Why you should visit a ski town now, before the snow sticks

Oct 11, 2019

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For travelers who prefer to remain in hibernation during the winter, it’s still not too late to book a fall vacation to a ski resort, before the snow really sticks. After all, not everyone is into shredding fresh powder and living the snow-bunny life. That’s why we’ve rounded up your best options for a last-minute autumn getaway. Get outside — while the temperatures are still tolerable — at these ski resorts around the U.S.

Related: Planning your ski trip with points and miles

Go hiking, biking and fly fishing in Aspen

Aspen Mountain is known for more than just being the nation’s most prestigious winter wonderland. The cozy-yet-upscale small town is a four-hour drive from Denver, Colorado — and also has its own airport, Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (ASE) — and offers outdoor activities year-round. There’s fly fishing, road biking and more for outdoor enthusiasts looking to adventure before the first snow falls. Or, go for a scenic hike by Cathedral Lake, American Lake, Hunter Creek and Crater Lake, an offshoot of the famous Maroon Bells (a photo opp destination known for its iconic triple-peak mountain lookout). Bookmark a slew of upcoming events scheduled prior to ski season, including several film festivals and screenings; live music; and fall dining deals at restaurants such as Ajax Tavern and Element 47 inside The Little Nell, the French Alpine Bistro, Tatanka, and Kenichi.

When it comes to lodging, now is the best time to stay at the brand-new, centrally located, 88-guest room W Aspen, which ranges from quad-queen bunkbeds to a presidential-style suite. The luxury “Sky High” design features a blend of influences, including those of the 19th-century Ute Indian silver mining movement and the swinging counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s.

Bunk up at the W Aspen (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Bunk up at the W Aspen (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Take advantage of rates from $249, or 70,000 points per night, right now before prices leap to $579+ per night (100,000 points) in December. Additionally, stay at the St. Regis Aspen for $319 to $429 per night, or 70,000 points, through November. In December, rooms cost between $599 and $699 per night, or 100,000 points.

Photo by C2 Photography
Photo by C2 Photography

Hot air balloons and mine and wine tours in Park City

Park City, Utah, the bustling mountain town located just 25 minutes from Salt Lake City, is a busy destination for fall travelers. For elevated panoramic views above the Kamas Valley, ascend on a hot air balloon over the Wasatch Mountains. If you’re a thrill-seeker, visit Utah Olympic Park, an Olympic training site that offers ziplining, alpine slides, extreme tubing and adventure courses. And, for something a bit more grounded, Park City Yoga Adventures includes standup paddleboading to a geothermal crater for a private session. Food and beverage enthusiasts can visit the Apline Distillery’s Pie Bar for a fun pairing of cocktails and desserts, along with the sommelier-led Fox School of Wine’s Mines & Wines tour around Park City’s historic sites.

Hilton Honors rewards members can secure stays at Waldorf Astoria Park City starting at 72,000 points per night through November, compared with up to 89,000 points beginning in December. And at The Lodge at Blue Sky, An Auberge Resort (which opened last May), guest room views of granite peaks start at $505 in October and November, and leap to $1,500+ per night in December, and $1,075 in January.

Ring in EPIC fall events and Oktoberfest at Peak Resorts

With Vail Resorts’ recent acquisition of Peak Resorts, vacationers headed to the northeast can now enjoy EPIC fall escapes — to Stowe, Okemo and Sunapee, in addition to Mount Snow, Hunter Mountain, Wildcat, Attitash and Crotched. For travelers headed to Okemo, indulge in the ultimate fall foliage viewing experience at Okemo State Forest in Vermont. Hit the fee-free paved Mountain Road, which provides an outstanding ride, bike or walk through the sugar maple-clad forest. Climb the fire tower stairs for 360-degree views of ranges including the Green Mountains, the Taconics and Adirondacks of New York, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Currently, for bookings prior to Dec. 15, travelers can earn a third night free at any Okemo lodging properties.

