Appreciating Fall and the Ski Town Shoulder Season

The other week, before the first October snow fell, I was out on a run at my local trail system that I can hit on my lunch break. The area is called Round Valley, and it sits right in the center of Park City and boasts panoramic views of the Wasatch mountains. And on this casual run, I began to grow more and more of an appreciate of this time a year. In ski towns, we call it the Shoulder Season, which is the time between our popular tourism seasons of Winter and Summer. And the longer I live here, the more I’ve grown to love this season more and more.

The most obvious difference is the lack of crowds! On my entire run, I passed maybe 1 or 2 other trail users on bikes and saw only one vehicle at the trailhead. Don’t get me wrong, I love how this towns population uses their trails, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy having it all to myself. If only for an hour. It was weird not having to worry about a biker flying down the trail and having to jump out of the way for them, or having to ask as politely as possible to pass a group of hikers that I’m running behind. It was nice. But beyond the trails and the mountains, the town feels significantly quieter. The grocery store parking lots are desolate and the time it takes to drive through town is much quicker.

Beyond the people, or lack thereof, the seasonal weather itself is fantastic. After a long, snowy winter, November to May, summer peaks it’s head in for just a few months. And it’s following those hot summer days, comes just a few weeks of actual fall, before winter comes back around. It’s these cool weeks where each day starts out near freezing temps, reminding you each day of what is just around the corner, followed by daily highs in the 70s. That means each day you can go out for a morning run or ride on the trails without the sweltering heat of the Utah sun, or wait until the evening and be in shorts and a T-shirts. Either way, you can be assured that there will sunny skies and dry weather. I can’t remember a Fall with any rain in the past 5 years.

I think most of all, fall signifies a time of change in a ski town. Not just of the pending ski season, but a change in so much more. We put away the bikes after one last ride, and get out our ski gear in preperation for the looming feet of Utah’s powdery snow storms. We wrap up all our cabin projects before the yard gets burried under snow. We try to get in the last few trail runs on the dirt, before that transitions to crunching away on top of the hard packed snow. Unfortunately, unlike other places we live, our fall lasts only a few weeks, and because of how fleeting it is, makes me appreciate it more and more each year. But now it’s time to get stoked on snow!

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