Offseason in the Vail Valley means restaurant deals, fall colors, fishing, concerts and more |

Offseason in the Vail Valley means restaurant deals, fall colors, fishing, concerts and more

Leigh Horton and Kim Fuller
Special to the Daily
Special to the Weekly
Special to the Weekly |

In many places around the country, fall is a time for reflection, taking stock of the summer, appreciating the soft rhythm of a cozier season and sending children off to school.

Here in the Vail Valley, these months before the snow flies are an opportunity for locals to take over the town and play like tourists. It’s a great time of year to ditch the desk for a day to enjoy vacationing in your own backyard.

Looking for ways to play? Here’s five ideas to get you started:

1. Take advantage of offseason discounts

Vail Village is beautifully serene in the fall, making it easier to enjoy meals without the high-season bustle. While booking a table at top-tier eateries such as Sweet Basil can be a challenge in the summer or winter, finding a seat is usually a sure thing during quiet offseason months. Many of Vail’s restaurants offer discounts in the fall, along with timely, local ingredients — a perfect combination to celebrate living in the mountains.

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The third annual Vail Beaver Creek Restaurant Week runs from now through Sunday, Oct. 4, with participating restaurants offering special items and prix-fixe menus for a price point of $20.15. Participating dining and lodging establishments not offering a $20.15 special have put together some sort of numerically relevant deal, such as a menu item for $2.15 or a lodging special for $200.15.

“Restaurant Week was started in 2013 as a way to bring together the community as a whole and have everybody work together to create something special for people to look forward to during a slower time up here,” said Molly Middleton, marketing and events coordinator for Group970 Restaurants.

Book a staycation at a local hotel, like The Weston Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon, currently running a two-for-one fall deal, which includes a two-bedroom suite at one-bedroom pricing, two-for-one spa services at Spa Anjali and two-for-one breakfast at the Lift Cafe. The offer is good Friday, Oct. 16, through Wednesday, Dec. 16, and is $279 per night, with a two-night stay required (www.westin; 970-790-6000).

2. Take a hike

Vermont native and Vail Valley resident Abbey Dixon shared how her first fall hiking experience in Colorado was lackluster — comparing it to the well-known splendor of an East Coast autumn. Now, she said, she has grown to appreciate the multitude of fiery colors that shimmer on this state’s beloved aspen trees.

“You get up in some of these hikes and look over these valleys, and it’s a sea of gold and green,” said Dixon, a local hiking veteran of 15 years. “When you walk along the path, you walk along a path of gold and yellow. It’s wonderful.”

But she cautioned not to be completely distracted by the stunning vistas. Despite the cooler weather, basic safety is still very important. Taking appropriate shoes and water is just as important now as it is during the hot, dry summers.

“When I first moved here, it took me a while to realize we’re in a dry climate, and when you’re on these hikes and you stay hydrated, you feel so much better,” Dixon said.

Guided hikes from the Vail Nature Center, operated by Walking Mountains Science Center, take hikers on tours of this area’s prime fall foliage locations. On Tuesdays and Thursdays through October, hikers can be picked up throughout the Vail area and led on guided tours through the leaves, all while learning new information on local ecology and history (www.walking; 970-827-9725).

This summer, Vail Mountain also opened a new hiking center in Lionshead, offering trail information and guided hiking programs. The center is located near the Eagle Bahn gondola at the base of the mountain ( backpacking; 970-754-8245).

3. Catch and release

Fall fishing is legendary. The trout are large from a summer of eating but still hungry because winter is coming. That combination will yield a memorable day and brag-worthy pictures.

Dave Budniakiewicz, shop manager at Minturn Anglers, said local fishing on the Colorado and Eagle rivers is great right now, especially near the Kremmling area on the Colorado River and between Edwards and Eagle on the Eagle River.

“This is when some of the bigger fish start to come out of their hiding holes, as they are starting to get in their spawning mode,” Budniakiewicz said, “and so you have a pretty good shot at catching a big fish.”

Just don’t cast for those that are spawning, he asked of anglers.

“Please make sure that people know not to fish for spawning fish,” he said. “If you see fish all together in shallow, gravel areas, that aren’t scared of you and aren’t leaving when you are standing over them, leave them be because they are spawning fish. We need them to reproduce so we can have fun fishing for years to come.”

As most mountain rivers are now too low for rafting trips, wading into them is an available option, and the slower pace of the water makes it easier to appreciate the beautiful surroundings. Budniakiewicz said waders should wear studs or aluminum bars on their boots since it’s slippery in the waters right now.

Check the weather in advance, he said, to see what the air temperature projections are, dress in layers and avoid cotton at all costs (he recommends wearing synthetic base layers). Stock fly boxes with fall caddis and blue wing olive flies, and watch the elusive trout come to you (; 970-827-9500).

4. Go Underground

The Vail Valley Foundation’s Underground Sound Series promotes emerging artists, and the transferable pass offers a way for local and visiting music lovers to more affordably discover new bands. Underground Sound passes provide holders with access to seven shows, plus seven beverages, for $100.

Christopher Green, of Edwards, saw Susanne Vega last fall. He said he particularly appreciated the fact that even though the Vail Valley is small, it attracts musicians and culture that would primarily be seen in larger metropolitan areas.

“The Underground Sound was originally created with the idea of showing love to the locals,” said Ruthie Hamrich, marketing manager for the Vail Valley Foundation. “It’s a great time to discover and rediscover some new sounds.”

This year highlights bands from a variety of musical genres — everything from a rock band to a Japanese drumming band to an Austrian brass band — offering something for everyone. Be sure to check out special Underground Sound food and drink specials at The Dusty Boot on concert nights.

All the shows begin at 7:30 p.m., and single tickets (ranging from $20 to $30) are also available for sale online now ( underground-sound-series; 970-777-2015). Here’s a look at the lineup:

• Monday: The Slambovian Circus of Dreams

• Sunday, Oct. 4: Crystal Bowersox

• Monday, Oct. 12: Todo Mundo

• Tuesday, Oct. 20: Mnozil Brass

• Sunday, Oct. 25: Nagata Shachu

• Monday, Nov. 2: Penny and Sparrow

• Sunday, Nov. 8: Face Vocal Band

5. Prep for snow

The first frost is rapidly approaching, with the ski season closely in tow. Now is the time to prepare ski and snowboard equipment to be winter-ready. Between late-season bike rides and enjoying the restaurant specials, take your gear in for annual maintenance and do last-minute shopping for the latest ski clothing (or pull some 1970s ski gear from the closet to embarrass the kids).

Matt Carroll, general manager of Double Diamond Ski Shop in Vail, said a preseason tune is the best way to ensure a successful first day on the mountain. If skis and snowboards were not stored in wax through the summer, then it is a good idea to take them in for maintenance now. A wax and sharpening are the minimum recommendations.

“Usually early-season conditions make for snow that’s more firm, especially when it’s man-made” Carroll said. “So you need sharp edges for that. Also, early-season temperatures are often a lot cooler than it was at the end of the spring season, calling for two completely different types of wax.”

Carroll said to drop off skis and snowboards beginning the first week of October. Just don’t make a rookie move and wait until a week before the mountain opens.

For skiers, Carroll also recommended a binding check to ensure they are set to the correct DIN to determine proper release force on the bindings. And for skiers who have hit the slopes this summer in hiking boots, Carroll suggests getting a boot check, since hiking can change feet and make ski boots uncomfortable (www.double; 970-476-5500).

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