The first thing you learn when you move to Vermont – and I do mean the first thing; they may as well hand out pamphlets at the state line to anyone with a U-Haul in tow – is that there are six seasons in Vermont, not four.
Before jumping into them, let me clarify something: weather is both the biggest obsession and least concerning things of all Vermonters at the same time. There is always discussion and debate about the weather, but the local television stations spend no extra time on it and don't even attempt to explain it, mainly because it is impossible. I've sat in my house, watching them predict "no more than ten inches of snow in the highest elevations" while I look outside at our thousand-foot-elevation yard to see about eighteen inches of the white stuff.
Snow is the weather event most easily identified with Vermont, but you can't forget about rain, fog, freezing fog, freezing rain, and something called rime which is just horrible sounding. Oh, and my favorite: clouds. Clouds stop being something that you look up at when you live in Vermont. They are something that you look sideways at, drive through, and on a surprisingly large number of occasions, actually look DOWN at.
So yes, winter is THE season of choice in Vermont. Skiing is popular because of snow, but also because the people of Vermont are a little crazy, and it seems like a really good idea to go outside when the weather is really shitty and cold out. More on skiing later.
Back to the six seasons thing: as I mentioned, one of the first things you learn when you move to Vermont is that there are six seasons, not four. Yes, there are the traditional Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, but in Vermont, there are two additional seasons: Twig and Mud.
Twig season isn't universally recognized by all Vermonters, though I've found most of them do. The concept is simple: it is the season between fall and winter.
Fall in Vermont is beautiful, as the mountains explode with the beautiful colors of autumn. Lush carpets of orange, amber, brown, red and yellow cover hills and valleys and attract vast amounts of tourists who spend amazing amounts of money to watch leaves die.
Winter, of course, is characterized by snow and other forms of frozen precipitation and attracts winter sports enthusiasts as the insane asylums decide to let them get out and stretch their legs for a few months. The snow can be beautiful as it coats the mountains in powder sugar-like patterns.
In between those two beautiful seasons is a gap. A gap filled by… twig season. The leaves have fallen, but there's no snow hanging around except maybe in the mountains. Thus, you have twig season, and it is pretty much as ugly as you're thinking it is.
The other season unique to Vermont (and probably any other state that has rural areas which receive a lot of snow) is MUD SEASON. The caps are intentional, since the second thing you learn upon moving to Vermont is this: if you think the winter is bad, wait 'till mud season. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that you will hear that line, verbatim, at least five times within your first two weeks of living in Vermont, and that is a conservative measure. They may actually teach it in schools up here. I'm anticipating that if our children go to school in Vermont, sometime in late October or early November of their first year they will come home with some sort of copied worksheet or coloring page that explains about mud season, along with a box full of brown crayons.
Our first mud season was a mild one: only about five or six inches of thick, soul-sucking mud on our dirt road which resulted in only about a half inch of dried mud building up on the lower half of my car. By the second week of March, my car looked like it had been extracted from the Le Brea tar pits.
However, I think that mud season is still mis-named, since it isn't the mud that is the problem when it comes to driving. I mean, it is mud. Yes, it can result in large, car-swallowing chasms in the roads (I'm sure there is a road somewhere in Vermont with a '76 pinto buried under it, complete with a man struggling to get the attention of other drivers), but it is the ruts that cause the most issues. It shouldn't be called "mud season" it should be called "rut season."
If you have ever been on "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" at Disneyworld, then you know what mud/rut season is like: you think you're going to be going in one direction, but then the car takes on a life of its own and goes in whatever direction the ruts takes it in. The best you can do is just maintain some semblance of control that at least makes you feel better and hopefully prevents your spouse from screaming "WE'RE GONNA DIE!" Add in the prospect of going tumbling off a side of a mountain of getting stuck on a road with no cell phone service, and mud season really is the most interesting of all the seasons in Vermont. You haven't lived in Vermont until you've lived through your first mud season.