In Sunapee, just an hour drive from Okemo, celebrate the changing of the seasons on Columbus Day weekend at the Fall Festival. The event invites guests to an inflatable obstacle course, hay rides, sky rides, Adventure Park features and more. The same weekend, the Duck Drop invites visitors to drop rubber ducks on targets from the chairlift, while the Run Into Winter 5k offers a handful of prizes to those taking on the resort’s hiking and ski trails.

Additionally, Mount Snow in Vermont celebrates Oktoberfest — with plenty of beer, schnitzel and pumpkin-painting for the kids — on Columbus Day weekend, with rates as low as $124 at Area Lodge and $144 at Snow Lake Lodge for a two-night stay. Even still, Hunter Mountain engages in Oktoberfest festivities every weekend of the month with rotating themes and more.

Here’s a look at where you can find the best fall foliage in the Northeast and beyond.

Zipline through the foliage at Spruce in Stowe

The Lodge at Spruce Peak in Stowe, Vermont is another incredible venue for leaf-peeping. In fact, guests can hike among the spectrum of fall foliage, or take a gondola ride to the top of the mountain, followed by an adrenaline-pumping zipline through the stunning trees. Following the day’s activities, try out The Lodge’s newest progressive wellness offering: T-Shock Cryo Therapy. The Italian treatment allows guests to target individual areas of the body (as opposed to full-body chambers), to alleviate pain, tone the skin and freeze fat. Visitors can currently enjoy the VIP Vermont promotion, where guests can book any luxury guest room, suite or residence for 20% off — this includes the resort fee, breakfast for two and valet parking.

Related: The 7 best starter credit cards

Photo courtesy of Stowe Mountain Lodge
Photo courtesy of Stowe Mountain Lodge

Biking, beers and bratwurst at Gore Mountain

For an active outing in the fresh fall air, Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks of New York offers free mountain biking terrain access to keep skiers busy until the lifts open. Terrain is accessible through Garnet Hill Lodge and North River, as well. The Gore Mountain Harvest Fest is set to unfold Oct. 12 and 13, complete with offerings of bratwurst, seasonal beers, ziplining and more throughout the weekend.

Stay at the Courtyard Lake George starting at $105 per night in October and $96 per night in November (30,000 points per night), versus rate hikes of $171 in December and $232 in January (both 35,000 points per night). The Hilton Home2 Suites by Hilton Queensbury Glens Falls also offers low rates, from $109 in October (29,000 points) and $94 in November (25,000 points), before jumping to $158 per night (40,000 points) in January.

Photo by Matt Champlin / Getty Images.
Photo by Matt Champlin / Getty Images

Golf, shop, dine and imbibe in Holiday Valley

Fall in colorful Ellicottville, the home of Holiday Valley, offers plenty of trails for hiking and mountain biking, along with the Double Black Diamond Golf Course (open through Nov. 3) and Sky High Adventure Park (open weekends through Oct. 27). The Village welcomes visitors, as well, for shopping, chocolate tasting, dining and imbibing — there are two breweries, a winery and a distillery. Fall highlights include the Ellicottville Fall Festival on Oct. 12 and 13, which accommodates 275 vendors of arts and crafts, festival-style foods, live entertainment and chairlift rides from Holiday Valley Resort, and a ski swap and a birds-of-prey show. Come Nov. 8 and 9, visitors can toast to the Beer and Wine Weekend, complete with a Saturday tasting of 150 pours and a bonfire.

For guests who book at Wingate by Wyndham in Ellicottville, members receive 10% off, while 30,000 points earns you a free night (prices vary on weekdays versus weekends). Additionally, The Inn at Holiday Valley offers reduced fall rates after Oct. 13. Fall weekdays start at $135 (compared to ski season weekdays at $285) and fall weekends start at $186 (compared to ski season weekends at $375).

Bottom line

Popular ski resort destinations often have lots of amenities and convenient lodging that is much more affordable before the snow begins to stick. Luckily, many mountain towns offer a diverse line-up of activities all throughout the year, making fall the perfect time to sneak away to the lodge before it’s packed with skiers.

Feature photo by Jeremy Swanson.

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