There is an ebb and flow to life in mountain towns. During the high season, Aspen, Snowmass, and Ketchum flourish – there are endless events, powder days, and a general hustle and bustle. But as the seasons wane, the pulse slows down and they revert to the charming small-town feeling of past eras. The streets get quieter and you have more room to explore without crowds. There are ups and downs to the off-season rhythm, but no matter what month you come to the mountains there are always adventures to be had!
As the leaves change to gold, the pull to the mountains is as irresistible as the peak of summer or winter. Fall, like spring, is considered a “shoulder season” and a time-honored tradition of a slower pace of life in towns like Aspen, Snowmass, and Ketchum. But that doesn’t mean everything closes shop, there are concerts, film festivals, art museums, menu specials, and even raucous Halloween festivities! A mellow energy pervades and locals get out to explore alongside visitors. There are deals to be had on airfare, lodging, and food without the bustling crowds of peak season.
During shoulder season, you are as likely to have brisk bluebird days, contrasting the yellow leaves, as you are to see the first snows of the season. Leaf peepers flock to the high elevations of the Rocky Mountains in hopes of timing the colorful transition to autumn. And while driving around the back-country roads might offer great vistas, hiking or biking among the golden tunnels of Aspen is a unique way to experience the season up close. But the seasons in the mountains can change at any moment, making it hard to pin down the best time to see the fall colors. Cooler temperatures at night can mean the leaves change in September, October or even into November. The long dry summer means this year the change is later than usual, sliding into auburns and ochers rather than the saturated green hues of other years. As the temperatures drop, the next snow could come with any storm. The first hint of white on a fall morning is truly a breathtaking sight. Just remember when packing to bring warm layers, and even a snow jacket so you can get out and explore in any climate.
Make sure to put a trip to the Maroon Bells on your off-season bucket list in Aspen and Snowmass. No matter what the weather, the Bells are a sight to behold with yellow trees in the foreground or frosty peaks up high. And to make the drive even more memorable, you can sign up to test drive the new Audi e-tron to take for a spin to the Bells. Check-in with the concierge for availability when you arrive at the Limelight to reserve a drive. If you’re staying with us in Ketchum, set your fall adventure sights on the White Clouds loop and take in a spectacular view of the foliage on the valley floor.
While you don’t need to make a reservation at restaurants or deal with a wait list in autumn, it is always prudent to call ahead and make sure they are open. Some restaurants take a brief hiatus, while others might close for just one night a week. Look for off-season specials, like a locals pre-fixe or bar menu deals. Jimmy’s, an Aspen favorite, closes their doors for a week or two while their employees travel the world for new cocktail inspiration. But while they are open they do a pop-up Thai inspired menu, found only during the off-season. Or, visit the Snowmass Village institution il Poggio for comfort Italian food on a chilly autumn night. In the heart of Ketchum, Enoteca stays open year-round, with a lively bar and delicious dishes seven nights a week.
Whether the trees are golden, or the peaks are turning white, off-season is the perfect time for a getaway to the mountains. Make sure to enjoy the quieter pace while you can, because once the lifts start spinning, they swell with powder hounds and snow bunnies looking to hit the slopes. Deals like 20% for Colorado residents at the Limelight Aspen and Snowmass, and the same rate for Idaho locals at Ketchum, make it even sweeter to see the seasons change.