Mud Season Survival Guide

Tips for Embracing the Many Curve Balls of April in the Roaring Fork Valley

Mud season is a bit winter, a bit spring, and a lot frustrating for those who don’t know what to expect from it. While the valley floor warms to life, and green creeps out from under its winter blanket, the cold still holds tightly to most places. 

For longtime locals, this is the magical time between when the lifts stop turning and when it’s warm enough to hike trails above 9,000 feet. Named for the mud which used to fill the streets back when miners and ranchers built clapboard brothels and bars, this season is now associated with the idea of catching your breath, or taking a pause before summer ramps up.

After the frenetic pace of ski season, or the drawn-out winter blues of dark, cold months, most residents of the Roaring Fork Valley find themselves in need of a change of scenery, or at least a break in the routine. Mud season can be the perfect time to do both of those things, but it can also be the last straw for some who don’t know that the normal rules do not quite apply yet.

The next few weeks might seem slow, or strange, or even a little frustrating, but this quieter time of year can be a gift for everyone lucky enough to call this place home. For newcomers who have joined the community during the past year, or for locals who just need a refresher, here are a few tips for surviving this wonderful ‘in-between’ time.

  • Call Ahead    Fortunately, after the last year of uncertainty, most of us are well-trained in calling ahead for dinner plans and activities. During mud season in the valley, however, this becomes even more important. Many businesses use these quiet weeks between winter and summer crowds to complete renovations, take a break, or maybe even a vacation. They love their locals, but everyone needs a moment.

  • Head West    Go to the desert if you want to see your neighbors. A badly kept secret is that nearly everyone in a ski town runs to the deserts of eastern Utah to soak in the sunshine on some warm sandstone. Moab and the surrounding communities expect spring and fall to be their busiest seasons. Plan ahead with campground reservations, or be prepared to go way off the beaten path to find an empty primitive site.

  • Mud, Mud, Mud    Yes, the trails are still muddy. Anywhere about 9,000 feet often holds snow, or at least wet mud until May, or even June. Although we are wearing tank tops on the valley floor, the mountaintops are still getting well below freezing every night and unpredictable spring storms can make travel a challenge. As all the signs say, don’t hike or ride the mud. Stick to low-elevation trails or head west to more arid climes.

  • Kids Go Crazy    Get those kids out of the house! Mud season is a great time to take the little ones, and the not-so-little ones to the local attractions which tend to be overrun in the busy seasons. Bike parks and trails, local rivers, the Adventure Park and Glenwood Hot Springs are great options for breaking the monotony, without the lines or snow-covered trails. Just be sure to call ahead.

  • Car Maintenance    Mud season is the time to swap out snow tires and fix those windshields. Don’t wait until your first big summer adventure is looming to find out that your mechanic is booked solid for a month.

  • Mental Health Check    As the conditions for optimal outside activities are not present for a few more weeks, do not be surprised to see yourself struggling with the winter blues...in April. Recognizing that your body is longing for the vitamin D and serotonin provided by long days in the outdoors is important. Plan to take care of your mental health, especially if you are a seasonal worker, or if your job slows down during this time of year.

  • Layer Up    Dress for all four seasons. Colorado spring time weather is beloved for its unpredictable nature. Did I say ‘beloved’? I meant ‘dreaded’. Mornings can start bright and sunny but change on a dime as heavy snowstorms can move in swiftly. An outing which began in a tank-top may end in a parka.

  • Travel    While Covid is still impacting the travel plans of the country, the reality is that tickets for flights and tours are usually much, much more affordable during this time of year. If the grandparents have gotten their vaccinations, mud season might be a great time to take a socially-distanced road trip to go see them. 

  • Lower Expectations    Take a moment. Take a breath. Add a dash of ‘meh’ to your big plans for the weekend. Mud season is a wonderful time for reflection, rest, and rejuvenating adventures, but the best laid plans are often its favorite dessert. So do what you love, but recognize that flexibility is key.

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