The cold, snowy months of the U.S. winter feel a lot brighter when you hit the ski slopes. But traveling to the best resorts at the height of the season also means you'll have to contend with crowded slopes and high prices.
If you want to miss those crowds, and don’t mind not actually getting to ski, consider visiting during shoulder season (from now until around mid-to-late-November) when there are still lots of activities on offer, but the resorts will be quieter and the prices lower.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
This year, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort was ranked number one "Overall Resort in North America" in the annual SKI Magazine Reader’s Poll, so this one is at the top of our wish list this year.
Spring Creek Ranch is offering a "Fifth Season Get Away" package that starts at $170 per night.The offer is valid from October 11th through December 15th (Thursdays through Saturdays only), and offers luxury accommodations in rustic cabins and access to the resort's full-service spa. While at the resort, you can book one of their wildlife safaris: fall is when wildlife are starting to migrate south, and onto Spring Creek's wildlife sanctuary.
The Wyoming Inn is offering a package that includes a wildlife safari in the deal. The "Fall Wildlife" package, available October 10th to November 30th, 2013, includes three nights lodging and a full-day ecotour for two by local sustainable tour company Eco-Tour Adventures, for $389.99 per person. Guests can track wolves, bears, elk, moose, bison, bald eagles and more on a guided tour through Grand Teton National Park's pristine alpine terrain, visiting off-the-beaten-path wildlife hotspots and following unmarked dirt roads in a four-wheel drive vehicle.
Telluride may not be one of the most bustling ski destination, but that is what gives it its charm. It was once a gold mining boom town and its Main Street still evokes the Old West - in fact, Butch Cassidy pulled off his first heist here, at the San Miguel Valley Bank. Set atop the gondola in Mountain Village, the luxury Hotel Madeline Telluride is currently offering a fall sale with mid-October rates starting at $158 (for comparison, December rates start at $199).
Park City, Utah
From the Sundance Kid himself, Robert Redford's Sundance Resort offers a "Fall Colors" special through October on select dates. The package includes lodging in a private mountain cottage, one scenic lift ride per person, and one Sundance Deli meal per person. Rates start at $249 per night. With the leaves turning and activities such as mountain biking and hiking on the 400 miles of trails, fall is a great time to visit Park City, without the chaos of the film festival.
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
New Hampshire's largest ski resort, Bretton Woods was one of the first in the country to offer high-altitude Nordic skiing and offers early and late season terrain. Still, if you arrive too early to enjoy the powder, you can try your hand at golf instead with the Omni Mount Washington Resort's "Stay Here, Play Free!" package (available Sundays through Thursdays).
The package is available through October 31st and includes accommodation in a Deluxe room, and one of the following activities per room, per night: 18-holes of golf with cart, a 3-hour Canopy Tour, or a 50-minute treatment in the Spa. Rates start at $229 per night.
The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, set mid-mountain and surrounded by forest, is offering a "Fall Spa Getaway for Two" package, which is valid from September 22nd to November 21st and starts at $449 per night. The package includes accommodation in a Deluxe guestroom or in a suite, as well as access to the spa and a spa treatment (massage, facial, or mani/pedi) of your choice. While not treating yourself at the spa, you can watch the leaves turn along the many hiking trails through the Sierras, or visit the historic downtown of nearby Truckee.
Stowe Mountain Lodge, located at the base of Mount Mansfield within Stowe Mountain Resort, is offering guests a seasonal package deal named "Fall into Stowe, Vermont." The package includes breakfast for two in their Solstice Restaurant and a 20% discount on guided hikes. Guests also have access to the on-site spa and can borrow one of the resort's own Mercedes-Benzes and take it for a whirl through the changing colors of the countryside. Rates for the package start at $279 per night.