International houses bring a fun worldview to the World Championships |

International houses bring a fun worldview to the World Championships

A view Inside the Austrian House shows fans in jubillation during the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail.
Townsend Bessent | |

It’s your house, too

The Red Lion does charge a cover.

From 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. each night, the Sonnenalp’s Bully guests are invited to enjoy a delicious three-course German dinner, beverages (beer, wine and soft drinks), live entertainment and the chance to meet the German Ski Association stars. Tickets are available to the general public for $175 per person and include food, beverages and entertainment. Call the Sonnenalp Conference Services Department at 970-479-5435.

Reservations for the House of Switzerland are open to the public on a space available basis and can be made by calling the restaurant directly at 970-479-5462 after 2 p.m.

VAIL — Sit in an international house during the World Championships and you can hear conversations in five or six languages, and none of them are your native language.

This is good. It provides perspective about your place in the world.

Also, as far as we could find, none of the international houses serve pancakes.

Because the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships is an international event, the U.S. team planting the flag at The Red Lion counts as an international experience.

The Germans are in the Sonnenalp’s Bully Ranch Restaurant, the Swiss are in the Swiss Chalet, and the Austrians are back in Gastof Gramshammer, where they were in 1989 and 1999 as well.

Other teams are other places around town, which makes wandering around Vail and Beaver Creek a fact-finding mission.

“In Europe they’re a VIP invitation-only event. Here, we’re doing it differently. You can hang out with team officials, other fans and racers,” said Kelly Paton, the Sonnenalp’s marketing manager.

The Swiss were looking around for a spot to host their international house and found somewhere that felt like home, Paton said. In fact, it says Swiss Haus right in front of the building.

U.S. is us

The U.S. Ski Team tapped The Red Lion’s Rod Linafelter and his crew on the shoulder, looking for a place to host events and sponsors.

“It’s a real honor,” Linafelter said.

The Red Lion doesn’t charge a cover — never has and never will — Linafelter said.

The Red Lion was Vail’s first bar and restaurant, and remains one of the nation’s iconic ski bars.

American athletes both past and present roll through The Red Lion. Bode and Morgan Miller were in there the night before last week’s fateful race. Bode was around afterward, and while he might have felt different, he was still gracious, Linafelter said.

The U.S. Ski Team alumni gathered there Sunday night. The reminiscing went well into Monday morning.

Some of their old friends and competitors drop by occasionally. One Norwegian team member hoisted a glass in The Red Lion and exclaimed that he’d be happy if the World Championships were in Vail and Beaver Creek every time.

“It really has shown me what a tight and relatively small group the international skiing community is,” Linafelter said.

Back at Pepi’s

Gastof Gramshammer was pretty much out of its mind when Austrian Anna Fenninger stopped by with her gold medal, the same reaction they get from most of the other Austrian medalists and team officials.

The Sonnenalp has a long-running relationship with the German team. Also, the Sonnenalp’s executive chef, Florian Schwartz, always wanted to cook for the German Ski Team. He got his wish.

Swiss Ski Team president Urs Lehman won the 1993 World Championships downhill at Morioka Shizukuishi. His opening Swiss House toast was gracious and eloquent.

International houses aren’t a long tradition, at least not compared to stuff like watching the sun come up at Stonehenge, but it’s more fun.

The House of Switzerland, for example, tradition started in 2001 in St. Anton, Austria, said Annalisa Gerber, of the Swiss Ski Team.

“After a successful start we decided to have another House of Switzerland in St. Moritz, Switzerland (2003); Bormio, Italy (2005); Val-d’Isere, France (2009); Garmisch, Germany (2011); Schladming, Austria (2013); and in Vail (2015),” Gerber said. “At the 2017 Alpine World Ski Championships in St. Moritz we will definitely have our biggest House of Switzerland ever because it is in Switzerland.”

The main goal of the Swiss House is to provide a place where everyone can meet up, Gerber said.

“We are happy to see fans, athletes, sponsors, Swiss people and people from all over the world in the same place at the same time. We want people from different nations to celebrate together and have a great experience,” she said.

The Swiss chose the Sonnenalp’s Swiss Chalet for this year’s House of Switzerland because Sonnenalp owner Johannes Faessler saw the Swiss team in Schladming.

“As he recognized that we have a cool house with a lot of fun visitors, he asked us to use his restaurant during the Alpine World Ski Championships in 2015,” Gerber said.

Of course, a fact-finding mission was in order.

“My assistant and I went to visit the Swiss Chalet in summer 2013 to see if it matched our concept and vision for the House of Switzerland,” Gerber said.

It did, and they signed the contract a few weeks later.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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