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10 Reasons Vermont is my favorite place in the world

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10 Reasons Vermont is my favorite place in the world

Eddie Schoen

 

  1. I didn’t grow up in Vermont.  Everyone I know that did can expertly maintain a wood stove, get a car unstuck from mud and snow, and can tell you what a cord of wood looks like.  Most of them would be totally comfortable living off the grid in a rustic cabin in the woods.
  2. Lake Champlain.  And the views that surround it.
  3. Vermont is arguably the whitest state in the country.  Given the historical lack of racial diversity, the overall culture of inclusiveness, openness, and understanding of other cultures is one of the most impressive displays of progress toward overall unity I have ever seen.  Some friends of mine, on a climbing trip to the Red River Gorge, were so disgusted with a display of ‘Jocko lawn jockeys’ in front of rural Kentucky homes that they drove over in the middle of the night, stole the racist ornaments, and threw them into a nearby lake.  Simply put, Vermonters care.  Vermonters care about other humans, animals, and the planet we all inherit.  I believe it is a function and result of the small, strong communities that make up the whole of the state.  It’s all tied together, and this idealogy is woven into the fibers that make Vermont, well, Vermont.
  4. Vermonters ain’t wimps when it comes to weather.  Especially if they spend any time on Mt Washington.  I remember my last winter in VT.  When I got up for work every morning, it felt nice and toasty if the temperature gauge on my car’s dash read anything above zero degrees Fahrenheit.  Here in the West, 20-30 mph winds can feel like the end of the world.  That’s a calm day on Mt Washington.  (yes, I know.  Mt. Washington is in New Hampshire.  Same thing.). I don’t remember anyone ever complaining.
  5. Vermont was green before it was a label.  The Green Mountain State is actually, well, very green.  It’s lush.  The land is so full and beaming with life.  This beauty is valued and appreciated by the people that live there.  This love of nature is a way of life in Vermont, and because of it, Vermont is one of the most genuinely progressive places when it comes to sustainability and environmental concerns.  Burlington is the first city in the U.S. to run on 100% renewable energy.  Large, impactful companies like Ben & Jerry’s, Seventh Generation, Burton Snowboards, are all based in Vermont and truly live up to the ideals that the community embodies.  
  6. Farm to table is not a trend.  This one goes hand in hand with the previous point. Vermonters, as a culture, understand the connection between all of life and the land and environment that sustains it.  I don’t have any facts on this one, but I’m pretty sure Vermont is fully capable of feeding itself.  Every small town you visit seems to have at least one restaurant/cafe that sources most of its food from local farms.  I have heard that there are more cows than people in the state.  I have travelled all over this vast country and no where has come close to the quality of food that Vermont offers.  The love and respect for the land, and the plants and animals that it sustains, can be tasted and felt in the food you eat in Vermont.  Places like Boulder, CO aspire to reach this level of hippy-dippy-organic-local-GMO-free-range greatness.  While the intent is there, there just isn’t a place that has the quality and volume of small, local farmers to make it happen.  Except Vermont.
  7. Maple f*#$ing syrup.  In and on top of everything.  On a related note, bread.  Burlington has the most phenomenal variety of freshly baked bread available anywhere.  Seriously, it’s kind of underrated.  August First.  Stone Soup.  Red Hen.  O Bread.  I’m sure there’s a few I’m missing.  
  8. Of course, the beer.  Colorado loves to brag about how many micro and craft breweries it has.  And there are an endless number of them.  It seems like every strip, square, and block has its own brewery.  Many of them are pretty good.  A few really stand out.  Still, I am yet to find a single one that compares to even some of my lesser favored Vermont brewers.  Especially when it comes to the happier varieties.  Just like the food, Vermont brewers operate with a love and respect for the land and the ingredients that go into their beers.  And, just like the food, you can really taste and feel the difference.  I’ll take a Fiddlehead IPA over an Avery or Odell IPA anytime and every time.  
  9. I have found and visited so many beautiful small communities around Vermont.  Nearly all had a small yoga studio, and some of the most beautiful practices I have ever had were in these small, cozy communities.  Burlington is the smallest city I have ever lived in.  I can count ten yoga studios off the top of my head, none more than a ten minute bike ride from another, and that’s from when I last lived there nearly two years ago.  I know new ones have opened since.  More importantly, each has its own special feel and community.  And none are part of some larger corporate chain.  There’s no Core Power yoga in Burlington.  If I were to get into some sort of yoga tourism business, I would sell Burlington as the little-known yoga mecca of the US. 
  10. Vermont doesn’t have the high jagged alpine peaks and wide open desert vistas that only the West can provide.  Still, after traveling all across this country to climb and ski, Vermont has access to some of my all time favorite climbing venues.  Secret, and not so secret, lines buried in the woods have been some of my most memorable days skiing and riding in the backcountry.  And the ice climbing is absolutely world-class.  Often, here in the West, I spend hours approaching some climb or ski line that can be had in a fraction of the time back in New England.  Part of the magic is in the bigger package, long approaches through complex mountain terrain.  I love that.  Many of us do.  But when you boil it down to pure movement over snow or rock or ice, the quality of the lines is right on par with anything I have found in the West.  And, instead of spending two or three hours on an approach, you just get to take more laps. 

 

 

    It’s hard to pick a favorite season in Vermont.  I love summers on Lake Champlain.  And fresh apple cider in the fall. There is something about winter though.  It’s long, hard, and dark.  And cold.  But Winter is the season that really defines Vermont in my opinion.  There’s the culture built around skiing and snowboarding.  It seems to be what put Vermont on the map, at least in the eyes of the Bostoners and New Yorkers.  And New Jerseyites.  When I feel most homesick for Vermont, it’s usually for the feeling of being bundled up and walking down the streets of Burlington, or stopping for a breakfast sandwich at Harvest Market on my way up to Stowe for a day of ice climbing or snowboarding.  The core of it, is the feeling of walking into the warmth of a space filled with friends or a larger part of the community.  It’s that moment you walk through the door, stomp the snow off your feet, and begin to unbundle.  It’s that moment you feel the warmth of the fire, and the joy of conversation, and the smell of a wood fired pizza, or the soothing scent of candles in a yoga studio, buzzing with a sense of calm and at the same time the excitement of life, and you let those senses take you in from the cold, crisp air from the outside, and wrap you each in their own blankets of love.  That is what I love most about Vermont.  I grew up in the midwest and that is where all of my family is.  I love Colorado for all of its sunshine and majestic mountains.  Yet, Vermont is the place where my heart feels most at home.