March has arrived and the Great Melt has slowly begun. Just last week we looked outside and saw a little blade of green grass waving in the breeze behind the Inn. It’s hard to believe the small, telltale signs of spring are starting when even now skiing is the number one pastime and nearby Killington has 110 of their runs still open. The hint of spring on the horizon has us savoring every snowy moment as our first winter in New England draws to a close.
We set foot in Vermont for the first time last summer as the new Innkeepers at the Jackson House Inn and immediately began mentally preparing for the upcoming winter months. People far and wide told us Vermont winters were nothing to be trifled with. Snow isn’t anything new to Lauren as she grew up in Colorado and spent the past seven years in Tahoe, California. Kayla, however, is an Oregonian through and through and to citizens of the Pacific Northwest, an inch of snow can be cause for a major city shut down. The transition to Vermont was even more abrupt for Kayla, coming from a sabbatical year enjoying New Zealand’s sun and beaches. But when the first snowstorm arrived and dropped 30 inches on us overnight, we were prepared for grueling days of snow management. Instead, as we shoveled our way out of the Inn the following day, we found ourselves falling in love with the winter wonderland around us. We were immediate converts, putting dreams of stand-up paddleboards and hiking shoes away and embracing Vermont Snow Activities (as we refer to them).
Vermont Snow Activities are plentiful and diverse, and we’ve made it our goal to give each of them at least one solid attempt. Snowshoeing has been a wild success, and there seem to be never ending trail systems in the area to explore. Snowshoeing has the added benefit of keeping our dogs entertained, too, as they run by our side. Downhill skiing at Suicide Six was a favorite of Kayla’s, while Lauren was more than happy to sit at the fire pit, sip a Vermont beer, and munch on fries in the sunshine for the afternoon. Snowmobiling proved to be a wonderful way to explore a new area (although we needed hand massages after two hours of riding around with death grips on the handle bars). We took to the ice on Lake Morey to practice our triple axels and toe loops and made it about halfway around the lake before realizing we didn’t know how to do any of those fancy moves. However, the views were spectacular and ice skating in the open air on a frozen lake was a wonderful experience. The final must-do activity before the Melt is too far advanced is to grab a fishing pole and try out the noble art of ice fishing. This will be particularly entertaining because Lauren prefers her fish in a sautée pan and will be relieved if nothing actually bites.
These excursions have made the months of snow and cold positively enchanting and we’ve been delighted to trade recommendations with new and returning guests. If you want one more shot of winter in Woodstock, we still have a few lesser-known options up our sleeves to share with you!
Along with these adventures, winter has provided some other valuable learning experiences. We’ve found ourselves asking questions we’d never thought of before: when ordering ice melt, do you order by the pound or by the ton? If there’s an early morning snowstorm, do you still put the trash bins out on the road or will that inconvenience the heroic snow plowers? Whats the deal with roof rakes? Is 30 inches of snow normal or an aberration? Thankfully, the Woodstock community is incredibly supportive and we’ve had a lot of kind, non-judgemental guidance as we navigate the rules of Vermont winter. A quick shout-out and thanks to all those who have helped “the Jackson House Girls” over the past months!
Now that March is here, we are learning that all the old adages are true. All good things must come to an end. When one door closes, another door opens. And when in Vermont, it is all about maple syrup. Snow season may be slowly winding down, but Vermont always has something fun in store. We’re fast approaching maple sugaring season and couldn’t be more excited to share it with our guests for the first time! That syrup you enjoy with your pancakes, poured over ice cream or dolloped into your coffee has a long story behind it before arriving on your table. Vermont’s maple sugar farmers have been gearing up all winter, replacing tubing, preparing lines, and tapping trees in preparation for the next month of grueling work. In the coming weeks, the temperature will reach that sweet spot of over 40 degrees during the day and below freezing at night, and the sap will start flowing!
The West Coast never offered many opportunities to see maple sugar season in action so we again found a host of new questions: how many trees does it take to make a gallon of maple syrup? Why are there plastic tubes strung from tree to tree? What does sap even look like? In that spirit, we drove over to local sugar house Sugarbush Farm to learn more about this Vermont tradition. Sugarbush Farm’s self-guided experience through the sugar house and lovely 15-minute Maple Walk tour through the woods helped us find the answers to all of our burning questions.
We don’t want to rob you of the chance to experience the triumphant success of correctly answering the quiz cards placed along the Maple Walk, so without giving too much away we’ll each share our favorite fun fact from the day. Lauren was both impressed, and intimidated, by the long hours needed during the sap boiling process. Farmers must add more wood to the fire every 15 minutes to keep the sap boiling at just the right temperature or risk burning their entire batch. While the process is grueling, friends and family come by to hang out, exchange stories, and, most importantly, provide food, helping the time pass. Kayla thought it was crazy that it takes 40 to 50 gallons of sap to produce a single gallon of maple syrup. It gave her a new appreciation for every dollop she pours in her coffee in the morning (yes, she officially converted to the practice). With warmer days forecast for the week ahead, maple sugaring season is really just beginning and you can come experience Vermont’s springtime passion for yourselves! Now that we’re the experts, feel free to ask us for recommendations on places to visit where you can see the magic in action–and enjoy a few samples.
With spring on the horizon, there’s still time for a few downhill runs before we say a bittersweet farewell to our newfound love of Vermont in winter. A new season’s adventures lie ahead, and we’ll keep you apprised as we discover Vermont Spring Activities! Or better still, come join us at the Jackson House Inn!
Kayla & Lauren