Canyons' lift-serviced bike park offers man-made features to challenge the riders of all skill levels. Photo courtesy of Canyons Resort and Scott Markewitz.

It's no secret: As the days get shorter during fall, resorts cut down their summer operations to match. But just because nature starts slowing down doesn’t mean you have to. Head up to these resorts this autumn for summer’s thrills without its faults.

Autumn represents a sort of climatological limbo, a no man’s land where there's neither snow nor long warm days. The kids are back in school, the lifts only run on the weekends, and the leaves burst into crimson and gold largely without an attending audience—but therein lies the opportunity.

Travel agents dub this period, “Shoulder Season,” and in Utah it marks the ebb of tourists after summer’s flow. The void of vacationers does more than lure the occasional savvy traveler however, it transforms autumn from seasonal white noise to the ideal time for locals to enjoy their Wasatch backyard.

Canyons
canyonsresort.com

Utah’s largest winter resort also has the most hiking and biking trails within its borders. But the world-class caliber of that trail system may surprise you. Snaking down Canyons’ slopes is the state’s only lift-serviced bike park. A sprawling course of jumps, drops and stunts encourages riders to get rowdy as they descend 3,000 feet. While the bike park’s traffic falls off, the zip tours are what make Canyons a crucial destination late in the season. The thrill of soaring across the canyon on a 2,000-foot-long zip line is awesome at any time of year, but gliding over an autumn patchwork of leaves is unforgettable. In addition to these two offerings, visitors can also schedule horseback riding, hot air balloon tours and guided hikes across the resort’s nine individual peaks.

Park City Mountain Resort
parkcitymountain.com

From The Legacy Launcher, a trampoline/bungee harness combo that bounces participants as high as they’re willing to go, to the Little Miners Amusement Park, PCMR has dozens of family-friendly activities to enjoy. The Adventure Zone, miniature golf, a climbing wall and a number of other kid-friendly attractions await families looking for some fall fun. Visitors can also take advantage of late season discounts to strap into the Alpine Coaster, the Alpine Slide, and the ZipRider. Riding any of these is a rush, but immersing their coiling tracks in explosions of autumn color dramatically improves the experience-an experience you paid much less for by taking advantage of PCMR's late season discounts.


Wildflower tobogganing at Park City Mountain Resort. Photo courtesy of Park City Mountain Resort.

Solitude
skisolitude.com

Despite years of locals touting the resort, Solitude, as its name indicates, is still one of the Wasatch's best-kept secrets. The winter crowds at Solitude are modest, the summer traffic mild and the autumn wilderness is virtually untouched, as if the flora and fauna popped right out of the ground minutes before you arrived. The autumn changes the resort into an abandoned luxury—with 18 holes of disc golf, excellent fishing, scenic lift rides and the occasional child zipping down the trails on a mountain scooter. Nothing makes the undeniable beauty of an alpine autumn more accessible than a ski resort.

Snowbird
snowbird.com

Challenge yourself to the Snowbird ropes course this fall. Participants must navigate obstacles while swaying high off the ground on rope bridges. If discovery and science are on your list, head to the mining sluice where kids can pan for gold and other gemstones. An alpine slide, a mountain coaster, zip lines, climbing walls and bounce playgrounds round off Snowbird's offerings for family fun. The virtues of shorter lines and fall weather hardly convey the beauty of standing at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon as the walls of autumn colors splash down to the creek that carved its walls eons ago. Let the prospect of unparalleled vistas at Snowbird propel you up the canyon this fall.


Snowbird Oktoberfest: blossoms and brews. Photo courtesy of Snowbird.

Next>>>Part 2: Fall Festivities, The Pro

Back>>>Read other stories in our October 2013 issue.