brulée French toast with "drunken" blueberries. The trio nod and order it anyway—why not? The Mix's particular twist on French toast is said to be the best in Vermont, and almost everyone who gathers here, from Carhartt-clad farmers to snow bunnies in Bogner, has probably earned the calories.
Sweet but also surprising: sort of like many Green Mountain ski towns themselves. Jeffersonville is the home of Smugglers' Notch; Stowe of the resort of the same name; and Waitsfield and Warren, in the Mad River Valley, of Mad River Glen and Sugarbush. Beneath a frosting of white snow are villages whose rich histories are now peppered with funky artists' studios, taquerias, distilleries and eclectic movie theaters. Picture-perfect slices of Americana, they're also fun spots for celebrating winter's wonders.
At one point, there really were smugglers in Smugglers’ Notch. Early-19th-century outlaws ferried embargoed British goods and later, during Prohibition, booze from Canada through this narrow pass in the Green Mountains. Today Smuggs is best known as a family-friendly ski resort with three interconnected mountains and 1,000 acres of terrain, a 2,610-foot vertical drop and an average annual snowfall of 322 inches.
You won’t find high-speed quads or gondolas at Smuggs—and that’s just the way locals like it. Slower chairlift rides means fewer people on the hill at one time. The toughest trails, such as Black Hole (the only triple black diamond in the Northeast), Liftline and F.I.S. wriggle down from Madonna Mountain, while Morse Mountain is a gigantic playground dusted with snow. Smuggs even has its own mascot, Mogul Mouse, and Burton Riglet Park for very young snowboarders.
For a non-ski option, visit ArborTrek for a zip-line canopy tour. The two-hour Wild Winter Ride takes thrill seekers on a high-flying adventure through snow-covered treetops.
Après-ski, it’s hard to beat a slope-side Long Trail Ale at Morse Mountain Grille or the moules frites at the Hearth and Candle; both are right in the resort’s village. Feel like a drop of vodka or rum? (Hey, Prohibition is over.) Duck into the new Smugglers’ Notch Distillery. The rest of Main Street, and pretty much the whole town, stretches east from there: At 158 Main Restaurant and Bakery, you’ll find such kid-friendly fare as grilled cheese and chicken fingers, while the Jeffersonville Country Store sells Betty Boop lamps, wooden trains, Bove’s pasta sauce and Lake Champlain Chocolates.
Mix Café: 55 Church Street, Upper Pleasant Valley Rd; 802.644.6371; themixcafevt.com
Smugglers' Notch: smuggs.com
ArborTrek: 1239 Edward Rd., Jeffersonville; 802.644.9300; arbortrek.com
Morse Mountain Grille: 4323 Vermont Route 108 South; 802.644.1247
Hearth and Candle: 4323 Vt Route 108 S; 802.644.8090; hearthandcandle.com
Smugglers’ Notch Distillery: 276 Main St., Jeffersonville; 802.309.3077
158 Main Restaurant and Bakery: 158 Main St, Cambridge; 802.644.8100; 158main.com
Jeffersonville Country Store: 21 Mill St.; 802.644.6300