"Leaf peeping" is big business in Vermont

KILLINGTON, Vt. - "This is the beauty, all the bright red leaves," said Karen Suchy as she walked with her husband, Bob.

Karen and Bob Suchy traveled to Vermont from their home in Southern California to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.

Was it worth coming 3,000 miles to see?

"Absolutely, absolutely," said Karen Suchy. "It was always a dream of ours to come to the fall foliage."

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Karen and Bob Suchy traveled to Vermont from their home in Southern California to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.
CBS News

More than three and a half million tourists come to Vermont each fall to see and photograph the explosion of color.

At the Red Clover Inn in Mendon, occupancy doubles during the fall foliage season.

Mike Snyder gets a nickname this time of year.

"Well, I'm the chief foliage forecaster for the state of Vermont," he said.

He says it with great pride.

Mike Snyder's official title is Commissioner of Vermont's Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.

Having a good, colorful season is big business in Vermont.

"You bet," said Snyder. "It's the scenic backdrop to a $460 million tourist influx in the fall of the year."

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The autumn colors of the Green Mountains.
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Snyder has a team of foresters who monitor the health of the trees and their leaves all year long, using aerial mapping and hands-on inspection to keep a close watch on insects and disease.

This year, in part because of an early frost, the colors are more vibrant than they've been in years.

For the best way to see the leaves, head to one of Vermont's many ski resorts, hop on a gondola and take in a bird's eye view.

Is there one tree that's the star of the show?

"Well, it's gotta be the sugar maple," said Snyder. "One in four trees in Vermont is a sugar maple and we have a high density of them and they're the ones that can bring in the reds in particular."

So a sugar maple leaf turns from green to red -- why?

"It's preparing for winter," said Snyder.

In fact, the yellow, orange and red pigments have been there all along -- but it's only when the days shorten and the leaves stop producing green chlorophyll that they reveal their hidden beauty.

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The colors of fall in central Vermont.
CBS News

CBS News asked Karen Suchy when you're walking through these leaves how would you describe your mindset?

"Calming," said Suchy. "Not having to think of anything. You don't even have to say anything, just absorb it all being with each other and enjoying the serenity of it."

The serenity of Vermont's magical colors -- putting millions of visitors under their spell.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.