Once the leaves fall and we officially enter the shoulder season, grasses in all shades of gold cover the valley. The stark, barren beauty and quiet calm of this season feel introspective. There are a few times of year in Steamboat that are like a pause, an in between time. I love this time of year, when town is blissfully peaceful and all the busyness subsides.

Before the winter frenzy of snow removal, powder mornings, races to the gondy and obsessive storm checking, locals can do their thing at a slower clip. Town is quiet. Off-season specials abound. It’s still warm enough to ride your bike downtown for happy hour or a night out. At least it was on Saturday (with a down vest, jacket, gloves, hat and scarf, that is).

Hiking on the mountain yesterday, I could see a distinct change from last Sunday. Fields of golden grass spread out as far as the eye could see, and the sky was such a vivid shade of blue between the bare branches. The trail to Thunderhead had its wet and snowy patches but was still in great hiking shape. We could hear groups of disc golfers celebrating their last day on the Thunderhead course before taking down the baskets for the season. Bikers on their way to ride found the trails were still worth the climb.

On our way home Saturday night, we saw little trick-or-treaters racing from house to house as neighbors gathered to host them. More small neighborhood celebrations are cropping up around Steamboat, preludes to the big event on Tuesday. The way home was a bit chillier. We even encountered a good-sized black bear on the bike path. The bear looked curiously at us as we did at her. It’s the closest I’ve been to a bear maybe ever. None of us were particularly fearful, and she soon ran off in search of sustenance for her long winter nap. I heard in a recent news story that the acorns weren’t as plentiful this summer, so the bears are foraging closer to town in a last-ditch attempt to fill up for winter.

Friends trick or treating in the neighborhood

We kick off the holiday season tomorrow, and there’s fun for everyone at the Halloween Stroll downtown on Halloween night, when the businesses roll out the candy and families deck out in costumes. Whether you are a spectator sipping happy hour cocktails or on a candy-gathering mission, you’ll witness the very best part of Halloween — all those cute kids in their costume creations.

When I asked a friend’s daughter what she did with all her Halloween candy, she told me she gives it to the Switch Witch, who trades her for a gift. Who knew? As a kid who collected a pillowcase full of loot on Halloween night, traded my friends and sisters for my favorite varieties and ate every piece, I love the idea of sparing kids the cavities and stomachaches. Here’s hoping all the Switch Witches out there don’t eat so much candy that their ski pants don’t fit. Just sayin’.

Happy Halloween!

 

Jessica Berg, Alpine skier

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