Raise your stein. Let’s make a toast to the early pioneers of skiing, particularly those Germans and Austrians who helped inspire or teach America to ski. Austrians like Olympic legend Toni Sailer and Hannes Scheider (the father of stem christies), German Otto Schiebs (the guru who started North America's oldest ski school at Lake Placid), and German filmmaker Arnold Fanck.
Thanks to them, and waves of Bavarian and German immigrants who’ve brought distinct cultural traditions to ski towns, we have another reason to drink this fall—Oktoberfest!
In Munich this month, millions eagerly await a shout from the city’s lord mayor — “O’zapft is!” — when he taps the first keg. That kicks off the 179th Oktoberfest, an epic celebration of Bavarian culture that started with a royal fall wedding and grew into the world’s largest festival featuring Munich-brewed beer.
The legend carries on as a global excuse to imbibe and indulge. In lederhosen.
In American mountain towns, ski areas put their own spin on the age-old tradition that German immigrants carried across the Atlantic throughout the mid- to late 1800s. As historian Morten Lund explains, the Bavarian Schiebs was famously quoted as saying, “Skiing is not a schport. It is a vay of life!”
So, prost, to a short fall and long, snowy winter. Watch for the first flakes at these four resorts while they dish up local and Bavarian flavor alike.
Breckenridge, Colorado, September 14–16, 2012
Snowbird, Utah, Saturdays and Sundays through October 7, 2012
Whiteface, New York, September 29–30, 2012
Squaw Valley, California, September 29, 2012
Sept. 14 - 16
Breck locals kick off their Oktoberfest on Friday this year, which should make Saturday's test of pre-season aerobic fitness—a 5k trail run—interesting. This year’s three-day fest also features Volkl-designed steins, a ski swap with last year’s discounted gear, and a wedding (true to Munich roots).
Photo courtesy of Breckridge Ski & Snowboard Resort
Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 7
Extending Munich’s two-week tradition, Snowbird’s 40th annual Bavarian celebration lasts eight weekends. After 39 years of fine-tuning the festival, Snowbird has learned that visitors can’t beat the resort’s offer to give free rides home, let alone the apfelstrudel.
Photo courtesy of Snowbird Ski Resort
Sept. 29 - 30
In the Adirondacks, iconic leaves—ablaze in red, orange and yellow—coincide with Oktoberfest. During this one-weekend fest, beer drinkers can take in sweeping views of the High Peaks (last year visitors saw Whiteface’s first snow)—plus an alphorn-playing trio. Adieu, summer.
Photo courtesy of Whiteface/Olympic Regional Development Authority
At Squaw, stiff competition challenges Oktoberfest-goers to a stein-holding contest, bratwurst toss, keg-rolling, and yodeling (a feat which local Austrians take very seriously). Straddling European and American culture, this event celebrates winter’s approach and, well, beer (that ambrosia so tasty in rarefied air).
Photo courtesy of Squaw Valley Resort