If you've been wanting to visit Colorado's mountain towns, prices are low for those who go in late fall or early winter. But there's a reason. Here, what you need to know before you plan your trip.
Visiting Mountain Towns in Late Fall/Early Winter
The resorts and ski villages in Colorado do a great job of creating events and programs all summer. In addition to hiking, mountain biking and fishing, they plan a wealth of kids' activities, concerts, festivals and markets that keep places such as Breckenridge, Vail and Aspen hopping as soon as the mud dries in June.
And winter gets even busier, of course--ski season is the height of the year for mountain towns in Colorado. Prices can triple (or more) for a room when the snow is groomed.
Mountain towns are making hay while the sun shines, so to speak. Or the snow falls. All this frenetic summer and winter tourist activity doesn't leave much time for a day off. So in between, when business is naturally slow, many restaurants, museums and shops will shorten their hours or close altogether.
But there are benefits to visiting mountain towns in late fall or early winter. For one thing, you can get a room on relatively short notice, and you'll pay a lot less for it.
And when you go out to eat, you'll often find deals on meals. We scored seats at Little Nell's famed Element 47 in Aspen in mid-November last year--a feat in and of itself--and we had top-notch personal service while enjoying an off-season prix fixe dinner that was one of the best we'd had. Ever. Anywhere.
Shopkeepers are more willing to provide discounts in late fall and early winter, particularly those at luxury brands and galleries. And tour operators are champing at the bit for guests to shower with attention.
The late-night scene is nearly nonexistent in mountain towns at this time of year, so if you want to grab a bite or a drink after 8 p.m., ask where the locals go and expect it to be a little more grungy than swanky. But if you're a person who seeks out the local lifestyle, as we do, you'll love it.
Late fall and early winter closures in Colorado resort areas can range from shortened hours to monthlong shutdowns for restocking, revamping or deep cleaning. Preparation is key to making the most of a visit to Colorado mountain towns at this time of year. These steps helped us maximize the three quietest days in Aspen before the start of last year's Thanksgiving ski season extravaganza.
- Find out when the resorts are set to open; after that prices rise faster than the gondolas.
- Plug in multiple days, if you have that flexibility, to find the best rate for a room.
- Google city tourism bureau websites to find event calendars and look for gallery openings, winter hikes and band schedules.
- Google "November closures in (town)" for news articles about changes in hours at restaurants and museums.
- Look up the websites for individual places you'd like to visit to see whether they've posted off-season hours or closures.
- If it's someplace you really want to visit, follow up with an email or phone call. Some smaller businesses aren't very diligent about updating their websites.
Yes, it's exciting to visit Colorado's mountain towns when the resorts are buzzing. I highly recommend it, especially in summer, when the air is crisp and cool and the sky is bluer than you ever thought possible.
But to enjoy a visit without breaking the bank or throwing elbows, trek to Colorado's mountain towns in early fall and late winter. It just takes a little prep work!
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