Charles Agar " Evacuated high country offers opportunities |

Charles Agar " Evacuated high country offers opportunities

Charles Agar " Grandstanding
Grand County, Colorado

A tumbleweed rolls past me along a dusty, wind-blown street. In the distance a solitary figure locks a storefront and scurries away. A shutter creaks and bangs against a building and I think I hear the shrill whistle from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

An old ghost town? Maybe a cowboy set in Hollywood? Not quite. Try at the base of some of Colorado’s swankiest resorts during off-season.

From Vail to posh Aspen and all stops in between, Colorado’s mountain towns are deserted, businesses shuttered, signs reading “Gone Fishing. See you in June.”

I know because I’m surveying resorts statewide while on assignment updating a travel guidebook: “Insider’s Guide to Colorado’s Mountains,” published by Globe Pequot Press.

I kind of like it quiet, though. Hoteliers and business owners have time to talk with me, and locals are totally disarmed or even effusively friendly without all the tourists stressing them out.

There are no crowds so no need for reservations, and I don’t have to pay for parking in places where it usually costs $20 per day (Vail) or where I’d never dream of finding a spot (Breck, Aspen.).

And this trip gave me an idea. Why not chase the off-season in places all over the world and write a book about it? First mud season in Colorado, then a desert in Africa or a jungle in Southeast Asia during the swelter of summer.

I could suffer through the winter in Alaska or Greenland, and switch hemispheres with the solstices to follow the world’s worst weather. I’d hit places like New Orleans after Fat Tuesday or New England the day after the autumn leaves have all fallen off.

Then I Googled it ” like I do just about everything ” and found out that it’s not only been done, but it’s a whole genre of travel books and Web sites: offseason budget trips.

I guess it’s not news to anyone really that resort economies and second-home owners can leave a real vacuum in their wake. The author John Updike wrote a poem about it, saying how the “super rich” make lousy neighbors because they buy a house, tear it down, build another twice the size and then leave.

But the vacuum the tourists leave is an opportunity, and this off-season I’m taking time to stop in places like Georgetown and Silver Plume, the kind of stops where I usually just fill up on gas and buzz off. Instead I’m learning a little Colorado history and collecting some good stories and insights from friendly locals.

So if you’re sick of those roommates, or if the walls of the Fraser Valley are closing in on you, then go check out the nearest deserted ski Podunk near you. You’ll find great deals at hotels (you can even haggle at the front desk) and plenty of poor boobs who also didn’t save enough this year for a real vacation and are just waiting for the summer fun ” oh, and the tourists to come back.

” Charles Agar promises that when he buys his second home he’ll visit there in the off-season too. Contact him at