From communist countries to the High Country |

From communist countries to the High Country

Krause’s trail to Vail wound through two communist countries – East Germany and Cuba – from which he had to escape.

The Red Lion’s executive chef from 1965 to 1975, Krause made it one of Vail’s original fine dining sites.

He’s now retired in Colorado Springs enjoying family life after 50 years in the restaurant business.

“We felt like pioneers,” he said. “If you wanted to buy anything you had to go to Leadville, Denver or Colorado Springs. The nearest movie was Breckenridge.”

Long, winding road

As a lad, he escaped from East Germany in 1953 by sneaking through the Berlin Wall. After making his way through Europe and learning the restaurant business in Switzerland, he answered an ad to work in a hotel in pre-Castro Cuba.

But world events caught up to him. While he was there, the country became Castro’s Cuba, and Krause was again caught in the Communist’s web. He made his break in 1959, leaving Castro and Cuba behind and emigrating to the United States, eventually landing in Colorado Springs.

It wasn’t long before he became the executive chef for the Denver Petroleum Company, whose clientele included early Vail investors and pioneers, including Joe Staufer, Pepi and Sheika Gramshammer, Bill Whiteford and Earl Eaton.

While they ate his food, they sang to him the praises of the new ski area they were helping build.

In 1961, Krause took some classes from Denver East High School to Summit County for ski lessons. He showed up early and often to ski in Vail in 1962.

Fritz Schopf from Germany had previously worked for Krause, and was a chef at The Lodge at Vail. Krause often stayed in Fritz’s apartment above the liquor store in Vail Village.

Vail wanted Krause to work for him, but it took a couple of years before he finally did.

Among other things, Krause wanted to scratch his entrepreneurial itch and bought a restaurant on the rim of Royal Gorge. The restaurant operated in the summer, leaving Krause looking for something in winter.

He didn’t have to look far.

“The Red Lion Inn was small place, and I was able to find living quarters above the shop,” said Krause. “My roommate was the maitre “d in the Red Lion at night and worked during the day as a ski instructor.”

He finally moved to Vail year-round. Before long, he got his mother out of East Germany, moving her to Vail. She fit the place like a glove.

“She liked it so much she became “Omi,’ (grandmother) to many of the town’s children,” said Krause. “I didn’t have any children, but we had a full house all the time.”

In his 10 years, he did parties for presidents, kings, diplomats, celebrities and captains of industry and politics.

Lion legends

The Red Lion’s doors first opened in February 1963. The establishment served as everything from the local watering hole to the post office and the medical clinic.

Marge and Larry Burdick called it the Red Lion Inn. They planned to rent the upper rooms out, but after having seven children there was no room left.

The Red Lion typically served a combination of locals and tourists, which means all kinds of people wandered through the door.

Like the time a guy who came in looking like a prospector out of the 1800s. The 80-year-old man began ambling around the bar and annoying customers.

The bartender decided it was best the gentleman didn’t enjoy any more adult beverages.

When the apparent prospector asked for one more, the bartender told him he was cut off.

The miner guy, predictably enough, launches into a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” serenade, exclaiming “I’m old enough to be your grandfather.”

The bartender still exercised his right to refuser service, so the octogenarian uttered the “F” word and flipped him the bird.

Editor’s note: The Vail Daily is still collecting pictures, legends, stories and stuff for use in even more stories this fall and winter. Call 949-0555, ext. 615, or send it to You’ve been fantastic so far. Please keep up the great work. There will be a test later. …

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