Vermont comes alive in the wintertime, and even if you're not interested in skiing or snowboarding, this is the best time of year to appreciate the state's stark beauty, its warm comforts (like maple syrup), and its outdoorsy bent. For Vermonters, there is no such thing as bad weather, even though winter days can be bruisingly snowy, windy, and cold. It's an attitude you'll love embracing, even if you spend most of your vacation wrapped in a cocoon of plaid flannel. Of course, warming temperatures in the spring and summer alter but don't diminish the array of outdoor activities that make a visit to Vermont worthwhile, and fall is a stunning time to explore one of New England's best states for leaf-peeping.
The Weather in Vermont
Vermont has the longest ski season on the East Coast, which should tell you: It's cold and snowy here for practically half of the year. OK, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but up in the mountains you can count on conditions allowing for snowmaking from about the middle of November through the middle of April. Killington Resort's latest closing day in recent history was June 1!
January is Vermont's coldest and snowiest month with temperatures rarely above freezing and often in the single digits Fahrenheit. Storms typically drop anywhere from a foot-and-a-half of snow at lower elevations to 40 inches or more atop the state's storied peaks.
Contrary to what some folks imagine, though, Vermont is not cold year-round. In the northern city of Burlington on Lake Champlain, the average high temperature is 68 degrees F during the day by May. Temperatures average a high of 81 degrees F in Burlington in July: Vermont's hottest month. Keep in mind that you'll always find cooler temperatures as you move up in elevation. Spring through fall, there's a good chance about one-third of the days in each month will receive some rain.
If you're into the sort of rugged outdoor sports many Vermonters are—mountain biking, hiking, climbing, ATVing—you'll love that it never gets super hot and humid. Be mindful that while Vermont does not have a lake or the ocean to brew up foul weather, it still exhibits the sort of weather variability that is characteristic of the region. You'll want to be particularly prepared in the winter, when Vermont can get slammed by a Nor'easter. The state has also seen more than its share of woes during fall hurricane season, sustaining particularly heavy damage during 2012's Superstorm Sandy.
Tourist Attraction Availability
Because the great outdoors provides so many of Vermont's sought-after experiences, you won't find many "Closed" signs turning visitors away. Mother Nature largely decides what you can and cannot do. You can't snowmobile without snow, obviously, but you may be surprised to learn that Peace Pups will take you dogsledding (well, dog carting, actually), in the fall. Farms, another popular Vermont attraction, follow their own seasonal calendars with some, such as maple farms, active long before the first new plant life pokes above ground.
Ski resorts have also gotten in on the four-season act. After skiers and riders have put away their goggles and boots, head to Killington for gondola rides, Bromley for the alpine slide, or Jay Peak for the Pump House Indoor Waterpark. More traditional indoor attractions either operate on a year-round schedule or reopen in the late spring following a winter rest. The Vermont Attractions Association is a good resource when you're looking for things to do, as most members are open throughout the year.
In a state where powdery-white snow is measured in feet rather than inches, winter is peak season wherever there are peaks. Vermont is home to New England's largest and highest ski area (Killington), one of its chicest (Stowe), and more than a dozen more: all places to make winter memories even if you're not among those who can't resist carving your signature upon the glistening slopes. This is a season of sleigh rides and hot cocoa, of roaring fires (check out the one in the lobby of the Woodstock Inn & Resort), of breathing in nature's cold, pure essence. Lodging rates are high, particularly on weekends and during holiday weeks, so try to get your runs in midweek if you're watching your budget.
Events to check out:
- Wassail Weekend, Woodstock: Enjoy sparkling light displays, heavily-decorated homes, and festive tunes through town during this weekend-long celebration.
- Stowe Winter Carnival, Stowe: This January festival has more than 40 season-appropriate events like ice carving, ski movies, and snow golf tournaments.
Spring is Vermont's least predictable season, and locals label this period when winter begins to relinquish its hold, "mud season." Don't stay away, though. Not only does Vermont offer New England's best late-season skiing, but it also produces more maple syrup come springtime than any other U.S. state. To find a sugar shack, take a leisurely drive through practically any small town and watch for hardwood smoke billowing from the chimney of a small outbuilding. Chances are good there's an evaporator inside turning sap into liquid gold for your pancakes. If you don't want to leave your syrup mission to chance, consult the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers' Association's member listings. As snow melts into streams and the ground starts to solidify, join the anglers who know Vermont's rivers, like the Battenkill, are among New England's best places to fly fish.
Events to check out:
- Vermont Maple Festival, St. Albans: Enjoy all things syrup during April with this festival dedicated to the sticky stuff. There are parades, specialty food stalls, live music, and more.
Those who know Vermont primarily as a winter destination are often surprised to find summer delivers polar opposite weather. Days are long and may be warmer than you anticipate, particularly as you ascend into elevations where the air is thin and the sun beats down on exposed mountain faces—sunscreen is a must. And cold Vermont craft beers will tempt your thirst. This is a season of lake swims, boat rides, farmers' market visits, gentle walks with your dog, and outdoor farm-to-table dining. It's also a high-energy time of year to kayak the boulder-strewn rapids and drops of the Wells River, to ride the mountain coasters at Killington and Okemo, to fly high on a Stowe Ziptour Adventure, to bike Kingdom Trails, and to give paragliding a go at Morningside Flight Park.
Events to check out:
- Discover Jazz Festival, Burlington: Jazz musicians from Vermont and the surrounding area flock to Burlington for a week of stellar music.
- Quechee Hot Air Balloon Festival, Quechee: Settle in to watch more than 20 hot air balloons take to the skies. There's also live music and plenty of food on offer.
- Vermont Quilt Festival, Essex: More than 6,000 people arrive in Essex during June to celebrate all things quilting. Visitors can learn about traditional and modern techniques while exploring exhibitions and meeting quilters.
- Vermont Brewers Festival, Burlington: Vermont has world-class beer and this festival will show you why with different styles and dozens of brews on tap.
If you're averse to winter's chill, fall in Vermont will be the season that captures your heart. From late September through the first three weeks of October, starting up near the Canadian border and in the highest elevations, then progressing south, Mother Nature works her autumn magic. Swamp maples flame crimson; the poplars that cling to high rocky outcrops shimmer gold; and, by the dawn of October, every deciduous tree has donned shades of red, yellow, and orange. Drive scenic country lanes or even well-traveled Route 100, and you'll be tempted to pull over often to snap glorious photos, to pop into antique shops and the beloved Vermont Country Store, and to experience the countryside Robert Frost described in many a Vermont-inspired poem. Make a scavenger hunt to find the state's 100-plus covered bridges, its prettiest churches, its barns and silos, and so many cows…all tucked into this vivid landscape.
Events to check out:
- Southern Vermont Garlic and Herb Festival, Bennington: With humble beginnings, this festival hosts more than 200 vendors and offers tons of live music, food trucks, and more to 16,000 guests over the course of two days.
- Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival, Stowe: Tossing pumpkins in a trebuchet may sound niche, but this festival has been going strong since 2008.
- Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival, Tunbridge: This festival is the perfect time to stock up on high-quality, ethically-produced wool textiles and yarn.