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8 Activities for the Colorado Winter Off-Season

By Emily Krempholtz

As temperatures drop and snow begins to blanket the Rockies, it’s getting to be that time of year where your camping gear gets stashed away in a closet or the attic with your summer clothes, but winter sports haven’t quite kicked into high gear yet. Yep, it’s that awkward fall off-season, but luckily for you, Colorado has still got plenty of activities to keep you busy and entertained, and here are just a few:

Hiking & Snowshoeing

Depending on where you do it, hiking is still possible year-round in Colorado. Vistas you’ve seen dozens of times in the summer take on a brand new level of beauty in the winter when they are blanketed with fresh snow and framed against that gorgeous blue Colorado sky. Many kinds of wildlife are also very active in the winter, which means you might spot some elk, mule deer, coyote, ermine, or moose on your adventures, not to mention a host of birds. But when the snow gets too deep for your hiking boots, it’s time to break out those snowshoes or cross-country skis. Invest in a pair of your own, or rent them from a local sporting goods shop, but either way, you’ll see the pristine beauty of the mountains in a way you’ll never forget—and get a fair bit of exercise in the mix as well.

Early Season Skiing & Snowboarding

Colorado has two major tourist seasons—summer and winter—and while many major resorts won’t be opening for several weeks yet, there are some that are already up and running for the season. Especially after the 2019-2020 season was cut short due to pandemic shutdowns, winter sports enthusiasts have been itching to get back out there and make up for lost time. And with more than two dozen ski resorts in our state borders, you’ll have your pick this winter when it comes to hitting the slopes, whether you’re looking to hike it uphill or you’re a beginner looking for lessons. Get a head start with resorts like Wolf Creek or A-Basin, which will soon be joined by many others as snow continues to fall. For a more detailed idea of what skiing and snowboarding will look like amidst COVID regulations and pandemic precautions, check out our guide to the 20/21 ski season in Colorado.

Brewery Tours

If you’re looking for something to warm you up or keep you out of the cold, then the off-season might be a good time for you to explore some of Colorado’s craft breweries or distilleries. We’ve literally got hundreds of them, so take your pick, whether you stay close to home or your hotel, or venture out to a different part of the state. Get yourself a designated driver, or find a service like Summit County Brewery Tours to drive you safely from place to place, and start sampling one of Colorado’s most famous products. Either way, get as much last-minute fun as you can out of patio season before it’s gone. You’ll thank us later.

off season in colorado

Museums

Another great activity for the cold averse is visiting a museum. Colorado is full of them—from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum, visiting a cultural center is a fantastic way to spend a day learning. Bring the kids for a homeschool experience like no other, or go on your own for a relaxing solo excursion that will relieve some of your stress. Due to COVID-19, many museums have shorter hours, and all of them will require you to wear a mask inside, so please plan accordingly.

Shopping

The start of the winter season is a fantastic time to get some holiday shopping done. Small local businesses need our help more than ever this year, so do your part by strolling down the sidewalk in a local business district (perhaps with a cup of coffee or hot cocoa from a local cafe!) and buying books, clothes, art, souvenirs, and gifts from a local business this season.

Take a Weekend Trip

We’re in that weird time of year when summer tourism has wound down but the winter crowd hasn’t yet picked up, so hotels, bed and breakfasts, and Airbnbs are way cheaper than usual. Take advantage of this by booking a weekend away with your honey, or taking the kids out for a fun few days of adventure. Check out a part of Colorado you’ve never explored before, and see what it has to offer! It’s the perfect time to book a fantastic hotel room or cabin on the cheap, and not just because you’re going stir crazy with 2020 madness and need to get out of the house, though if that’s part of it, we’re right there with you!

off season in colorado

Head South

Okay, not too far south—we still think you should stay in Colorado, because let’s be real here, Colorado is great. But if the early cold is starting to get to you, there are plenty of places in the state where you can squeeze in a few more warm days. Have you ever visited the Four Corners region of the state, where you can stand at the border of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico? Or what about the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument? In some of Colorado’s warmer areas, you’ll not only be able to stave off the cold, but you’ll also be able to grab a few more days of your favorite summer sports, like mountain biking, climbing, or hiking.

National Parks

The busiest time of year to visit a national park is typically in July—from there, guest counts start to drop month after month. Visiting a national park during the off-season means fewer crowds, more wildlife, and pristine, peaceful scenery. While many of them are still in a phased reopening due to COVID—most notably, the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde are still closed—or currently closed due to wildfire activity (Rocky Mountain National Park, we’re looking at you!), late autumn is a fantastic time to check out Colorado’s national park scene. You can explore Great Sand Dunes without scorching your feet, bask in the sunshine at sunny southern Mesa Verde, or watch the stars without the haze of the summer air at Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

off season in colorado

Winter is Coming

It’s always sad to say goodbye to our favorite summer activities. While winter brings with it a whole new world of excitement on the slopes and in the high country, this in-between phase can make you feel a little listless. But as always, Colorado has got you covered with fun activities and opportunities to keep you entertained all season long.

 

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