How to survive your first Vermont winter

By Ben Canellys and Blake Weinard

The VLS student body represents 38 states and three countries, which means a decent portion of students haven’t experienced a serious winter yet. As you might’ve heard, winters in Vermont can be mighty intense.

Our average low temperatures are between 2°F and 12°F, and we routinely see heavy snowfall. Snowstorms can turn violent, downing power lines, creating icy conditions, and depositing 15 to 20 inches of snow.

In light of this, you can never be too prepared, both mentally and physically. And from time to time, you can have some fun too.


Invest in good gear. Vermont has an abundance of gear exchanges offering quality winter clothing for reasonable prices. Darn Tough Sock Sale in Northfield and the sprawling Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington are both good options.

You can’t go wrong with a good pair of thick-soled winter boots, some comfortable wool socks, and lightweight, insulating base layers. And invest in a sturdy winter coat that will last you not only this winter, but the rest of your time in South Royalton.

Wear layers. This is the best hiking advice you can get. A good base layer wicks the sweat off your skin and keeps you dry. It can be as simple as a pair of thermal leggings or a shirt made of synthetic material.

Your insulating middle layers create pockets of warm air that surround your body. Your outer layer should be a durable, wind-proof shell to keep the cold from cutting through your warm middle layers.


Prep your car. Get snow tires and drive carefully. You should keep a snow shovel, ice scraper, and extra blanket and warm gear in your car.

Make sure to keep a quarter tank of gas in your car to keep it from freezing. Keeping an empty gas can in your car is a good idea too. Vermont has a lot of rural roads without service. If you get stuck somewhere, it may be a while before someone can pull you out.


Prep your home. If you leave for a weekend or over Thanksgiving break, keep your heat on to keep your pipes from freezing.

If your pipes freeze, you will need to thaw them by heating your house back up to above freezing temperature. Your pipes may burst if they freeze, so make sure to check for leaks and report any to your landlord.

Know what source of heat you have in your house and stock up. You can talk to your landlord about weatherizing your house to make heating more efficient. Vermont rental housing statutes and regulations don’t cover snow removal, so review your lease to determine whose responsibility that is.


Learn how to embrace winter. The sun sets early, the work piles up, and the library is warm. Without an outlet, the cold weather may force you inside. Luckily, VLS is home to a vibrant community of outdoor enthusiasts eager to teach, as well as a gear shed full of winter equipment available to rent. Take advantage of this beautiful season and make some snowy memories.

And even if outdoor winter activities are not for you, the VLS community also offers opportunities to stay active while staying inside.

The Fitness Center has yoga, dance, and spin classes every week. Students meet at the high school gym on Tuesday and Thursday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. to play basketball and on Monday and Wednesday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. to play volleyball.

If you’re feeling adventurous (and have a good pair of spikes), Dean Thomas McHenry’s popular “Dawn Patrol” hikes up Kent’s Ledge continue into the winter months, weather permitting. The group meets outside the Fitness Center at 6:30 a.m., and Prof. Richard Sala occasionally fills in for Dean McHenry.

We get it—Vermont winters can be intimidating. But with a little bit of preparation and creativity, you can make it to spring—no hibernation required.

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