Between the Lines: Confessions of a Vermontaholic
My name is Greg and I am a Vermontaholic. This is my story.
As with so many other Vermontaholics, my addiction started in childhood.
They say that parents should keep their kids away from the hard stuff, and that was certainly true in my case. I’m one of many for whom, at a tragically young age, the gateway drug was skiing.
I could handle it OK when my parents took me skiing near home in central New York State. Even in the Adirondacks at Whiteface and Big Tupper, I didn’t get addicted.
But when they turned me on to hard-core skiing at Sugarbush and Mad River, well, that’s when my lifelong habit began.
Given how addicted I had become to Vermont, it’s astounding that my otherwise intelligent parents would have, when the time came, let me come to college here.
And what were they thinking, sending me to a college that had its own ski area?
Once I got to Middlebury College, of course, I became completely hooked. I spent my weekends mainlining on the Allen and Ross trails. I conned my friends into borrowing their family’s car so we could ditch classes in May and go to Glen Ellen.
Like any addict, I denied the toll that my Vermontaholism was taking on my relationships. I neglected my studies and my girlfriend. I lied about my plans so I could sneak away and spend even more time on the slopes.
One point I want to get across here is that people who haven’t been through it don’t realize how, once you get addicted to Vermont, it just takes over your entire life.
Soon it wasn’t enough that I could ski 40 days a winter. I started hiking whenever there wasn’t snow. After work I would get on my bicycle and ride down to the Whiting quarry — not to look at the naked women sunbathing there, but to immerse myself in the sweet soothing waters of my adopted state.
Sometimes, sitting outdoors with friends and looking at the Green Mountains, I would just stop in midsentence and admire the jaw-dropping beauty around me.
I didn’t care what that did to my friendships. It didn’t bother me if everyone thought I was a space case who smoked too much Vermont green, or that I cared for Mother Nature more than my own mother.
By the time I was 25, though, even I had to admit I had a problem. My love of Vermont was so great, the compulsion to be here so overwhelming, that I had to acknowledge a sad fact: If I didn’t try to break the addiction and do something else with my life, I would end up forever hooked on the Green Mountain State.
In the face of this realization I took the most drastic step I could think of: I moved to Southern California.
There, in the land of endless summer and surfer babes, I began to break the hold Vermont had on my life.
I found new friends who surfed and had never been on skis. Some of them had never even seen snow. I got a newspaper job where, in that semi-desert by the beach, I could go an entire year without writing an article that had the words “Vermont” or “green” in them. I exchanged mountain gaps and dirt roads for beach paths and freeways.
I told myself I was cured.
The thing about being a Vermontaholic, though, is that it never really leaves you. Once the craving is in your blood — once you’ve experienced the cold prick of winter’s needle or felt the soothing coolness of an organic Wolaver’s Stovepipe Porter at the end of a double-gap bike ride — you know you’ll always be jonesing for Vermont.
Powerless in the face of my addiction, I finally moved back here some years ago. But I think I finally have things under control.
It’s not as if I can’t get through the day without doing something quintessentially Vermont. Sometimes whole weeks go by where all I do is work in my office, barely even looking out the window.
I’ve learned not to let my habit control me, and I can go without it when I have to. Last weekend, for example, I didn’t go snowboarding even though the peaks were smothered in white. This weekend I’m abandoning the state altogether to go to Utah.
Now and then, I’ll admit, I do pour a little too much fancy maple syrup on my French toast, which is made with Gleason-grain bread and the eggs of cage-free local hens. I’ve been known to consume massive quantities of Champlain Orchards apple cider and Misty Knoll chicken.
But I don’t crumble anymore at the thought of going to Boston, or even California. I know I can always come back here.
I guess you could call me a functioning Vermontaholic.
Gregory Dennis got his first hit of Vermont in 1958. His column appears here every other Thursday and is archived at http://[email protected]. Email him at [email protected].