Ski resorts are naturally packed in the winter, and most have developed robust summer programs as well. While peak season is when the peaks are open for skiing and snowboarding, visiting a ski resort during its “shoulder seasons” in the fall and spring can be a great getaway that’s significantly less expensive. The setting is still gorgeous, the weather is moderate, and many summer activities (golf, hiking, biking, etc.) are often still enjoyable — but the accommodation prices are reduced, and you can usually find some great restaurant deals.
Explore these 5 popular ski spots for a bargain of a vacation in the shoulder seasons.
1. Blue Mountain, Ontario
Located about 2 hours north of Toronto, Blue Mountain Resort is home to Ontario’s highest vertical ski hill in the winter, and the crowds come when the snow flies. But it’s easy to find something physical and fun to do in spring and fall, from mountain biking and zip-lining to high ropes, Segway tours and hiking trails. Venture out a little bit from town and follow the year-round foodie feasting of the Apple Pie Trail, tasting the best that the region offers. Spas don’t have an offseason, and Scandinave Spa offers a complete hot pool/cold dip/sauna/steam experience that will leave you rejuvenated before you settle in for a stay at the village’s flagship inn, The Westin Trillium House.
Vail has many “off-peak” specials for accommodations in the spring and fall. Also take advantage of all the area’s top-notch restaurants to enjoy the best food among the best fall foliage. Work off those meals on foot, bike or horseback as you explore the many trails at the base of and all the way up Vail Mountain. Those wanting to stay overnight can take advantage of the Lodge at Vail’s offer to earn 1 free winter night with a 3-day stay until Nov. 21.
3. Breckenridge, Colorado
There’s gold in them there hills … well, in the water, at any rate. Gold was discovered in the Blue River in 1859, and today, Breckenridge remains the largest historic district in Colorado. The Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival (Oct. 24-26 this year) includes craft spirit tastings, cocktails, snacks by artisanal chefs and live music, but there’s also a historical saloon walking tour, distillery tours — and a hangover brunch to end it all. Stop in at the Gold Pan Saloon, which was established in 1879 for the gold prospectors and is still in operation today. Take one of many historic tours or hikes to learn all about Breckenridge’s glittering history. Stay at one of many ski resorts in the area, including Mountain Thunder Lodge.
4. Sunshine Village, Banff, Alberta
The shoulder season is short but sweet at Sunshine Village because it enjoys the longest non-glacial ski season in Canada. But when the snow has finally melted, White Mountain Adventures offers guided hikes through the breathtaking Sunshine Meadows from late June until early autumn (weather permitting). In the fall, the trees turn from gold to crimson, offering terrific leaf-peeping opportunities. The larch trees turn the entire valley yellow, making it the most popular time for hikers. Sunshine Village has shops with the gear you need for all of your hiking adventures, as well as a range of dining options, including an outdoor village barbecue that normally runs until the first week in October.
The state of Vermont is well-known for its scenic terrain and idyllic villages, and these are brought to colorful life in both the spring and fall. Located about 10 minutes from the village of Stowe and Mount Mansfield is the Trapp Family Lodge, which is home to world-class cross-country ski trails in the winter. In the off-peak season, though, this lodge — established by the singing von Trapp family of Sound of Music fame — still boasts hiking trails, an on-site brewery, a restaurant featuring local and Austrian fare, as well as historical nods to the family’s history through photographs and film. The spa, heated swimming pools and yoga studios make it the perfect getaway for busy couples and families. Its Fall Foliage Fun Festival is a highlight, but biking, hiking, field games, disc golf and bird watching are always available.