Oktoberfest: How to prepare for contests and weekends of Bavarian entertainment | VailDaily.com

Oktoberfest: How to prepare for contests and weekends of Bavarian entertainment

Katie Coakley
Special to the Daily

There are many harbingers of fall in the Vail Valley: hints of frost in the early morning; the first few aspen leaves turning gold; the strains of oom-pah-pah music floating through the breeze. It's Oktoberfest season. What started in Bavaria as a wedding bash for King Ludwig has become a popular festival in many towns across the country and the kickoff to fall in Vail.

With four Oktoberfest celebrations, starting Saturday in Beaver Creek, there are many occasions to don a dirndl or lederhosen and raise a stein or two. However, there is much, much more to Oktoberfest than swilling suds (though that's a perfectly acceptable activity). For those with a competitive spirit, there are a wide variety of opportunities to show your style and perhaps win a prize — if you prepare accordingly.

To help prep for Oktoberfest, here are some tips and tricks from fitness experts for some of the most popular competitions.

Keg bowling

Vail Oktoberfest: Sept. 10, 11, 17 and 18 from 4 to 5 p.m.

It may seem easy: Hurl a keg on wheels down a designated lane toward a pyramid of empty kegs and topple the pile. However, this event is deceptively difficult. The trolley the keg rests on is unwieldy, it's harder to get speed and momentum than you'd think, and the cheering (and jeering) crowds are no help whatsoever. However, for those who'd like to train in advance, Athletic Club at the Westin certified personal trainer and professional athlete Tamara Donelson has some advice.

Recommended Stories For You

"I'd recommend the deadlift because it's using the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, lower back)," Donelson said. "Also, the kettlebell swing because it works the posterior chain and is an explosive move at the same time."

Be sure to pay attention to form with these exercises, Donelson said. Using incorrect form in both deadlifts and kettlebell swings can cause back injuries. It would be a shame to lose out on the competition because of poor training.

Regular squats and leg presses are other strength moves Donelson recommends to build power in the legs. A sled, like the ones used by football players for training, can also help develop the muscles utilized in pushing the wheeled keg.

"We have a sled at GOAT (training in Edwards)," Donelson said. "When we throw 45-pound plates on that, then push that across the turf, it's perfect training at speed. Just like trying to push a car. If that's what happens to be available, then go for it."

Donelson, who has participated in the stein lifting competition in past years, has put Oktoberfest on her competition schedule for this year.

The reward: The top competitors from the first round of the competition move on to the final round of keg bowling, where the champion of the day is crowned and prizes are awarded. Participants must be at least 21 to compete. The winners receive an Oktoberfest stein and token package.

Kids' Alpenhorn contest

Beaver Creek Oktoberfest: Sunday at 4 p.m.

Perhaps one of the most evocative sounds and sights at Oktoberfest, the Alpenhorn is a long, wooden horn with a cup-shaped mouthpiece that was originally used as a signal in the mountains, as it's sound carries throughout the valley.

Helmut Fricker, who has been in the Vail area for more than 35 years, is a veritable Oktoberfest legend, playing at both the Vail and Beaver Creek Oktoberfests. He's also an Alpenhorn master, playing the horn in all seasons.

"If I play in the valley, Vail or Beaver Creek, the skiers can hear me on top of Spruce Saddle," Fricker said in an interview last fall for the Vail Daily. "One time I played at the Game Creek Club and they heard me down in Minturn during the summer. Someone said, 'I was in Minturn yesterday and there was a guy playing'… and it was me."

At the Beaver Creek Oktoberfest, the Alpenhorn contest is just for kids. Registration begins at noon, and the contest starts at 4 p.m. for the three divisions: ages 8 and younger, ages 9 to 12 and ages 13 to 16. Fricker offered this advice for playing the Alpenhorn:

"If someone has an idea of how to play a trumpet, you put your lips tight together and squeeze the air," Fricker said. "The tighter you press your lips together, the higher the note comes out. Like pip, pip, pip, pip."

The reward: Prizes vary for the Alpenhorn competition. Past winners have even received a bobblehead doll of Fricker himself.

Stein lifting competition

Vail Oktoberfest: Sept. 9, 10, 16 and 17 at 7 p.m.; Sept. 11 and 18 at 5:30 p.m.

Just about anyone can lift a full stein of beer … but can you hold it straight out from your body, without wavering and without taking a sip, for longer than the other competitors? The Stein Lifting Contest, presented by Vail Vitality Center, asks just that.

