Monday, September 03, 2007


Smuggs getaway part two

(Note: Although Postcards from the Mothership is now live at http://danigirl.ca/blog, I'm continuing to cross-post for a couple of weeks until I get all the kinks out. See the original post at Smuggs-getaway-part-2

Although I'd heard of Smugglers' Notch and knew it was a ski resort in Vermont, I had no idea it was a year-round family-oriented resort. Even after reading the website and brochures, I was still surprised at how much the resort tries to be a truly "family" destination, with something for everybody.

Part of our vacation package** included day camp for the kids. It seemed a little strange to be sending them off to spend the day without us! I was a little worried, too, about sending each boy off with a separate, age-appropriate group as they've been together all summer long and I was worried especially Simon would balk about being left alone with strangers.

I needn't have worried. Both boys went off to join their respective groups without a backward glance. Frankly, I think they might have been glad to get away from each other, and from us as well. Beloved and I, too, quickly adapted to our child-free status with a leisurely breakfast bagel at the Green Mountain Deli (yum!) before heading off to join our Segway class and tour.

Ahhh, the Segway. I *loved* the Segway! There were five of us in a little tour group, one other set of parents from New Jersey and a girl of maybe 17 or so. (You have to be 12 years and older to join the Segway tours.) We had a quick orientation session with Bruce, the owner and operator of the Segway tour at Smuggs, who also runs a program for the day camp specializing in video production. (Bruce is one cool guy!)

Although I'd heard of the Segways and seen them on TV, I'd never seen one in person. They're way wicked cool, and more fun than I had even imagined! The Segway has an internal gyroscope that keeps you balanced on its two wheels, so when you first step on it, you can feel it shifting back and forth as it searches for and accomodates your centre of gravity. You go forward by leaning forward, and slow down and stop by leaning backwards. (You can read more about them on the official Segway website.) In the "first generation" Segways that we were using, you turn by twisting one handgrip, but the newer ones you lean to the direction you want to turn. They also have four different keys that allow you a progressively higher speed as you get more comfortable with the machine. After a just a couple of minutes' practice, we were already on the second key, which allowed us to go a breezy 6 miles per hour, and we set off on our tour.

Segway tour!

I kid you not, I took to that thing like a duck to water. Me, the ungraceful klutz with the bulging belly to offset my already precarious centre of gravity! (Fryman, stop laughing. It's TRUE!) I was a natural on that Segway, zipping along happily at maximum speed at the head of the group while the others trailed behind, searching for their own personal comfort zone. At one point, cackling madly as I zipped down a trail, I turned back to throw a glowing grin over my shoulder at Beloved and had to laugh at his rather pinched facial expression, which clearly showed a markedly lower level of enthusiasm. (But as we moved along the tour, I could see him quickly acclimatizing to it.)

Dani and Beloved on the Segway tour

Bruce took us on a six mile loop (across more than 1200 feet of elevation changes!) around the outskirts and various communities of the resort. By the time we were on our final key, the Segway's top speed was a peppy 12 miles per hour, which I figure converts to at least 90 km per hour or so, based on the wind in my face and my relative exhileration. Okay, so not quite that fast, but I was traveling at a darn good clip when I opened that puppy up on a nice straight stretch!

Bruce would stop us every now and then to allow everyone to catch up, and to chat with us about everything from the philosophy behind the Segways to the history of Smuggs and the mountains around us. (The stopping was as much fun as the going. Rather than just resting in place, you can rock the Segway gently back and forth, spin in place, or make happy little loops around your husband and his Segway.) Bruce did a nice job of tying the environmental message of a sustainable resource like the Segway with the environmentally protectionist philosophy of the resort. Frankly, he was just a personable and interesting guy to spend some time with, Segways or no.

By the time the tour wrapped up, Beloved and I were both on a wicked adrenaline rush. Late for our lunch date with Karen, part of Smuggs' PR team, we chattered excitedly about maybe arranging for a second tour that afternoon, or ditching the kids the next day so we could rent a couple of Segways for an hour or two. It was that much fun.

I don't know if everyone at Smuggs is as friendly and personable as are Karen and Bruce, but they sure make a great couple of ambassadors for the resort. Our lunch with Karen stretched on for a leisurely two hours as we chatted about Smuggs, blogging, family vacations and the world at large. She told us that as a ski resort, it's been around for more than 50 years, but in recent years has really focused on both its summer and winter appeal as a destination for families. I was surprised to hear that Smuggs was around 2/3 capacity on the weekend we were there, because it had a wonderfully spacious and uncrowded feel to it, and the only place we ever waited in line was to check in or out.

After our lazy lunch with Karen, we hiked back up the mountain the short distance to our condo - just enough of a hike to wind us on our full bellies. We had enough time for a quick nap - ahh, what a life! - back at the condo before we had to pick up the boys from daycamp. I wish we'd had more time to enjoy the hiking and walks that Smuggs offers. We simply ran out of weekend before we got to do half the things we would have liked to try.

Coming up next: the canoe trip that seemed like a good idea at the time.

**Disclosure: I was offered a complimentary visit to Smugglers' Notch Resort after Smugg's PR folks read my Ottawa to Bar Harbor posts earlier this summer. Our condo and all activities were complimentary but in no way conditional on a favourable review.