Vail rolls out the barrels for Oktoberfest in Lionshead, Vail Village

By David O. Williams
Real AspenSeptember 7, 2013
Vail channels its inner Bavarian this weekend and next as Oktoberfest kicked off Friday (Sept. 6) in Lionshead with all the usual favorites: brat chomping, keg bowling, beer quaffing and chicken dancing (not necessarily in that order).

Given Vail’s Bavarian roots, the festival that started in Munich in the early 1800s to celebrate the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese fits the local festival schedule like a tight dirndl (those bust-enhancing traditional dresses).

Oktoberfest is big all over the United States, but it’s really big in Vail and Beaver Creek. While the Beav’ already rolled out the barrels for Labor Day weekend, Vail gets its oompa on this weekend in Lionshead and next weekend (Sept. 13-15) in Vail Village.

Oktoberfest in Vail.
Jack Affleck/Vail Resorts

“In the early 20th century the [German and Austrian] immigrants who came here and planted themselves down in Chicago and Detroit and New York brought the Oktoberfest tradition with them, and from that we started building our own traditions here,” said James Deighan, of Vail’s Highline Sports and Entertainment, the organizers of Vail’s Oktoberfest.

“We’re celebrating Bavaria here in Vail because it’s part of our heritage,” added Deighan, who’s been known to kick it in his own custom lederhosen.

Former Vail mayor and current Vail Town Council member Ludwig Kurz, who’s originally from Salzburg, Austria, says Americans love Oktoberfest either because of their German or Austrian heritage or because they’ve been to either the major festival in Munich or another one somewhere else in Europe or the United States.

“When people started coming back here the Oktoberfest kind of lent itself in the fall to do something in this country, and we’ve picked it up from other places in the United States that have Oktoberfest – some that are very well-known – that people actually travel to specifically,” said Kurz.

“Then we started it in Vail and Beaver Creek and it’s developed into this event that for a lot of people – both locals and people from outside of here – has become a must to go to,” adds Kurz, who’s called Vail home since 1966. “It’s become one of those things in the fall, when the colors start to change and things start quieting down just a little bit, that people really enjoy.”

This weekend and next, Vail Oktoberfest in Lionshead and then Vail Village will serve up Bavarian music and dancing, traditional fare like Klement’s Bratwursts, yodeling, alpenhorn blowing, beverages from Hacker-Pschorr and Jagermeister and more.

Vail-based Helmut Fricker and the Rhinelanders Band will be on hand throughout both weekends to keep crowds going with favorite Oktoberfest tunes. In addition to the live music, guests can participate in Bavarian dancing demonstrations from the Denver Kickers Schuplattler Dancers, see traditional alpenhorn blowing, hear yodeling and more.

Vail Oktoberfest is a family affair, and the event features fun activities for the kids during the day, including lots of things to do in the Bighorn Toyota Kids’ Zone -- from live entertainment to crafts, pretzel necklace making and more.

For more information, go to the Vail Oktoberfest website. Here are the rest of the details from the official Vail Oktoberfest press release:


Keg Bowling is back, giving anyone interested in the game the chance to hurl a keg shell on wheels down the lane at a pyramid of keg shells with the intention of bringing down the pile. It’s not as easy as it sounds, however. The top competitors from the first round of the competition move on the final round of Keg Bowling, where the champion of the day will be crowned and prizes will be awarded. Participants must be at least 21 years old to compete.

The fun continues with the return of the Klement’s Bratwurst Eating Contests, where the strong-willed and the strong-stomached battle it out to see who can down the most brats in three minutes. The competitor who wolfs down the most brats in the allotted time wins a great prize package from Klement’s Sausage Company.

The Bavarian Costume Contests reward those festival participants who go all out and show up for the day in full Bavarian regalia or in another Oktoberfest-related costume. Those who do will be invited to participate in the Oktoberfest Costume Contests on Saturday and Sunday. All ages are invited to participate in the costume contests. The winner will be determined by crowd response and will take home an Oktoberfest stein and token package.

The Stein Lift Contests will test the arm strength and stamina of even the fiercest competitors. Competitors will hold full beer steins -- one in each hand -- out from their body at shoulder level. The last person standing with arms outstretched will take home an Oktoberfest prize package. Participants in the Stein Lift Contest must me at least 21 years of age.

There is no cost to participate in these contests. Competitors who wish to participate can sign up at the Oktoberfest token booth nearest Arrabelle Square.

Exclusive Oktoberfest Lodging Packages

Vail Marriott Mountain Resort is a 344-room, AAA Four Diamond Resort with
amenities, hospitality, and special touches to accommodate any escape, celebration, or
gathering of minds. Only a short three minute walk to Vail Square in Lionshead with the Eagle-Bahn
Gondola, shopping, and dining. For outdoor recreation including ski and bike rentals, Charter Sports, is conveniently located on property and fly fishing and hiking trails are just outside the doors. Start the day with a signature breakfast buffet in First Chair Cafe, or enjoy your evening in 7One5 Restaurant, and for cocktails and lite bite stop by Avalanche Pub in the lobby. At Vail Marriott experience local charm and a relaxed way of life. Book your reservation online now at mountain-resort/ and take advantage of the $50 resort credit plus room upgrade.

The Sonnenalp Resort of Vail, a resort steeped in rich Bavarian tradition, has put together two exclusive lodging packages for guests coming to Vail to take in beauty of fall and the energy of Vail Oktoberfest. Experience Oktoberfest in true Bavarian style at the Sonnenalp.

$255 per night Includes:

• Lodging in a Junior Suite

• 2 official Oktoberfest beer steins

• 6 Oktoberfest tokens in each stein

• $15 Discounted Valet Parking

• Complimentary Basic WiFi

• No Resort Fees

$310 per night Includes:

• Lodging in a Junior Suite

• Breakfast for 2 each morning

• 2 official Oktoberfest beer steins

• 6 Oktoberfest tokens in each stein

• $15 Discounted Valet Parking

• Complimentary Basic WiFi

• No Resort Fee

Rates are per night based on double occupancy in a Junior Suite. Valid Sept. 6-8, 2013 and Sept. 13-15, 2013, with 9.8 percent taxes and gratuity not included. Subject to space available, and some restrictions apply. Limit two steins and twelve tokens per stay, while supplies last. May not be combined with other offers. Please inquire about larger suites. Go to the Sonnenalp website for more information or to make a reservation.

Vail Oktoberfest is presented by Hacker-Pschorr, Town of Vail and Vail Dentistry and sponsored in part by Bighorn Toyota, Arrowhead Water, Sonnenalp Hotel, Klement’s Sausage Company, Marriott Mountain Resort, Loki, Jagermeister, Shawls by Veronika, Vail Daily and KZYR the Zephyr.

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