WELCOME THE LEAF PEEPERS BE A BRAND AMBASSADOR FOR THE STATE THAT IS NOW OFFICIALLY TOPS FOR FOLIAGE. By Megan Smith
The hills at Stowe's Trapp Family Lodge are alive this month with mountain biking, foliage, Trapp's new brewery... and leaf peepers. Photo byVermontVacation.com/Stephen Goodhue
t won’t be long before we start to ex- brand of beauty with leaf peepers. It can perience the unmistakable signs of fall: be frustrating: You might find yourself cerulean skies with a hint of crispness behind a slow-moving bus on a crowded in the air, the sweet smell of cider doughRoute 100, or encounter unfamiliar faces nuts, the swish of fallen leaves beneath our on your “secret” mountain bike single feet on favorite hiking trails … and parktrack. Once-empty hiking trails are suding lots filled with a rainbow of out-ofdenly full of out-of-towners. Instead of state license plates. being angry or annoyed, remember this: There is a reason tourism in Vermont genthe world travels to our erates more than $1.8 doorstep this time of billion in visitor spendHave a comment about this year: our fall foliage is ing and supports more column or a commentary famous. In fact, this year than 30,000 jobs. of your own? Speak Up the Vermont Department We are a friendly state welcomes your feedback of Tourism and Marketand in fact, Burlington and opinions. Visit www. ing launched a “World’s was just named one of vtsports.com to share your Best Foliage” campaign, the top 10 friendliest thoughts. Or to propose complete with all the cities in the country by a subject for Speak Up, reasons we have to back Condé Nast Traveler. email firstname.lastname@example.org. up such an audacious Fall is the perfect time to claim. Nowhere else can show visitors how much you find brilliant reds, so: Instead of simply toldazzling oranges, and golden yellows, all erating the peepers, let’s welcome them framed by a working landscape of villages with open arms and a smile. Let’s show and bucolic meadows. What we have is them the magic of our state parks, and unique, and everyone seems to know it. the hidden gems of our thriving arts scene. So for the brief six weeks we call Point them to an overlooked lookout, a leaf season, we must share our particular quiet trail or a country store—and con-
sider yourself a brand ambassador. Leaf peepers make a significant contribution to our state’s economy. Fall accounts for $460 million in tourism spending, which is just over 25% of the state’s annual total. The boost to our state economy allows Vermont businesses to invest in infrastructure that visitors and Vermonters alike can enjoy. Jay Peak Resort is building a 15,000 square-foot recreation center that will include a 145-seat cinema, 16 climbing walls and a ropes course. The new summer center at Killington Resort includes increased lift service for mountain biking, an alpine mountain coaster and a Skyride. Stowe Mountain Resort recently introduced a zipline that reaches speeds up to 60 mph. These are just a few of the attractions and improvements that are made possible by having a state that embraces its tourists. In terms of economic development, a visit to Vermont can be the first step on the road to a long term commitment. Visitors often turn into second home-owners or full-time residents. Stories abound about the person who came to Vermont to ski,
and ended up bringing a business. We need to recognize the power of what can happen when we introduce newcomers to our beautiful state through tourism. This year, the state’s official tourism website (www.VermontVacation.com) will feature weekly foliage reports, “best bet” driving routes, maps and a foliage forecaster. We will send weekly emails about upcoming events, and encourage people to share their #WorldsBestFoliage photos. Fall is an extraordinarily brilliant and brief window of time in our state. Let’s welcome it, and everyone who wants to enjoy it with us. An avid skier and hiker, Megan McKenna Smith is the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Tourism. Before her appointment, she was a state representative and owner and innkeeper at the Vermont Inn in Mendon.