To live in a mountain town is to be bound to the change of the seasons. November snows invigorate the powder hounds as the sound of clicking ski boots return, and May thaws once again fills the rivers with rushing water and the trees with bright, green leaves. Each season complements one another in the duality of Aspen’s Ying and Yang. The seasons also bring visitors, and with them an apparently tireless stream of work that can unfortunately make the Valley’s residents almost forget about the beauty that surrounds them.
That is just one reason the off-season almost without exception brings with it a collective sigh of relief. Cold October weather and warm April snowmelt are inevitably welcomed by all. It is the sign of transition and of change and a tangible shifting of gears that rings in the next phase of the year. Autumn and Spring bring with them beautiful changes in the landscape. Golden leaves dust the mountain ridges as cold winds begin to blow, and new flowers emerge from the dirt to greet the coming warmth in the air. This also means the snow has grown soft or the days short, and Aspen’s wide range of visitors no longer arrive in droves.
It’s easy to forget that Aspen even exists at all in October or May. Many businesses close, seasonal workers depart, and activities that were enjoyed nearly every day become impossible. This brings with it a profound sense of relaxation for the Valley’s residents. In the off-season there is no friendly (and sometimes not so) competition with friends and colleagues about who can bag the fattest fish, deepest powder, biggest air, sweetest concert, wildest party or finest babes. Instead, many set out for month long travels, hone their crafts, or simply enjoy a good book. The off- season provides a break to the thrill of winter and summer that over time can make those seasons suffocating. However, in order to take in a truly calming breath in this lifestyle, it is almost obligatory to take an off-season trip.
Grab a group of your best friends, load your gear, and get out of the mountains. Explore the rivers, adventure in the valleys, and remove yourself entirely from the place you have inhabited over the last few months. Wyoming and its beautiful mountain vistas are only a state away. Utah and its variety of National Parks’ proximity to Aspen make it a delightful option for outdoors lovers seeking a change of pace. Colorado’s impressive peaks give way almost instantly to roiling desert and impressive mesas. Moab, the world-renowned Mecca of mountain biking, is only three-and-a-half hours away and is almost possible to visit as a day trip.
Off-season relaxation is, however, something that shouldn’t be rushed. Taking days on end to be in the outdoors far away from home allows one to step back and refocus for the coming months, an opportunity that almost all non-seasonally-focused workers never have. It’s an essential respite, and one that can bring friends closer together and create unforgettable memories. In many cases, simply never returning may appear like an attractive option.
The idea of an “off-season” is an ungrateful misnomer, thanks to these adventures and a much needed span of silence. Indeed, for those working in high-stress, tourist driven sectors, off-season is perhaps the most anticipated time of year of all. Somewhat unfortunately, Aspen’s off-season itself is shrinking due to the rise in Fall visitors seeking to take advantage of lower hotel rates and beautiful Autumn scenery. Various events in town keep visitors entertained and workers busy. In fact, October 2016’s occupancy report showed an equivalent number of hotel guests as what can be seen during the skiable Winter months, leaving many with the refrain “so much for our off-season.”
Indeed, despite the expected griping from residents, off-season does continue to exist. With it, the most addictive aspect of the seasonal work lifestyle remain strong. The opportunity to recharge, reset, and attack the next 5 months with a renewed vigor and excitement. Spring and Fall in Aspen are not forgotten seasons, but instead those which are seeking most desperately to be found.