Ski season is in full swing here in North America. Colorado got some much-needed snow this week and spring break is approaching — a hugely popular time of year for families to hit the slopes together. As much as I enjoy the hustle and bustle of mountain resorts during peak season, there’s something to be said for traveling to ski resorts in the off season. Here’s why:
Fewer crowds: When the chairlifts close for the season in the spring, and before they reopen for each new season in the winter, you’ll find ski towns gloriously empty.
Great deals on lodging: Hotel room and condominium rental rates drop drastically when the lifts close. Of course, they’ll ratchet back up again in peak summer months (an absolutely glorious time to visit the mountains), but in the “mud season” of the spring and as temperatures drop in the fall, you can usually snag some deals on accommodations.
Locals’ specials at restaurants: Ski-resort restaurants roll out the red carpets for residents in the spring and fall. That’s when I see a lot of “locals’ prix-fixe” and “locals’ specials” advertised in the local newspapers around Aspen. Some restaurants, where entrees typically cost $35 each in January, run deals where an appetizer, entree and dessert cost $35 in May!
Tips for visiting ski resorts in the off season
A couple of caveats about visiting ski resorts in the spring and fall: some restaurants and shops close in the off season, so if you have your heart set on eating somewhere or shopping at a certain boutique, you may want to call ahead to confirm they’ll be open.
Also, spring and fall weather in the mountains can be very unpredictable. It’s not unusual for it to snow at high elevations into May and June; we often get our first snowfall at my house (at 7,000 feet near Aspen) in September. Be prepared with appropriate layered clothing, and if you’re traveling by car, be aware you may be driving through snow. That said, you might also enjoy glorious sunny days and surprisingly warm temperatures in late May and October. Like I said, Colorado weather is notoriously unpredictable.
On that note, one more tip: some mountain passes remain closed through the spring and then close again in the autumn; check road conditions or state highway departments before you set out on your road trip.
This post was written in conjunction with my relationship with Mountain Reservations as one of its Mountain Ambassadors.