The only way to enjoy winter in Vermont is to make sure you have cold-weather gear. You don’t need a lot, but there are some pieces of essential winter gear that make the difference between utter misery and comfort.
Maybe you’ve heard that the best way to survive a Vermont winter is to embrace it? Vermonters have a lot of expressions about winter. Another is that there is no bad weather, only bad gear. Both are true.
Hat and Gloves for the Win(ter)
I always start and end the winter season with a hat and gloves; in fact, they are the first thing I add to my wardrobe in the autumn and the last thing I take away in spring. There are many different kinds of hats and gloves for different types of activities. Vermont’s own Skida makes hats in fun prints that help wick moisture while keeping you warm. In a pinch, most winter coats include a hood, and a hooded sweatshirt can also work as an additional wind block to protect your neck.
Protecting your hands is also key. Mittens make it harder to grasp things, but they are even warmer than gloves. Ski gloves are warmer than fleece gloves or knit gloves, but either way, a pair of gloves elevates your ability to withstand the cold. A hat and gloves can be easy to forget, so I keep a set in my car from October to May. Hot tip: hats and gloves go on sale as winter wanes – look for sales starting in February.
Winter Boots, for Fashion and Function
One of the qualities I like most about Vermonters is that we often see fashion and function as one and the same. Even so, many of us have different boots for different activities. An evening stroll on Church Street to see the lights calls for water-resistant but comfortable footwear. Sledding or hiking require different footwear, with a stiffer sole, deeper treads, and a higher top (there’s nothing worse than the feeling of snow down your boot). And either way, warm socks go the extra mile to make the experience cozy.
Please note: wool socks stay warm even when wet, and are truly essential winter gear. We are fortunate that a legendary sock maker, Darn Tough Vermont, is located right here in Vermont. Vermont Mom’s Amazon Store, an online selection of essentials and gifts curated just for our followers, offers three different colors of Darn Tough socks in hot pink, tomato stripe, and plum. We receive a small portion of the proceeds from the sale of these socks on Amazon, so if you’re in the market, check it out!
Short Coat, Long Coat, All the Way Around Coat
I use my shorter coat when I am walking through stores where the temperature is much warmer and intricate displays loom in narrow aisles, running out to pick up my daughter when I know I won’t be getting out of the car, and while dining in close quarters with limited hooks or racks.
My longer coat, warmer but much more bulky and unwieldy, is great for walking the dog, meeting a friend in the park, walking to the gym in leggings, or for long periods outside to supervise sledding. When I was much younger, I thought long coats were ugly, and I suffered through many winters in cute wool peacoats that didn’t even cover my behind. Now I can attest that longer coats keep you warmer, and as I get older, my coat gets longer. It’s basically a mobile blanket, and I am okay with that. No matter what length of coat you choose, it’s most important that your coat zips and that you are comfortable within it.
Neck Wraps: Indoor Scarves
Neck wraps are key to my list of essential winter gear for Vermonters. Similar to a hood on a coat or sweatshirt, a neck wrap adds another layer around the sensitive, heat-draining skin around the neck. A neck wrap is a simple circle, like an infinity scarf. The fabric is sewn end-to-end so that you can pull it over your head and wind it multiple times around your neck. You can find this affordable heat miser in a limitless selection of patterns and fabrics. My favorites are made simply of thick and washable cotton – I have five in different prints and palettes! Honestly, they’re not even that difficult to sew, if you’re so inclined.
As an added bonus, if you forgot your hat and the wind is whipping, you can pull the wrap up your head to cover the back of your head, mouth, and nose, or sides of your face. A note to all my fellow neck-wrap fans out there… Sometime in January I just start leaving a neck wrap on all day – even in the house. Like me, you may come to leave your wrap on inside and out – but take it off to eat or you will unknowingly be wearing your (soiled) “napkin” all day! I’ve learned from experience…
Sleds, Skis and Snowboards
Playing outside is essential to enjoying winter in Vermont. Public sledding hills can be found all over Vermont.
Skis and snowboards are a bit more of an investment, as well as lessons and lift passes to accompany them. Many Vermont schools partner with nearby resorts to offer discounted ski programs that include all gear, lessons, tickets and transportation. Additionally, fifth graders in Vermont can apply for and pay $20 for a Vermont ski passport that gives students up to 90 days of skiing.
If you would like to learn as a family, resorts like Smugglers’ Notch, Jay Peak, Bolton Valley, and Cochran’s Ski Area feature “learn-to-ski” packages, with top-notch instructors. Some packages include all the gear, including a helmet.
Once you’re ready to invest in skis or snowboards, gear swaps are a great way to get lesser-used gear at a good price. Look for swaps as fall winds down in October.
Ski shops also offer annual lease packages for children and adults alike.
Tires and Ice
Truth be told, no matter what gear you’re wearing, winter stinks when your car gets stuck, or you slide off the road. You don’t need to drive a SUV to safely make it through a Vermont winter. It makes no difference what kind of car you have: snow tires are the key. Whether you are driving in city slush, to a ski hill over fresh powder, or braving the back roads in snow or mud, investing in snow tires (and taking your time while driving) are the best way to hug the road, stay the course, and avoid a white-knuckle grip trip.
Before you drive, however, you must thoroughly clean snow and ice from the car. Snow and ice flying off a moving car can be dangerous to other vehicles (it’s also against the law to have any accumulation on your car when driving in Vermont). A snow broom helps avoid scratches in your car’s finish, and a simple ice scraper is perfect to remove ice. In a pinch, a credit card or other wallet-sized card like a gym membership card will work to clean away light frost from your windshield on those late-autumn or late winter days when you’re caught without a scraper.
Mug, Maple, and an Electric Throw
The gear here is hot chocolate, maple-sweetened tea or coffee, but the most important thing is that you enjoy it in a cozy space that you set up just for you. An electric throw helps to provide instant heat, and all you need is an outlet. Like Linus and his blanket in a Snoopy cartoon, my throw travels with me throughout the house – it is at the ready on the back of my desk chair, by the fire, or in front of the TV for family movie night. It’s winter gear that encourages one of the most essential of all cold-weather activities: rest.
Winter is not easy for many of us, but having the right gear will help you find your way to embrace the season. Investing in essential winter gear is worth it and you don’t have to break the bank; early and late-season sales are common, and throughout the winter many thrift shops have great deals on lightly-used gear. Whether or not you prefer to be active in the chill and snow, it’s always important to be comfortable. And if you prefer the warmer months, maybe, just maybe, with no-fail essential winter gear you will come to enjoy winter in Vermont… or at least moments of winter.
What essential winter gear is key to your Vermont experience?
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Hi Giovanna! I’m so glad you found me here and Stirling is reading my blogs. It’s so true… snowpants make all the difference. Why not wear them everywhere? I think I will get mine out for walks with Pepper. Stay warm!
Hi Vicky! Stirling just sent me this blog and I’m happy to discover it! Strong work! The only other vital item I would add to essential winter gear for all ages are SNOW PANTS. I wear my orange bomb-proof Patagonia snow pants on my daily walk from November through April, from about 38 degrees to minus 20. I’m never cold and I refuse to be cold. Recommend highly to everyone. Hugs to you!