My procedure works for me, this is not the "law" on closing. We freeze solid here sometimes as early as October. I do not have a skimmer cover/Aquadoor seal so I do the "partial drain" process. I have a lot of trees that drop debris all winter so need a cover, pools out "in the clear" may not need any type of cover so would do this differently.
When our water gets to the upper 50s, usually about mid September, we begin closing processes. First I remove my steps, clean, dry and cover with a tarp for the winter. I run my auto pool cleaner and remove any debris from the pool. The cove is gently brushed as well b/c the autocleaner (Lil Shark) does not climb the cove too well and I just want to get everything loosened up to get filtered out, bleached dead. I continue to run the pump on a 4 hr per day cycle for 2 days, then backwash well, then bring the pool up to shock level for at least 36 hrs with the pump running 4hrs per day so I know there are no nasties left in there. By this time, its usually cool enough that the chlorine holds really well, not too much grows in that colder water.
Now with the pool still at shock level, I drain the pool down to at least 6-8" below the skimmer/return to allow for freeze expansion (the pool ice will go UP not out, unless there is something there to prevent it from doing so) I add 1 qt of Polyquat, stir/distribute well with a my leaf net/rake over entire pool (amounts of Polyquat are based on your pool size/water volume - check instructions) I do not use anything in the skimmer or in the return for the winter - The fittings are all removed from the hose/pipe sides and they are left open for the water to run/drop out so there is no place for the water to back up and become ice. My winter cover goes over the top of the skimmer and I do have the skimmer cover on. Any moisture that somehow runs from the pool to the skimmer would just drop out and not freeze in there.
All hoses are removed, drained and stored away someplace where mice are not an issue (we have an empty sealed grain bin we keep all pool things in) Solar panels are removed from mounts, hung to drain fully (we tried blowing out with air instead one year and still had freeze damage - removing, draining and storing is safer and cheaper than replacing!)
The solar blanket can be dried out and stored away, but ours is rolled up on our free-standing reel and tied down with a bungy cord, cranked around 1/4 turn twice a day so that the water all falls out. We then cover with a solid tarp and secure. We haven't had any problem with the cover cracking or being damaged in the spring when we open - you just have to be sure the moisture is out. The cranking thing does the trick. But then none of these covers last forever so they are bound to break down eventually.
The pump is drained out, dried well with rags, all parts connections lubed up with silicone lube - small parts are placed inside the dried pump basket pot - larger parts into a zip lock gallon sized bag and duct taped to the side of the pump. Pump is brought inside and stored in a box together. The same goes for the Salt Water Chlorine Generator, dissemble, dry and store all parts together in a bag duct taped to the side of the unit, bring inside for winter. Inside does not necessarily have to mean heated, we keep those parts in an attached garage - secured from ice/snow and rodents.
The filter is well drained, the drain plug left off and covered with a tarp - bungied on for the winter - left on its base. Do this well before a hard freeze so you can be sure all the water is out before it freezes. The multiport valve dried, parts lubed with silicone, stored in a bag taped to side of multiport, brought into the garage for the winter.
We have always used a solid winter cover in the past, but hated the swamp on top. Some people install - put a pillow in the center and pump as moisture puddles onto it. We had begun to use an Arctic Armor MicroMesh Winter Cover - this is a solid black appearing cover that has a very fine/tight weave which is just loose enough to allow the moisture to fall through so that there is no liquid that accumulates on top. For all appearances, it is just like a solid cover but makes things easier if you do not want to pump rain or melted snow off in the spring. It does not use a pillow in the center, but lays on top of the water. You must still use a leaf net or remove leaves as they fall or they will accumulate on top and pull down and rot. Water/Snow does not pull it down in the center but seeps through so the only thing that can make it pull on the sides is a pile of wet leaves or debris. In the spring, there is no puddle or swamp on top, we just pull the cover off to crystal clear water with a tiny bit of silt at the bottom for the autocleaner to vac up.
If you have a lot of debris falling, leaves, sticks, etc., you can put a leaf net on across the top initially, when the leaves are done or it gets a lot of leaves, we remove or empty the leaves and put back on until all leaves are done dropping. The leaf net is then pulled off and stored for the winter. The leaf net is also a handy thing when the pool is just opened if you have a lot of spring leaf debris - like cottonwood fluffy stuff or even a ton of Junebugs or something. Around that time, its warm enough to grow some algae so the pump must run, but too cool to swim yet.
If anyone sees that we are missing something, feel free to chime in - this is only how we have done it and opened with crystal clear water in the spring.