“Just Breathtaking:” Fall Foliage Transformation Underway – An interview with Rock of Ages and the Vermont Department of Tourism

The arrival of fall means Vermont’s foliage travel season is underway. While the trees are still in the earlier part of their transformations in most places in the state, the leaves are changing quickly.

The fall travel season is critical to the state’s bottom line, said Steve Cook of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing.

“In that short amount of time, over $460-million are spent in our state,” he told New England Cable News. “We’re looking forward to another strong season.”

“It’s something you don’t see every day,” beamed Janice Grant, a traveler from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, area. “You come up over a hill and then you look out and it’s so gorgeous to see all of the different colors: the bright reds and the bright oranges. It’s just breathtaking.”

Grant was checking out the Rock of Ages granite quarry in Barre, and the panoramic views from the top.

“It’s a critical season for us,” said Todd Paton of the Rock of Ages visitor center.

Paton said about 40 percent of the monument maker’s 40-65,000 seasonal guests come the last week of September through the third week of October to learn about the stone craft that Barre is known for. He noted that even before the leaves started changing and falling, the destination had a busy summer, thanks to all that nice weather.

“We’ve had a great season,” Paton told NECN. “Nonetheless, it won’t be a wonderful season unless we have a great fall.”

Cook said the visitor spending during the fall travel season, which is only six to eight weeks long, accounts for a bit more than a quarter of annual visitor spending in Vermont. He explained that Vermont’s high density of sugar maples, which are usually the brightest color-changers, has long made the state a favorite stop this time of year. It’s when visits from international travelers are the strongest, Cook noted.

“It’s a very quaint and special experience for a lot of people,” he explained.

Cook said one area the state is trying to focus on is boosting mid-week travel during foliage season. Hotel bookings already tend to be very strong on the weekends, but he said mid-week bookings could always be improved. Toward that goal, VermontVacation.com has listings of lodging deals along with foliage reports, suggested drive routes and other information for visitors. Emailed foliage reports are a popular offering through the site, Cook said.

And a reminder for fall foliage admirers: starting Oct. 1, drivers cannot use their cell phones or other electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle in Vermont. That new state law, which is aimed at cracking down on distracting driving to make the state’s roads safer, will mean fines for people who are caught using hand-held devices behind the wheel. Hands-free devices, such as Bluetooth technology that allows you to have your hands on the wheel while having a phone conversation, are allowed.

More information on Vermont’s ban on hand-held devices while driving is available here.

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