What exactly is Vermont’s ‘Stick Season’?

"And I love Vermont, but it's the season of the sticks," singer-songwriter and New England native Noah Kahan sings in his viral hit.

View of marsh and Lake Memphremagog from a trail bridge in Vermont.
Courtesy: Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing

For most people, there are four seasons in a year.

For those of us in New England, we can sometimes experience a sampling of all four in a single week.

But what about those in-between periods when it’s the end of fall but not quite winter, or the end of winter but not quite spring?

In Vermont, some residents refer to these stretches as additional seasons — stick and mud, respectively.

Though Vermonters may have grown up using both of these terms, a number of people across the country likely learned the meaning behind stick season thanks to singer-songwriter and Vermont native Noah Kahan.

The cover of "Stick Season" by Noah Kahan.
The cover of “Stick Season” by Noah Kahan. – Mercury Records/Republic Records via AP

Kahan, a Grammy Awards nominee for Best New Artist this year, experienced a mainstream breakthrough with his viral hit, “Stick Season,” officially released in 2022 and soon followed by his third studio album of the same name.


As Kahan explained in a video interview with Genius in January, he initially uploaded a snippet of the song to TikTok and, soon after, thought he might delete it due to his insecurities.

“I waited like 20 minutes, and it started to blow up, and so, I finished the song after I saw the first part of the song doing well on TikTok,” he told the media company.

As Kahan noted, that clip, posted in 2020, immediately took off, and so Kahan released a chorus the next day.

“There’s a lot of beef between New Hampshire and Vermont, so I have to say I was from both, but I’d call myself a Vermonter,” he told Genius. “But it’s definitely a song about, you know, the time in Vermont — stick season — when all the leaves are off the trees. It’s a term that was used by some of the older folks in the town I grew up in to describe this really miserable time of year when it’s just kind of gray and cold, and there’s no snow yet and the kind of beauty of the foliage is done.

“It’s a time of year that’s very specific to where I grew up and, you know, I was concerned that I might alienate people,” Kahan, who lived in Strafford, continued, adding that he wasn’t sure if anyone outside of Vermont would be able to relate to the lyrics.


“But it was cool to see it connect with people, and people have their own meanings of what stick season might mean to them or what their hometowns mean to them, so it was cool to see it connect outside of New England,” he said.

Though Kahan refers to stick season as this dark and drab time of year, his lyrics have not held Vermont businesses back from promoting it as a time for tourists to visit.

From foliage to sticks

Nate Formalarie, spokesman for the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, said an exact definition of stick season could be up for interpretation, but it typically starts as soon as the leaves fall down. It lasts from roughly mid-October to the beginning of December.

Fall foliage season is a popular time for people to visit Vermont, making up a large portion of the state’s tourism economy, he said by phone.

While winter and summer are longer seasons, and so their economic impact may be larger, foliage season is compact, typically lasting about six weeks, Formalarie explained.

“It’s a very busy time of year, and then, once those leaves come down, everybody kind of just retreats and gets ready for winter in their home states,” he said. “But one of the advantages, and what we talk about at the tourism department, is it’s actually kind of a nice time to visit because it is so uncrowded.”


The foliage is still on the ground, Formalarie noted, adding that bare trees allow visitors to get some better viewpoints of Vermont.

“We talk about it as a quiet time, a time to recharge, and come visit some scenic vantage points that look a little bit different this time of year,” he said.

From nature walks to shopping to restaurants, there are plenty of things to do during stick season, Formalarie said. During this time, tourists can also benefit from lower prices for lodging and other activities, he added.

A number of Vermont businesses offer online guides to exploring stick season in Vermont, including Cabot Creamery, the Stone Hill Inn in Stowe, West Hill House B&B in Warren, and Hotel Vermont in Burlington.

Formalarie also confirmed that Vermonters have a sixth season in April known as mud season.

“Mud season is when it’s starting to get warm, but you can’t necessarily go on trails yet because they are all muddy,” he said. “So in the fall and stick season, you can still access all of the great outdoor stuff.”

For fans of “Stick Season,” don’t miss Kahan as the musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” this weekend. His new version of “Everything, Everywhere” with Gracie Abrams also dropped Friday. Plus: Kahan will play two shows at Fenway Park in July.


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