Training should focus on isometric and dynamic core exercises, said Blake Gould, fitness director at the Vail Vitality Center. Other work should include static and dynamic shoulder stability and strength exercises. Planks, dumbbell work and TRX exercises can all contribute to lower-body, shoulder and core strength.

"It's not necessarily brute strength, but how strong is your core?" Gould said. "In any competition, whether it's Oktoberfest or the Olympics, the core is key to success. If you have a stable and strong core, you can do almost anything."

For those who prefer training assistance, the Vail Vitality Center is hosting two more Stein Lifting Training Courses. Taking place on Friday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., each class consists of 30 to 45 minutes of strength conditioning and core work designed to assist with the competition.

Following each workout, participants move to a local restaurant for a practice preliminary stein-lifting competition. Registration for the classes includes a swag bag and beer in the stein for the contest. For more information, visit http://www.vailvitalitycenter.com or call 970-476-7960 to register.

The reward: The last person standing takes home an Oktoberfest stein and token package.

Klement's bratwurst eating contest

Vail Oktoberfest: Sept. 10 and 17, 3 to 3:30 p.m.; Sept. 11 and 18, 2:30 to 3 p.m.

What's better than eating one bratwurst during Oktoberfest? How about eating as many as you can in three minutes? The current world record for brat eating is 70 brats in 10 minutes, set on Sept. 22, 2013, by competitive eater Joey Chestnut. The record in Vail is fewer, but no less impressive.

"We thought we could eat more than we actually did. I think I ate three and Holly ate two," said Vail resident and brat-eating contestant John Moebius. "I think the winner ate five or six."

Moebius and his wife, Holly, are both from Wisconsin; they thought that would give them a competitive edge, based on the number of brats they had consumed in their lifetimes. It didn't seem to have any impact on their performance.

Though not the overall champion, Moebius had some tips for other potential participants.

"Don't look at other competitors. Keep your head down," Moebius said. "Don't look at the crowd. We had friends out there, and they were trying to make us laugh. Then I'd look at Holly and she would start laughing. … We couldn't look at each other."

Other tips include dispensing with politeness, as other competitors were stuffing the brats in their mouths with their fingers, and swallowing faster.

"We chewed too much," Moebius said. "I think you have to swallow in big gulps and just keep going."

Washing it down with beer might help, too, though Moebius did say that the addition of beer "makes it all turn into an oatmeal-ly thing. … It's pretty disgusting."

Both John and Holly said it was fun, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"I think we'll sign up for it (this year)," John started to say. "Wait — Holly just said no. I may try it. It's just fun."

The reward: In addition to an Oktoberfest stein and token package, the winner gets to call himself or herself a Vail Oktoberfest Bratwurst Eating Champion.

These are just some of the games going on during Oktoberfest. Don Bavarian gear for costume contests in Vail and Beaver Creek. Practice your polka for dancing until dusk or later. Lace up your tennis shoes for the Oktoberfest 10K and 5K races at Beaver Creek on Sunday. No matter what you choose, from brats to bowling, horns to steins, there are plenty of opportunities for some friendly competition — and bragging rights for the following year.

Local Oktoberfest celebrations

Beaver Creek Oktoberfest

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4.

Where: Beaver Creek Plaza.

Cost: Free admission to the plaza; food and beverages available for purchase.

More information: Complimentary live entertainment includes oom-pah-pah music and modern cover bands, plus contests and plenty of beer and bratwurst. Visit http://www.beavercreek.com.

Vail Oktoberfest: Lionshead Village

When: Noon to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9, and Saturday, Sept. 10; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11.

Where: Lionshead Mall and Vail Square, Vail.

Cost: Free admission to the plaza; food and beverages available for purchase.

More information: Oom pah parties, lively demonstrations, brat-eating contests, Stein Lifting competitions, Keg Bowling and traditional German fare in the Lionshead Village. Visit http://www.vailoktoberfest.com.

Vail Oktoberfest: Vail Village

When: Noon to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, and Saturday, Sept. 17; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18.

Where: Vail Village, Vail.

Cost: Free admission to the plaza; food and beverages available for purchase.

More information: Oom-pah-pah parties, lively demonstrations, brat-eating contests, Stein Lifting competitions, Keg Bowling and traditional German fare in Vail Village. Visit http://www.vailoktoberfest.com.

Sonnenalp Oktoberfest

When: 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1.

Where: Sonnenalp Hotel, 20 Vail Road, Vail Village.

Cost: Free entry; food and beverages available for purchase.

More information: The front of the Sonnenalp Hotel will transform into a German beer hall with live Bavarian music and traditional fare. Call 970-476-5656, or visit http://www.sonnenalp.com.