A few years ago, two girlfriends and I booked a three-bedroom, three-bathroom condominium in Keystone Resort in the middle of October. Few shops and restaurants were open in River Run Village, but it didn't matter. On our short agenda: morning hikes on frost-covered mountain trails amid rather bleak scenery (those bright, orange-yellow aspen leaves were long gone) and lengthy afternoon soaks in our condo's hot tub.

Also high on the priority list: massages at Keystone Lodge & Spa and wine. Lots of wine. And no alarm clocks. That weekend was pure bliss for a trio of moms who just wanted a quiet couple of nights away from the demands of daily life with young children.

Visiting Colorado's ski resorts in the off season isn't for everyone. After the high-country's fall foliage peaks in late September and before chairlifts open in November, mountain towns more closely resemble ghost towns.

Many restaurants and shops close for a few weeks so that owners, managers and employees can take much-needed vacations after hectic summer seasons. Other stores have reduced hours. Hotels undergo remodeling, and some even close their doors to guests because demand is so low.

It's an awkward, in-between season on all levels. There's no skiing to be had (unless you want to skin up a mountain on your own), and it's too cold for kayaking. Fly-fishing is one year-round activity that's readily available, and you might be able to bike and golf — or you might not.


In October, one day could bring a snow squall, while the next could mean sunshine and 65-degree temperatures. For a long-weekend trip to the high country in the off season, I'd pack sneakers and snow boots, T-shirts and fleece.

However, the huge upside of trekking to the mountains right now is that it's gentle on your pocketbook. Restaurants offer locals' prix fixe menus for the residents who stick around and to reward the tourists who visit during the slow shoulder season. Room rates plummet before the snow really starts to fly. Even spas discount services.

Off-season deals are plentiful at Colorado's ski resorts. Here are just a few I found in my backyard of Aspen and Snowmass; visit now before the crowds descend at Christmas:

• Colorado residents enjoy $139/night room rates at the Limelight Hotel through December 22. This is a screamin' deal, considering the lifts at Aspen Mountain start running Nov. 28. Breakfast is included, too. limelighthotel.com/Specials/Colorado-Local-Rates

• Save 25 percent on condominium rentals at The Gant through Nov. 20. gantaspen.com/aspen-hotel-special-offers.php

• Two-course, prix-fixe menu, Monday-Saturday at downtown Aspen's upscale Rustique Bistro for $32. rustiquebistro.com

• Sixty-minute Path to Tranquility Massage is $125 (down from $155) and includes a glass of champagne and free valet parking at the Viceroy Snowmass. viceroysnowmass.com

• Seventy-five-minute Fall Rejuvenation Deep Cleanse Facial for $95 (a $155 value) at Heaven on Earth day spa — that's nearly 40 percent off. heavenonearthaspen.com/aspen-day-spa-specials

Freelance writer Kara Williams makes her home near Aspen. She covers family travel, romantic escapes and girlfriend getaways at TheVacationGals.com.