Summers in Vermont are green and mellow, and they go by at a lovely unhurried pace. Fall blazes with orange foliage and clear blue skies. Winters are a sparkling wonderland. But spring? Oh, dear. Spring is Vermont’s awkward season.
While other states have flowers pushing up through the ground, we have frost heaves. While southern states are blanketed in cherry blossoms, our roads are smeared with a foot of mud. Instead of spring showers, we get a last vengeful winter storm that often dumps a foot of wet, heavy snow.
But Vermont’s famous Mud Season is only one part of The Thaw, the time in between winter and true spring. It is its own season, with many traditions that we’ve come to cherish.
There’s sugaring, of course, which can only happen when the days are warm, the nights are cool, and there’s still plenty of snow on the ground. It’s lambing time too, and local farms hold open houses where anyone can come and meet the lambs and new calves. And hopefully buy some cheese and maple syrup, too.
We also love spring skiing. True, the snow is slushy and the skiing is slower than in the colder winter days, but there is something magical about being able to whoosh down the mountain in just a T-shirt.
And there’s the related sport of pond skimming. Most ski hills have a pond at the bottom, used to make snow. Skiers try to gather enough speed to hydroplane over the slushy pond. Those who fail are in for an icy dunk!
“Pulling shanties” is a spectator sport here. By law, ice fishing shanties have to be removed by the last Sunday in March—or whenever the ice softens. Some fishermen always get caught off guard and are treated to advice and good-natured ribbing from the crowd as they wrestle their shanty off the ice.
It may seem strange to celebrate these remnants of winter, but we know spring will always win in the end.
Gardner, Cabot, Eliot and Lyman Orton
Proprietors of The Vermont Country Store