Photo: den781

Why It's Still Worth Visiting a Ski Town During "Mud Season."

United States Ski and Snow Outdoor Budget Travel
by Erin Lizzo May 24, 2018

Every winter, people migrate to ski towns to play in the snow. Then, inevitably, April rolls around, and the weather starts to wane towards spring. So what happens when the ski season is over, but summer hasn’t yet begun?

When you ask most locals in a ski town what they plan to do during mud season, the common answer is “leave.” But there are benefits to visiting these small towns during the off-season. Not everyone’s a skier, and ski towns have evolved to accommodate both people who are active and enjoy a full day of skiing and those who would prefer just to relax and take in the view.

After ski season, you can still eat at great restaurants, shop at local boutiques (many of which will have major sales once the snow melts), and seek out fun nighttime activities. Take a look at these five ski towns that have more going for them than just snow days.

1. Explore offseason activities in Fernie, British Columbia

While Warren Miller essentially put Fernie, British Columbia on the map as an extreme backcountry skiing destination, locals in the area have a secret. This is one of the top places to go mountain biking and hiking in British Columbia. It’s also a short three-hour drive from the airport at Whitefish, Montana, which is another excellent off-season mountain biking spot. Check out the site Fernie Lucky 7’s for more information on biking events.

Where to stay:

Book at a room at the fantastic Island Lake Lodge. This spot caters mainly to cat skiers in the winter and offers discounted rates to summer travelers. Start your morning with a tranquil walk about the Island Lake and end your day in the private hot tub on your hotel room deck.

Where to eat and drink:

Mud Season

Photo: Himalayan Spice Bistro

Head out at night for a stroll down 2nd Ave and you’ll find everything from Himalayan food to pizza. Mornings are best when you start out with a bagel and latte from Big Bang Bagels. Get there early to avoid waiting in line.

2. Enjoy a luxury holiday in Vail, Colorado

Mud season

Photo: Welcomia

Even with plenty of advanced planning and scouting for discounted tickets and cheap airfare, ski vacations are expensive. Once you factor in a lift ticket, hotel, ski rental, and three meals, the cost starts to add up. The average cost of spending just one-day skiing in Vail, Colorado is around $800 per person. Traveling to a ski town in the offseason is a different experience. Often you’ll find inexpensive last minute deals for flights and lodging. This allows you to stay in some of the luxury resorts at a fraction of the price. Sure, you’ll miss spending eight hours out in the snow, but the spa and the hot tub will still be there for you.

Where to stay:

Vail offers an endless number of luxury accommodations. Look for a room at The Sebastian or The Four Seasons to stay close to the mountain and Vail Village.

Where to eat and drink:

One of the benefits of spending time in Vail Village is that you can walk everywhere. For drinks before dinner, head over to Root and Flower for a glass of wine. Their menu includes over 50 different wines by the glass. Follow up with a casual dinner at Mountain Standard, where most of the food is prepared over an open fire.

3. Avoid the crowds in Tahoe, California

Mud season

Photo: Topseller

Sometimes, during ski season in Tahoe, it can feel like you’re spending more time waiting in line than hitting the powder. Between sitting in ski traffic, waiting for your friends to get their gear together in the parking lot, and drifting through the lift line, the crowds often make the experience feel frustrating and overwhelming. Fast forward to May or June, and you rarely need to wait for a seat at your favorite restaurant, parking spaces are abundant, and the whole town seems to exhale and relax.

Where to stay:

Check out Basecamp Tahoe South on the California/Nevada state line, to experience the meaning of “adult summer camp.” You’ll be just a few blocks from the lake and, who knows, your camp crush might initiate some night swimming. If so, bring matching wetsuits; that water is chilly.

Where to eat and drink:

Of the same name and just down the street is Basecamp Pizza Company. They’re known as a relaxing hang out in Heavenly Village.

4. Experience that college town in summer vibe in Breckenridge, Colorado

mud season

Photo: Nicki Rose

Mud season in Breckenridge allows you to experience another side of the small town — people are relaxed, more friendly, and willing to spend time chatting with strangers. Ski season is the time when many of the local businesses and employees make the majority of their annual salary. So, although people in the service and retail industry will be polite, there is a rushed feeling of urgency during peak season. While people in such small towns are generally friendly year round, you’re more likely to have a relaxed, meaningful conversation when it’s less crowded. You might learn about a great happy hour special or a locals-only mountain biking trail that is dry and ready to ride even in mud season.

Where to stay:

Breckenridge is one of those ski towns that has a tightly knit, year-round community. For this reason, it’s fun to stay at an Airbnb in a neighborhood to tap into that local vibe. Stay at beautiful a condo within walking distance of downtown and the mountain for the same price as a hotel.

Where to eat and drink:

This is an eating and drinking town. For an upscale meal, make a reservation at Modis. If you’re more into relaxing with a decent margarita, stop by Rita’s on Thursday night to try your hand at trivia.

5. Celebrate “Beach Days” at Arapahoe Basin, Colorado

Snowboard Colorado keep locals and visitors up to date regarding the final days of powder, but the A-Basin is a rare novelty of a resort that is actually able to stay open until early July due to its high elevation. Show up in your favorite costume and join the “beach parties” in the parking lot while watching those who are brave enough ski down the mountain in bikinis and other summer-inspired attire.

Where to stay:

Check out the Timbers and Lone Eagle condos for special seasonal rates.

Where to eat and drink:

Stop in at local favorite the Goat Soup & Whiskey Tavern for a hearty bowl of soup and a warm shot of whiskey. They also host live music several nights a week.

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