Stick Season Survival

“Beautiful,” isn’t it? Photo: Dilip Parikh on Unsplash

The time has come. The leaf peepers have cleared out, the wind has a new bite to it, and the warm days of Chaco’ed feet are long gone.

Stick Season has arrived in Vermont.

What is there left to do for the outdoor enthusiast during this less-than-ideal shoulder season? Mountain bike trail networks are closing for hunters, the mountains are getting a bit too icy to hike without winter traction and puffy jackets, and there’s still not enough snow to go skiing—unless, of course, you’re the high-elevation fast-grass type and you feel like braving the White Ribbon of Death at Killington.

If hiking 2000 feet of elevation for three ski/snowboard turns isn’t your cup of tea, read on for some other fun ideas to make the most of Stick Season!

Frozen Dirt Mountain Biking

Wait until the ground freezes, double check Trail Forks or Trail Hub for open networks, and whip that mountain bike right back out from your gear closet! While most trail areas ARE closed for hunting season, there are still a few that remain open through November. Our personal favorite place to ride frozen is Cady Hill in Stowe. Thanks to the amazing efforts of the Stowe Trails Partnership, the trails there are buff, bermed to perfection, and freakin’ FAST and fun when they freeze up. Don some thick riding gloves and turn on Strava when you get to the trails, because you’ll for sure smash that PR on Flow.

Canoe Camping

canoe camping during (not quite) stick season

There’s not a whole lot of things better than a warm cup of coffee enjoyed while surrounded by trees and friends and water. Where’s a good spot to camp when it’s a bit chilly out, you ask? Little River State Park is at the top of our list. Load up that boat, grab a paddle and a friend, and row your floating cargo of glamping gear to a canoe-access campsite. Think of all the sleeping bags and pillows you can fit in a canoe! And ramen noodles! And whiskey! You might even hear a loon that decided to hang around late into the season, like you did. You loon.

Insulated sleeping pads, 0-15 degree sleeping bags, and our favorite NEMO Equipment Puffin Blankets make all the difference to create a pleasant camping trip when other folks would turn their frozen noses up at the idea. And don’t forget to check out this article about all the ways you can make coffee outside to take the cozy to the next level (and cure the slight hangover from all that whiskey you drank).

Roller Skiing

No snow for nordic? Go roller skiing

No snow? No problem. Photo: Reese Brown

Skis on wheels. Use them to get in shape for nordic skiing, or just so you can be the coolest cat on the Burlington Bike Path. ‘Nuff said.

Climbing: Rock or Plastic?

Stick Season means GRIPPY rock, which is hard to come by when lots of Vermont’s climbing is slippery schist. Plus, the leaf-peeping tourists will be long gone if your project happens to be on a boulder in the famed Smugglers Notch—no more flatlanders asking if that crash pad on your back is a refrigerator (yes, this is a real question I have received, in real life). But, Stick Season also means cold rock. It’ll be a race against time for you to send your project before your fingers go numb and your shoes freeze up. Despite all this, there’s something awesome about being in the woods surrounded by the impending winter silence: just you, the rocks and trees, and your climbing buddy. Pick a nice 40 degree day and give outdoor Stick Season climbing a try.

If shivering between send attempts isn’t exactly your forte, you can spend some time in the climbing gym instead: A world of comfortable temperatures, pulling on plastic, shirtless men to make fun of admire, and a never-clearing cloud of chalk forcing its way into your lungs (and onto everything you own). Gym climbing’s also a fun way to hang out with lots of friends, get stronger, and train for spring outdoor climbing! So, which will you choose: Rock? Or Plastic?


We hope you got some fun ideas of how to do the things you love while patiently awaiting for the snow to fall, the trees to fill in, and backcountry ski and splitboard days to begin. Winter is coming, but until it’s here, let’s make the most of this—wholly underappreciated—Stick Season!

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Published:November 7, 2019

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