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4 Ski Towns to Visit During the Shoulder Season

Dodge crowds, score great deals and hit the trails in top mountain towns across the country.

U.S. News & World Report

4 Ski Towns to Visit During the Shoulder Season

Lake Dillon, as seen from Ptarmigan Mountain in the fall.  Summit County, Colorado.  Ten Mile Range and Breckenridge ski area are in the background.

These quintessential ski settings lure outdoor enthusiasts with excellent bargains, crisp temperatures, beautiful fall colors and prime biking and hiking trails come autumn. (Getty Images)

America's top ski towns may be best known for their slopes and winter fun, but in the off-season you can still enjoy enticing attractions, along with discounted lodging. Plus, in autumn, you can enjoy thinner crowds and catch brilliant foliage, exciting seasonal events and cooler hiking trails. So, if you want take advantage of shoulder-season rates, picturesque trails and plenty of outdoor activities, plan a getaway to these beloved mountain towns this fall.

Breckenridge, Colorado

During the summer months, Breckenridge buzzes with mountain bikers, hikers and families bouncing, zipping and tubing their way around the area's base camp to enjoy outdoor fun. After Labor Day, however, the crowds along historic Main Street thin out and room rates are reduced. Come for the annual wine festival, Wine Classic, from Sept. 15-18 or enjoy the town's many public mountain biking trails after the lifts stop turning for the summer bike season. And in early fall, the leaves along Colorado's iconic aspens start to change color, blanketing trails in a golden hue. Hike along the Burro Trail, which comes alive with dazzling fall colors, or make the trek to higher elevations at Mohawk Lake or Black Powder Pass, near the picturesque Boreas Pass. These scenic hikes make for perfect afternoon activities, affording the chance to soak in inspiring surroundings and get back to the resort area in time for a quiet dinner. For bargain accommodation rates, check out Mountain Thunder Lodge, which is conveniently located within walking distance to restaurants and shops.

Provo, Utah

Sundance Mountain Resort, which is known for its Western-style digs, its famous owner, Robert Redford, and its breathtaking scenery, is in high demand (with prices to match) in winter and summer. Come in the fall, however, and you'll find a resort all to yourself with stunning views of the Wasatch Range, affordable upscale lodging and plenty to do to pass the time. Sundance's art studio offers classes throughout the fall and the 10 miles of hiking trails are accessible directly within the resort property through mid-October. Plus, fly fishing on the Provo River is available year-round. For an unforgettable meal, dine in the historic Tree Room amid Native American art from Redford's private collection. Spend another day in the award-winning Spa at Sundance for an intimate treatment beside a crackling fireplace. Best of all, in fall, Sundance Mountain Resort offers lower nightly room and suite rates.

Smugglers' Notch, Vermont

New England's fall foliage is reason enough to plan a trip, withcharming countryside bed-and-breakfasts and hotels. And ski towns in Vermont feature beautiful fall colors as well – without the high price tags to match. Bring the whole gang on a fall weekend getaway to Smugglers' Notch, and enjoy the lowest package rates of the year. Known for its family-focused fun during the prime winter ski season and the popular summer months, Smugglers' Notch has some additional surprises in store for their autumn guests. AutumnFest packages include lodging in family-friendly condos equipped with kitchens, access to the resort's indoor heated swimming pools and AutumnFest children's programs. What's more, hiking and fishing abounds, with trails including portions of Vermont's famed Long Trail. Fish in local streams or opt to check out a fall fishing clinic. If you're traveling with kids in tow, Smugglers' all-inclusive packages available during the fall shoulder season offer an excellent value.

Mount Bachelor, Oregon

Because Mount Bachelor lacks on-site village, visitors often overlook this destination for off-season trips. But in reality, the adjacent town of Bend, Oregon, offers more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the U.S., plus award-winning restaurants and luxury accommodations that offer discounted rates during the shoulder season. Plus, the heat of the high desert subsides in September and October, making autumn an ideal time to take advantage of outdoor pastimes, such as mountain biking, hiking and golf between breaks at brew pubs. Spend your days hitting the links at the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course at Pronghorn Resort or the more relaxed greens at Black Butte Ranch. If golf isn't your thing, tag along a naturalist-guided outdoor tour with Wanderlust Tours in downtown Bend; the company offers everything from tours of the Cascade Lakes via kayak to cave spelunking. Plus, hiking trails abound, with the iconic Smith Rock State Park nearby. Spend a day in the quaint city of Sisters, Oregon, just 20 miles from Bend, and enjoy dinner and a movie at the Sisters Movie House. For optimal shoulder season lodging deals, make a reservation at Sunriver Resort, located near Mount Bachelor's slopes and the Cascade Lakes, which offers steeply discounted luxury duplex and lodge accommodations in autumn.

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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