Unlike other Colorado resorts that began as mining towns and were transformed over the years into vacation destinations, Vail was founded in 1962 to be a ski resort. Its developers had the opportunity to turn it into whatever they wanted. Enamored with the ski resorts of the Alps, they decided to model it after the Swiss village of Zermatt. Vail has maintained the influence Zernmatt had on it, as well as other villages in the Alps and around Bavaria offering a unique European experience for its visitors.

The Swiss-German-Austrian influences in Vail are everywhere and can be enjoyed year-round. The highlight is Vail Oktoberfest, which takes place in September. Both Vail Village and Lionshead host an Oktoberfest party during consecutive weekends in September and the towns go all out for each weekend!

If you can’t make it to Oktoberfest or aren’t quite up for a trip entirely devoted to Lederhosen, beer, Bratwurst and German music, you can still sample the tastes, sounds and ambience of Old Bavaria no matter what time of year you visit Vail.

Vail Oktoberfest

Open to the public and with free admission, all you need to bring with you is a party mindset and an empty stomach to fill with brats, schnitzel sandwiches, spaetzli and of course authentic Oktoberfest beer, Spaten.

Oh, and be sure to show up in Bavarian attire, such as traditional Lederhosen, if you want to take part in the very competitive costume contest that takes place on Saturday of each weekend. With divisions for men, women, and children, the winner is crowned by crowd response and receives an official Vail Oktoberfest Stein, although the true prize is bragging rights for the remainder of the weekend.

Vail Oktoberfest isn’t just about filling and refilling your stein of beer. In addition to the costume contest, most events can be enjoyed by everyone in your family, drinkers and non-drinkers, adults and children alike. Live, traditional Oktoberfest music is constantly playing and Bavarian dancers are there to get everyone out on the dance floor. Yodeling, alpenhorn blowing and more add to the weekend’s charm.

For more information on Vail Oktoberfest, as well as a detailed schedule of events, check out the event’s official website here.

Alpine Tastes

It’s impossible to walk the streets of Vail and not feel the allure and influence of Switzerland, Germany and Austria. It’s also impossible to walk by any of the following restaurants and not get pulled into them by the delicious, authentic smells wafting from their kitchens. Each of these spots was founded by a family from one of these European countries and each family brought a little piece of their home country’s cuisine to America when they opened their restaurant in Vail.

The Swiss Chalet at the Sonnenalp Hotel: in the heart of Vail Village you’ll find The Swiss Chalet. You’d swear you were in the Swiss Alps when you dip your first piece of bread into their gooey, not-to-be-missed, cheese fondue. If you’re feeling more adventurous, try the raclette instead. Another traditional Swiss cheese dish, The Swiss Chalet’s raclette is served with potatoes, squash, zucchini, peppers, onion, tomatoes and mushroom, but the real star of the show is the melted cheese – heated up on an iron skillet and scraped right onto your plate.

King’s Club at the Sonnenalp Hotel: for smaller bites, live music and a fireplace to warm up by, head to the King’s Club. If it’s German beer you’re looking for, they have all kinds on tap. To accompany your beer or to please the kids, order a few Bavarian pretzels and enjoy a relaxing afternoon after coming in from the slopes.

Almresi: Almresi serves up delicious cuisine from Germany, as well as Switzerland and Austria, and every detail was thought of when turning it into an authentic restaurant. You’ll likely be served by a waiter or waitress who, like almost everything else you’ll find inside – from the dishes to the wooden benches – are authentically German or Austrian. Leave room for one of the best desserts in Vail, their homemade Black Forest Cake, a traditional chocolate cake from Germany.

Pepi’s Restaurant & Bar: if you’re looking to combine your love of Austrian food with your love of all things après ski, don’t miss out on a trip to Pepi’s. Still owned and operated by its original owners, Pepi, an Austrian ski racer, and his wife, Sheika, the bar and restaurant offers live music, Austrian beers, Wiener Schnitzel that is to die for, and the most authentic of Alpine experiences.

A Year-Round European Experience

No matter what time of year you plan a trip to Vail, you’re sure to enjoy the influences of the Alpine culture. Whether it is a bratwurst and a beer at Oktoberfest in September, a cheese fondue in the middle of winter after a long day on the slopes, or a Bavarian pretzel enjoyed after a summer hike, Vail’s old world food, drink and ambience is sure to satisfy your European wanderlust.