By Beth Buehler
Mountain towns operate on a seasonal clock that is different from cities, plains and other parts of Colorado like the Western Slope. This may affect your Colorado mountain destination wedding planning as well. If the mountain community happens to be a ski town, much of what is open and closed syncs with ski resort schedules, especially for the winter. But much about when a new season arrives and ends naturally has to do with climate.
Winter/Spring Wonderland – These two seasons pretty much are one and the same in the Colorado mountains. Brides and grooms will be blessed with a beautiful white background in the form of snow if choosing a winter/spring mountain wedding, meaning from mid-November or a little later through sometime in April, depending on when ski resorts and attractions close. The best rates will be in late November, early December, January, early February, late March (if it doesn’t cross over with spring breaks and Easter), and April. Holidays and any long weekend will be more expensive in winter and spring. Late March and April are favorites temperature wise for those who like warmer, sunny days.
This can be a stunning time to marry for those who love winter and want to integrate things like a cozy ski lodge reception, fur muffs as part of the attire and bridal bouquets, lots of warm drinks and maybe even fondue stations, a sleigh ride arrival of the bride and groom after photos on a chairlift or gondola, and many fun activities for guests like tubing, sledding, ice skating, skiing, snowboarding and dog sledding. Earlier this year, right around New Year’s, I was staying at dude ranch resort and loved seeing all the amazing touches for a winter wedding that was underway. It’s also a beautiful time in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, which doesn’t have a ski area and is quieter in winter than summer or fall.
Sensational Summer – A popular saying among Colorado mountain town locals is “I came for the winter and stayed for the summer.” Colorado mountain summers are truly blissful with temperatures that don’t often cross over 80 degrees and an abundance of green and wildflower-laden landscapes, often with lightly snowcapped peaks until July and sometimes beyond. Great for photos!
Colorado ski towns like Aspen, Snowmass, Steamboat Springs, Keystone, Copper Mountain, Vail, Telluride, Winter Park and Breckenridge have truly become year-round destinations for weddings, so don’t necessarily expect cheaper rates in summer but the larger, full-service hotels at ski area bases may have more availability in summer versus winter. The summer season is considered to be from Memorial Day weekend through August. Best rates will be from late May through middle of June and late August.
Make sure to check the local event calendar as there will be some weekends that sell out for major festivals. However, it also can be fun for guests to take part in local events before and after the wedding festivities. In Crested Butte, I’ve seen a wedding party take part in Crested Butte Bike Week, with matching T-shirts and the bride in a veil for the World Chainless Championships. There also is biking, hiking, horseback riding, rafting, kayaking, adventure parks, national parks and more to keep guests enjoying a destination wedding.
Options for venues increase as wedding and event lawns and other venues have outdoor spaces to offer. It also can be pleasant to have the wedding and reception outdoors and move indoors for dinner and dancing as the sun goes behind the mountains. Or have a brunch or barbecue lunch on a terrace. Ranches also can offer a lot of options in summer. Just know that some go into all-inclusive dude ranch mode for June through August.
Colorful Fall – Travelers have discovered the merits of fall in the Colorado mountains, so fall weekends can be busy but not at the same levels of summer typically. Fall in the mountains is best from September through mid-October but can go into late October in towns like Salida with lower elevations, where autumn foliage hits peak a little later. The same activities and outdoor venues are available as in summer, the backdrop just changes and so does the vibe as fewer visiting families are around with kids back in school. There also are a nice array of fun beer, hot air balloon and music festivals.
Some options are getting married at a mountain top venue, along a river or creek, or perhaps in a quaint historic church followed by a reception in a restaurant with a large private dining space with big views or in a hotel ballroom that offers the same to take in shades of gold, orange and red.
There are benefits to each Colorado mountain season, and it will come down to the bride and groom’s preferences, budget and a town’s proximity to guests or modes of transportation. Destination Colorado members can help identify just the right season.
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.