Winter didn’t wait around this year.
Heavy snow fell on November 9th, the eve of deer season, temperatures plummeted to zero on Thanksgiving Day, and a blizzard at the end of the month has ski and snowboard instructors at Jay Peak buzzing about “Novembruary”. For those of us who heat with wood, it’s a bit worrisome to note that the snowpack is holding up better than the firewood supply, even though the official start of winter is still weeks away.
The only predictable thing about early winter in Vermont is the length of the days - short, and getting shorter. This is a season for well-placed candles, good novels (check out Heart Spring Mountain), and headlamps with fresh batteries kept handy on hooks in the mudroom. When the sun does shine, it’s imperative to seize the moment, go for a walk or a ski, or simply get outside to shovel the driveway and bring in yet another load of firewood.
Today’s Vermont wouldn’t be worth its salt as a monthly column about Vermont tourism and real estate if I didn’t acknowledge the beginning of ski season, the economic engine that draws about four million visitors to the Green Mountains each winter. It’s super early, but so far all signs point to plenty of natural snow for the month of December. This is especially good news for old-school ski areas like the Mad River Glen Cooperative, an iconic Vermont destination with tons of character, flowing trails that follow the natural contours of the mountain, and limited capacity for snowmaking.
Mark your calendar now for Roll Back the Clock Day - January 29th, 2019 - Mad River Glen’s 70th Anniversary Celebration, when the price of a lift ticket will roll all the way back to $3.50 - the going rate in 1948 when the ski area first opened.
Although it’s hard to find a deal quite as good as Roll Back the Clock Day, there’s no guarantee that conditions at Mad River Glen will be decent on January 29th. Indeed, if you’re counting on powder, it’s always a gamble to plan an East Coast ski trip in advance, a conundrum that’s especially acute for those looking to book in the months of December and January.
My strategy is to keep one eye on the weather forecast and another eye on lift ticket deals, timing my trips to the mountain accordingly. Part of the fun is keeping up with snow reports, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the ski area with the most character (the aforementioned Mad River Glen) is also the subject of an incredibly informative and well-written snow report - the Single Chair Weather Blog.
Need a little inspiration to pull yourself away from the hearth and head for the mountains in the first place? Here’s a stunning photo essay by State 14 contributor Nathanael Asaro: A Canvas Of White.
Vermont’s holiday celebrations are worth planning a trip around, and are somewhat less weather dependent than a ski vacation. Mel Allen, the silver-maned editor of Yankee Magazine, writes in the latest issue to recommend Christmas in Weston, Vermont - a classic celebration in a town of about 600 residents that is also home to the original Vermont Country Store. I was happy to note that Yankee Magazine has recently entered into an editorial partnership with Vermont Country Store to produce Our Vermont, a digital magazine that will cast a spotlight on destinations in Southern Vermont and help support one of New England’s most venerable and best-loved publications.
My top pick for a small-town Vermont holiday celebration is the Cabot Holiday Festival and Outdoor Market, scheduled for Saturday, December 15th 2018. The celebration centers around Harry’s Hardware Store, on Main Street, perhaps the only hardware store in Vermont that has a bar in the back, complete with a stage for live music. Local rocker Chad Hollister will be headlining an outstanding lineup of musicians during the holiday festival, and there will be plenty of hot glühwein to warm your bones.
If, after several mugs of glühwein, you decide to throw caution to the wind and buy a farm in Vermont, here’s an opportunity that caught my eye. The Vermont Land Trust is soliciting proposals for the purchase of the 214-acre Gensburg Farm, which straddles the town lines of Lyndonville and Kirby, not far from the epic mountain bike trails in East Burke.
This classic Vermont hill farm includes gorgeous hayfields, a productive sugarbush, a solid barn, and a lovely three-bedroom farmhouse with what looks like magnificent lilacs framing the front porch. The appraised value of the property is $425,000 with conservation easements, but the Land Trust has arranged a purchase price of $310,000 for the buyer who submits the most attractive farming proposal by the end of January, 2019.
There will be an Open House at Gensburg Farm on the morning of December 15th, right before the Cabot Holiday Festival...why not check it out and then head down Route 2 to Harry’s Hardware? You can draw up a winning farming proposal over some of that glühwein…
Do you have a favorite Vermont holiday tradition? What’s your favorite source of intel about lift ticket deals and snow conditions? Have you noticed an intriguing Vermont real estate listing? Let us know via social media, and use the hashtag #todaysvermont. Until next month!