Friday, October 01, 2010

What Time Is Foliage?

That's a real question. I'm not kidding. We get asked that question all the time in the runup to Vermont's most vivid season. It runs a close second to the people who call us in August to book rooms for the winter and ask if there'll be snow when they get there. Usually we're blanketed from November to April, but there's the odd time when the snow arrives late, or it doesn't snow enough to cover the road grime, and then guests walk in the front door and say, "Hey, you said it would be snowing."

But the timing of foliage is a predictably touchy subject. Most people travel vast distances--this year's theme seems to be "I'm from California"--and they have either heard about, or have experienced once before in their lives, a spectacular array of colors smattered against steep mountainsides, and that's what they want now.

The reality is that foliage is like a rash across the countryside, spreading and flaring up in one spot, subsiding in another, unevenly covering the land. Fortunately, with a little scouting, we can be prepared for this. Knowing which valley or mountain top is ablaze the day some reticent Texans come through the door can A. May us look like geniuses, or wizards, or wizard-geniuses, and B. Make weary travelers ever so happy.

In a pinch we can fall back on the terse New Englander routine, and zing them back. What time's foliage? What time you want it. You know, pithy stuff like that, the kind of sardonic remark we detest, but feel we must use to defend our sanity. We like to think of it as an icebreaker, and it usually works, getting a laugh, defising the moment. It's all part of the job.

By the way, it's right now. Foliage, that is.