University of Vermont

Center for Research on Vermont

Vermont Research: Snowy winter, tree sales, road salt and more....

Vermont ski resorts are enjoying an early start to their season, thanks to Winter Storm Caly and the eight feet of snow that came with it. Although this year is projected to be a “deep winter,” climate changes  will hurt state’s the ski industry in the future, according to a report.

The team of Vermont researchers found that annual snowfall at six major ski resorts is predicted to decrease by about 50 percent by the end of the century. At the same time, below freezing days are going to drop, challenging snow-making. Furthermore, rain and wet days are expected to increase as are average overall temperatures. 


The Old Farmer’s Almanac, founded in 1792, predicts that northern Vermont will experience above average snowfall and a decrease in winter temperatures this year. The book maintains that the coldest periods will fall in mid- to late December, while the snowiest are projected to be later on, from late January to mid March.

Canadian birds like the snowy owl and the red-breasted nuthatch are “irrupting,” or bursting, upon Vermont fields as the colder season approaches and food becomes more scarce. Their migration does not signal a hard winter, though; some northern birds, like the redpoll, can endure temperatures as cold as -60 degrees Fahrenheit. Vermont author Michael Caduto documents other seasonal local occurrences in his book, Through a Naturalist’s Eyes.  

Roadway snow and ice control operations can account for as much as 10% percent of the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s (VTrans) annual budget. A report by the UVM Transportation Research Center and VTrans outlines a strategy for satellite salt storage and examines its effectiveness.


Though none of the scenes in White Christmas were shot in Vermont, the film has had a lasting commercial impact on the state. Set in the fictional town of Pine Tree, the 1954 movie-musical made Vermont a landmark for winter tourism. “Vermont, in turn, became everyone’s neighborhood and fulfilled everyone’s dream of a white Christmas,” writes UVM professor emeritus William Lipke in the book Celebrating Vermont: Myths and Realities.

For a winter tale with a not so happy ending, Ethan Frome (based on the book by Edith Wharton) was filmed in Peacham. The Vermonter web site contains a trailer here and a list of more than 50 movies filmed in Vermont, including a number of other winter movies (e.g. Baby Boom).

Vermont songsters have produced some of the quirkiest holiday music to reach the airwaves. Among the most unique are “Broke” by the Physics Club, describing the inevitable thinning of the wallet during the Christmas season, and Jazzin’ Hell’s wacky “Sleigh Ride to Heck.” See the Seven Days compilation for an entirely local-made holiday playlist.


Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects roughly 5 percent of the national population, and that number spikes to 9.7 percent in the northeast region. Despite its stigma as mere “winter blues,” SAD is categorized as a major depressive disorder, and those affected can experience symptoms equal to those with clinical depression. The “Longest Night” nondenominational program is to be held at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Brattleboro to support those who may not be relating to the classic merry spirit of the holidays.

Vermonters spend approximately $1,200 a year to heat their homes, according to a recent report by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation. That said, the report found a very wide range in the home heating burden, with spending as low as $381 per year in Colchester to upwards of $1,700 on the lakeshore of Shelburne. Check out the article in the Burlington Free Press for an in depth analysis.

Older adults in Vermont report some of the lowest overall well-beings in the country, according to a new Gallup poll. The results were found by interviewing over 115,000 adults aged 55 and over across the U.S., and following a Well-Being Index that takes into account elements essential to happiness, like purpose, social and financial fulfillment, a sense of community, and physical health. Hawaii had the highest Well-Being Index score for the second year in a row.


As the gift giving season approaches, there is a question as to whether small businesses, called the “lifeblood of Vermont” by Erin Singrist, can compete with their conglomerate competitors. Online sales in the state were up 10 percent over local retail, according to a report by the Vermont Retail & Grocers Association. Small Business Saturday, however, drew out 24 percent of the 47 percent of shoppers who responded that they planned to make purchases on that day.

Vermont has 288 Christmas tree farms over 3,600 acres, according to the most recent USDA agricultural census. Tree sales bring in roughly $2.8 million to the state’s economy, and provide customers all over New England with around 134,000 trees to be adorned for the holidays.

Outlook for Outdoor Recreation, a report from the Northern Research Station, indicates that outdoor recreation will continue to be a fixture in the region’s economic and social makeup through 2060. The researchers studied seventeen nature-based outdoor activities, including downhill skiing, swimming, and mountain climbing.


And if you are thinking about spring already, volunteer tourism, particularly Alternative Spring Break programs at universities, are quickly gaining popularity. UVM student Amelia Fontein investigated the impacts of this type of travel on the host organizations as well as the students within the university’s programs, one at a wildlife sanctuary and one at a National Seashore. While students generally expected labor-intensive volunteer work, host organizations tended to pursue more abstract goals of education and awareness.


The Vermont Research News is a bi-monthly curated collection of Vermont research -- focused on research in the Vermont "laboratory" -- research that provides original knowledge to the world and research that adds to understanding of the state's social, economic, cultural and physical environment.

Send your news items to Editor Kirsti Blow.

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