Fall: A golden time in Summit County
September 4, 2010
Fall in Summit County is more than that distinct chill you feel in the air. It’s a general buzz of excitement, which grows louder and stronger as various venues start offering ski sales and showing ski movies – and as Arapahoe Basin and Loveland launch us into ski season as soon as the machine-made snow will stick.
Locals consider the period between about mid-September to mid-November “shoulder season,” where tourism slows and residents wind down from an active summer and gear up for ski season, both literally and figuratively.
September and October bring ski sales and swaps, like Breckenridge’s Ski Swap sponsored by Team Summit Sept. 17-19. The weekend also happens to coincide with the town’s Oktoberfest, an annual rite of passage for the High Country hamlet of Breckenridge.
Keystone Resort amps up ski fever the earliest, with its Adrenaline Movie Series, which started Friday and runs at 7:30 p.m. every Friday through the month of September at the new Warren Station. Sept. 10, Toy Soldiers Productions presents “Come Find Us,” a high-definition ski and snowboard film featuring freestyle terrain in Montana. Sept. 17, check out Level 1’s “Eye Trip,” highlighting skiing’s counterculture. The last Friday of the month, catch Standard Films’ “The Storming,” a high-def snowboard flick. The movies are free, and Keystone welcomes enthusiasts of all ages.
While many people have their eye on the wheel of the chairlift, waiting for it to turn, others thoroughly soak in fall in the High Country. Perhaps the most stunning aspect of the season is the turning of the aspen leaves, in mid- to late September, depending on when Ullr begins creeping in. Each year offers its own unique experience – sometimes, the golden splendor lasts for what seems like weeks, whereas other years, wind, snow or colder temperatures can make fall’s display a rapidly passing fad, which only lasts days.
Nature lovers also enjoy hiking throughout Summit because the crowds often thin – and you can catch the beginning of the aspens’ golden glow at higher elevations, before it reaches the general population. Summit County offers at least 50 hiking trails. Both Maryann Gaug’s book, “Hiking Colorado’s Summit County Area,” and Mary Ellen Gilliland’s book, “The New Summit Hiker and Ski Touring Guide,” are excellent resources to point people in the right direction. They’ll lead explorers to mining town ruins, breathtaking aspen groves, waterfalls, lakes and streams. They also provide rating systems and estimated route times.
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For hunters, Summit County acts as the gateway to hunting grounds. A few key guides, like Gore Range Outfitters, Copper Mountain Stables and Bear Mountain Ranch (in Kremmling) offer backcountry trips, which give hunters better odds at finding deer, elk, mountain goat and other big game. Most outfitters see that hunters stalk the woods in style – with meals, tents and hot water showers, but they also offer the option of pick-up and drop-off, allowing hunters to be more independent.
In town, the best thing about fall lies in discounts. By now, most locals, and many visitors, are trained to page through the Daily, looking for tempting two-for-one deals from great restaurants throughout Summit County. It’s often a chance to try high-end meals without the high cost.