If you follow my blog, then you probably know I live in a small ski town in Vermont.
I didn’t grow up here. Until about seven years ago, my husband and I made our home in suburban Philadelphia, where we were surrounded by strip malls, chain restaurants, and gas stations, held our own against horrendous traffic, and drove hours just to go skiing.
Fortunately, our situation changed and we were able to close our business and move. For us, deciding where to go was a no-brainer. We’re avid skiers, we’re easterners at heart, and most especially, we love Vermont.
I couldn’t be happier. Vermont is picture postcard beautiful. There are rolling hills and family farms, white-steepled churches and covered bridges, charming general stores and stone-walled lanes. Autumn is drop-dead gorgeous, summer is eye-popping green, and in the winter, we’re only minutes from some great skiing. Not bad.
I’ve learned a lot since we moved. And since a lot of people ask me what it’s like to live in a small ski town, I thought I’d share some of my observations here:
1) Not everyone skis. I know, pretty amazing, isn’t it? But a lot of people don’t. In fact, they live their lives pretty much the way people do everywhere. They go to work, spend time with their families, worry about bills, do chores around the house. Some people aren’t even interested in skiing. And for some, it’s only an occasional thing. Imagine that.
2) This is essentially a company town. If you’re not working for the mountain, chances are good that the business you work for depends on it, in some measure. A white winter brings a lot of green to the Green Mountains. Believe me, we all hope for a good winter.
3) I will never be considered a local. A ski town attracts people from all over the place. And even though some have lived here a looong time, they — and that includes me – aren’t considered real Vermonters. Your residency has to go back at least a few generations to earn that label. My seven years pale in comparison.
4) You can usually tell who’s not from around here. I don’t know; there’s something about the way people dress, the way they drive, it’s that je ne sais quoi quality. That woman with the skin tight jeans, spike-heel designer boots, and Prada bag? Not from around here. The car going 60 mph down Route 100, which is essentially a state-long speed trap? Ditto.
5) Unless you’re looking for skis and ski clothes, shopping is pretty sparse. Seriously, if you love Nordstrom’s, Vermont isn’t for you. Living in suburban Philly, we had nearly every store known to man within a short driving distance. I’m not much of a shopper, so this really doesn’t bother me. Besides, I think it’s nice to live in a place that isn’t covered with shopping malls and big box stores. If I ever get desperate, I can always drive to Burlington, Albany, or even Boston — all of which are a few hours away. And there’s always the internet. 🙂
6) If you see a huge SUV, chances are it has out-of-state plates. I don’t know what it is, but the parking lot at the local market has loads of huge SUVs during ski season — and they’re nearly all from out of state. I guess visitors need them to haul all their gear, but still, it’s pretty gas-guzzlingly impressive. Which leads me to…..
7) Vermont really does have a state car. Not officially, but just about everyone drives a Subaru. With good reason: it’s affordable, it’s good in the snow, and the gas mileage is great. I have a Subaru Outback and my husband, a Forester. Maybe we truly are Vermonters.
8) There are six seasons: Winter, Mud, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Stick. Mud Season arrives when the snow melts and there’s mud absolutely everywhere. And Stick Season comes after the leaves fall and the trees are totally bare. Mud and Stick seasons are extremely quiet. Very few tourists come, and a lot of locals, who depend heavily on the tourist economy, go on vacation. It’s hard to go out to eat during Mud or Stick seasons, since a lot of restaurants close.
9) If you want to spend less on lift tickets, it pays to be a Vermonter. State residents get discounts at a lot of the ski areas in Vermont. For example, Killington has reduced lift pass rates on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for Vermont/New Hampshire residents. Other ski areas do the same. Move here and save!
10) Don’t mess with Vermont maple syrup: We take it pretty seriously around here. I went to a concert a couple years ago where a band from Canada ill-advisedly boasted that their syrup was superior, and they were actually booed! Yes, it was in good fun. But really, maple syrup is to Vermont like lobster is to Maine. It’s part of the local identity, so watch yourself.
11) I can’t hear you now. You know that cell phone commercial where the guy keeps asking, “Can you hear me now?” In Vermont, the answer’s often ‘no.’ Cell phone service is very spotty and dead zones abound. They say they’re working on it. We’ll see.
Is living in a Vermont ski town for everyone? Probably not. Is it the same here as a ski town in, say, Colorado? Again, probably not. Maybe you’ll just have to move to find out.
By the way, for even more insights, you might want to check out my book, “Double Black.” It’s a mystery about a young woman who moves to a small Vermont ski town to live the life of a ski bum and stumbles into financial intrigue, bitter family warfare, and murder. A lot of it was inspired by my local surroundings. If you love skiing and want a taste of ski town living, this is for you.
I can completely identify with this post…we love to ski/snowboard/kayak/mountain bike and closed my business about an hour outside of Philly and moved to the heart of the Green Mountains (Killington/Sugarbush area) 6 years ago! It’s been an incredible journey and a real learning experience.
Vermont life is definitely not an easy life, you have to be a hardy soul that doesn’t mind; not having much of a social life, driving longer distances for good restaurants, very limited shopping options, and working long hours and every weekend during the winter months – but I love it none-the-less. I ski several days a week before work in the winter and I bike several days a week after work in all the other seasons…and it’s all right ‘outside my back door’.
Another tip for out-of-staters: if you don’t know the area or the roads or are not used to road conditions (snow) or are sight seeing and are driving kind of slow…pull over to let the Vermonter by. You’ll save yourself a lot of driving stress!
Hey, Tracy, so you’re another refugee from southeastern PA! I don’t think a
day goes by when my husband and I don’t ask one another, “Do you miss Pennsylvania?”
The answer’s always a resounding NO.
If we’re talking driving tips, here’s another one: if you know you’ll be driving into
the state at night, do yourself a favor and make sure you have plenty of gas. It’s pretty
rural so it may be difficult to find an open station.
The phenomenon of having to live there for generations before you can be a Vermonter reminds me of the bumper stickers that you’d see all over the West in the 1990s (not so much anymore) that said CA NATIVE or MT NATIVE or WA NATIVE etc etc, and all the vitriol directed at Californians in particular that moved elsewhere. Who cares? Transplants can’t be just as good (or better) citizens/neighbors than natives (who, let’s face it, aren’t really natives!)? What’s the point in categorizing people into groups of belonging, or, you don’t really belong?