Cold Comfort: Now Is the Winter Preview of Our Discontent | The Winter Preview | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Cold Comfort: Now Is the Winter Preview of Our Discontent


Published November 10, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated November 17, 2021 at 10:26 a.m.

  • Rob Donnelly | Rev. Diane Sullivan

Way back in May, in the intro to our Summer Preview issue, I theorized that summer 2021 might vie for the title of Best Summer Ever. It was an admittedly sunny projection, but the logic was sound: Given the myriad historic challenges of the previous year, we were due for a win. With vaccinations on the rise and COVID-19 case counts on the wane, the summer would be an all-timer just by virtue of the fact that it promised normal-ish things to do, such as music festivals, vacations and baseball games.

But of course, despite all that fun in the sun, we never fully escaped the shadow of the pandemic. Like the villain in a slasher flick, the coronavirus wasn't really gone — it was just lying in wait for the sequel.

Six months later, daily case counts have dropped sharply almost everywhere in the U.S. — except in Vermont, where we are seeing record-high ones. Hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are rising again here, too. While it's heartening that Vermont kids are newly eligible for the vaccine, the prospect of another pandemic winter is real and discouraging.

And yet, there are reasons for optimism.

For starters, after 20 months of this shit, we've all adapted and generally learned how to live with the virus, even in the winter. It sucks, but we've done this before. And we'll do it again.

For many, navigating the pandemic has meant getting outside and enjoying Vermont's most precious resource: nature. Anne Wallace Allen reports that, due to renewed local interest in outdoorsy activities and the fact that tourists can actually come here again, the ski industry is bracing for a bounceback after a down season in 2020-21.

At Sugarbush Resort, the adaptive sports community can look forward to a $2.5 million complex opening this winter. The new facility will be home to Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports and allow its athletes equal access to everything that the connected Mount Ellen base lodge has to offer, and then some.

But not all is hunky-dory in the Mad River Valley. Many locals are outraged that Sugarbush recently fired extreme skiing icon John Egan, who was the face of the resort for more than 30 years.

It's a good bet that Egan crossed paths with Jean Koch over the years. The Fayston resident, who died in January, was a fixture at nearby Mad River Glen and "one of the most beautiful skiers on the mountain," according to her son.

Speaking of Vermont snow sports legends, HBO this week releases a documentary on the late Burton Snowboards founder Jake Burton Carpenter. Alternately moving and inspiring, Dear Rider recounts the snowboard innovator's life, career and legacy.

Skiers and snowboarders all over the state are hoping for a long, snowy season. But news on the climate front is less than encouraging. A dire new report from the Gund Institute for Environment reveals that Vermont has warmed overall by two degrees since 1900 and that winter is now warming more quickly. That's a boon for ticks and deer and a bummer for skiers and moose.

It's unclear how warming trends might affect the crop at Vermont Cranberry. For now, owner "Cranberry Bob" Lesnikoski is just hoping supply-chain issues allow him to get his berries onto store shelves in time for the holidays.

Mark Saltveit sure is rooting for a classic, nostril-freezing Vermont winter. The Middlebury comedian and author offers newcomers tips in "How to Winterize Your Flatlander," a riotous essay written from the sage perspective of a dyed-in-the-wool Vermonter with one whole winter under his belt.

A bit of advice not included in that essay is seeking out the spas and bathhouses that are typically part of the culture in cold northern climes — but, oddly, not in Vermont.

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