Monday, March 26, 2007

The Social Scene

It's northern Vermont, it's the end of March, and the snow is melting. For an innkeeper at one of the country's premier ski areas, these are bittersweet times. Winter teased us this year, stuttering in December before spanking us with a green Christmas (the first one in the seven years that this innkeeper's been around these hills), then dragging its feet into the middle of January. We were gut-punched on Valentine's Day with nearly four feet of snow, and March produced a couple of storms that had to be measured with a yardstick. And while the Mountain holds out against the drizzle and showers, the rest of us watch the destruction expose itself along the roads.
This is where our repeat customers come in. There were a couple of regulars up this weekend, grabbing a late seasons treat of corn snow and lovely end of March temperatures. Saturday saw us revive a ritual we've forgotted over the last couple of years: a trip to the Trapp Family Lodge sugarhouse. It's sugaring season up here, and that means the sap is running up and down the sugar maples, dripping out into galvanized buckets, and boiled into pure maple syrup. Trapp's has an open house with sugar on snow tasting, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and open tours of the sugar house. Back at the inn, things really got going.
We invited one of our guests and his son to dinner with us. Another guest joined us after dinner while the kids played board games and watched videos out in the back room. Still another guest showed up with a bottle of wine he wanted to share with us. It was fun, but exhausting. Sunday followed that with some of the best skiing of the season.
That's the way the social scene goes for innkeepers. We sometimes forget that our guests--who often become our friends--are on vacation, and they want to share that with us. It helps to be a little Irish. And napping is a good idea, too.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Speed of Snow

I knew it had been a while since I contributed something to the blog, but I was still surprised to see two months had elapsed since my last entry. I was trying to figure out why I'd ignored this space for so long when I glanced at the date of the last post again: January 6. About a week after that, it started snowing, and it's been busy ever since.
Though the relationship between the weather and innkeeping goes a bit beyond symbolic, it's still not causal. That's to say that we had a lot of business on the books for February even before winter decided that Al Gore got it all wrong. But it started staying cold about the second week in January, and any gaps in the reservation book were quickly filled, resulting in an extraordinarily busy February. And then Valentine's Day came.
The reports started several days before that, as they always do, and as I always do, I ignored them, mostly. Over the weekend before Valentine's Day, people began talking about a "storm" for the middle of next week. But by Monday morning, we knew better how bad--or good, depending on your disposition--things were going to get. I cancelled my Wednesday afternoon class at Community College of Vermont on Tuesday morning. At that point, predictions were calling for over a foot of snow to fall. Ahh, I thought. Wouldn't that be nice.
But then things got out of hand, in a good, snowy way. Suddenly forecasters were talking about feet, as in a couple of them. And by the time things started on Wednesday morning, we knew exactly what we were going to get. And we got it. The mountains of Northern Vermont got three to four feet of snow by Thursday morning. On Mt. Mansfield, there was over four feet of snow. The great Valentine's Day Blizzard was in the record books.
And just last weekend we received a couple more feet of snow--March is often the snowiest month around here. What all that snow did to me was to make me remember. Suddenly there were mountains of snow to deal with, and that was an unexpected job to add to my lengthy resume. And there was the cold. It stayed below freezing for two months, and much of that time was spent below zero. Two days ago it was minus 15 when I got up.
Change is in the air today. It reached forty degrees, and a light rain is falling. I know we're not done with the snow yet, and I'm looking forward to more of it in March. And I'm also looking forward to this summer, when I can look back and chronicle just how fast the speed of snow really is.