mother and child swimming, clay brook hotel

Summer Vacation Sugarbush Style

Hiking, biking, golfing, and a whole lot more – for the kid in all of us.

Sugarbush is principally known as a ski destination, yet its mountain peaks are part of the Green—not the White—Mountains. So what better time to visit Sugarbush and the Mad River Valley than after the snow has melted and the beautiful mountain peaks are revealed in all their leafy green glory? With this in mind, my family spent a summery weekend at the resort, a picturesque playground with no shortage of attractions to keep our active family happy for days.

After starting the day with a hearty buffet breakfast (available on weekends) on the porch of Timbers Restaurant, I took advantage of the mountain’s terrain by hiking up one of the trails. Not only was it a good chance to exercise my lungs and legs, but it was also an opportunity to exercise my dog, who loves to travel with us and is welcome at the pet-friendly Clay Brook Hotel & Residences. Spring Fling is a wide, moderately steep trail located near the base, just steps from the restaurant. In years past we have spotted several moose on this trail, so I packed some binoculars. Some families ride the Super Bravo Express Quad to the top instead and then take their time coming back down, walking slowly with the kids, enjoying the breathtaking views. Or, for some competition along the way, they can try out one of the mountain’s two challenging eighteen-hole disc golf courses. For the more adventurous, there are 20 miles of mountain bike trails that wind across the ski trails and through the woods of Lincoln Peak. Not an expert? Don’t worry. There are camps and clinics for all ages and abilities.

The indoor climbing wall at the Sugarbush Health & Racquet Club (SHaRC) provides another kind of challenge—one that my kids loved testing themselves on. After a quick lesson during our visit there over Memorial Day weekend—and a dip or two (or three) into the chalk bag—they quickly began their ascent. While I belayed them from down below, they raced to the top to ring the bell. Adventure seekers of all ages and levels will be challenged and supported by the expert instructors.

Visitors to SHaRC can also try their skills at basketball, racquetball, and squash, or take advantage of their top-notch tennis program. Sugarbush partners with New England Tennis Holidays to offer camps and lessons. (NETH also offers camps in Florida and New Hampshire.) The racquet club has several indoor courts, where we served up a few games—but we’d rather play outdoors when we can, where the clay courts are nestled in the valley surrounded by lush green foliage and running brooks.

At the base of Lincoln Peak, kids love the chance to try the bungee trampoline that has them soaring 25 feet in the air. Or, if they prefer flying across the treetops, they can try out the zip line traversing the mountainside.

Parents with thrill-seeking kids ages three to seventeen will want to check out Sugarbush’s weekly camp offerings. Whether they are first-timers, intermediate, or advanced, there is something for everyone. Young travelers ages three to five can partake in Mini Camp. The weekly themed Adventure Camp takes kids ages six to twelve; kids ages six and up might choose to focus on their golf game; the over-eights can try their hand at tennis. Free-wheeling kids ages eight and up can hone their bike skills and learn about cross-country riding, downhill, and more.

For the best family value, I suggest booking a summer camp package that includes lodging at Clay Brook in a one- or two-bedroom suite. The packages bundle in summer camp for the kids, daily breakfast, and complimentary access to the health and racquet club, as well as to Clay Brook’s outdoor pool.

For the traditional game of golf, there is no more beautiful backdrop to tee off against than at the Sugarbush Resort Golf Club. The views from there of the Valley are spectacular. Play eighteen holes, hit some balls on the range, or take a lesson. After just one hour of private instruction with PGA teaching pro Paul Meunier, our family’s game improved significantly. He worked with each of us on our swing, grip, and stance. My son loved the training-grip golf club that Paul used with him to correctly position his hands. After hitting the links, we grabbed a quick lunch on the deck at Hogan’s Pub, overlooking the eighteenth hole. With a family-friendly menu of burgers, sandwiches, and salads, it’s a great place to wind down the afternoon before heading back to the hotel for a late-day swim. Floating in the pool, looking up at the Green Mountains in their leafy guise—it’s hard to think of a better way to end a day of summer adventures.

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