Plenty of fall fun to be had in the valley
EAGLE COUNTY – In 2008, the fall colors were vivid and spectacular – in 2009, local fall foliage wasn’t quite as exciting. There’s no fool-proof way to predict whether a fall season will produce bright or dull leaves, but there’s always a safe bet that Colorado’s Rocky Mountains will have plenty of color to see in the fall, regardless of what kind of year it turns out to be.Kim Langmaid, founder and senior education consultant at Walking Mountains, formerly the Gore Range Natural Science School, said there are all kinds of theories about how to predict fall foliage. “But nobody can really pinpoint it,” Langmaid said. “There are a lot of different factors coming together – genetics, water, soil, sunlight.”A common theory is that years with a lot of moisture equal electrifying fall colors. “I imagine it’s going to be a pretty good year for it because we’ve had so much water,” Langmaid said. The U.S. Forest Service reports autumn color intensity as being greatly influenced by weather. Low temperatures can destroy chlorophyll, which produces fall’s green leaves. Dry weather increases sugar concentration in sap and also increases the amount of anthocyanin, which causes yellowing leaves to turn red, according to the U.S. Forest Service fall foliage website.Aspen trees, which are abundant throughout the Vail Valley and surrounding mountain ranges, share root systems – trees within that root system are genetically identical, according to the U.S. Forest Service.Aspens present a rare opportunity in the fall to see which trees live within specific clone groups.”Because of these differences, it is possible to see hillsides with one small group of trees that have already changed to vibrant gold colors standing among otherwise green aspen. This color change allows viewers to readily see individual aspen clones,” according to the Forest Service’s fall foliage website.Local favorite viewing spots or drives include the road up to Piney Lake, the drive between Minturn and Red Cliff on U.S. Highway 24 and the Vail Trail, which goes along the Vail Golf Course just up against the side of the mountain, Langmaid said. Hannah Irwin, of the Vail Nature Center, said the Stone Creek-Whiskey Creek loop out of Eagle-Vail is a great fall hike, as well as Meadow Mountain. “Anywhere there’s aspen groves are going to be beautiful,” Irwin said. While the fall is a beautiful time of year in the Vail area, it’s also a quiet time. Great hotel and restaurant specials are available during fall’s brightest weeks, which typically occur from mid- to late-September through early October. Other local activities in the late summer/early fall include:Oktoberfest in Beaver Creek, Lionshead and Vail Village, first three weekends in September:Kicking off this weekend in Beaver Creek and continuing through the third weekend in September, Oktoberfest is a lively time in both Vail and Beaver Creek’s villages. The yearly festival of beer, music and fall celebrates all things beer.The family-friendly event features lively demonstrations, German food, yodeling, Bavarian dancing and alpine horn-blowing. There will also be a bratwurst-eating contest and keg-bowling contest.Visit vail-oktoberfest.com for more information.Vail Automotive Classic, First Annual Wheels and Wings Show, Saturday and Sunday:This show will feature vintage and classic cars, airplanes and motorcycles. The show is at the Vail Valley Jet Center in Gypsum on Saturday and in Vail Village on Sunday. There will be more than 100 cars and more than 20 airplanes on display. Cars will include street rods, European sports cars, muscle cars, customs, super cars and vintage motorcycles. Tickets are $5 for adults and free for children younger than 12.For more information, visit http://www.vailautoshow.com.Colorado Grand, Sept. 17:The Colorado Grand is a rally of classic automobiles covering more than 1,000 miles through Colorado. The event takes place the third week of September during the start of the fall when the trees are beginning to change colors.About 85 sports and racing cars of distinction built prior to 1961 will be on display in Lionshead from 9 a.m. until about 1 p.m.For more information, visit coloradogrand.com. Vail Mountain School Home Tour, Sept. 19:The Vail Mountain School Home Tour is in its 39th year and will showcase seven fine Vail homes this year. The Home Tour includes a luncheon by Larkspur Restaurant, a gourmet bake sale and a raffle with many prizes. All of the proceeds benefit the school’s need-based financial aid fund, which helps students cover their tuition. The homes on this year’s tour include two prime units in the new Solaris Residences, a 3,600-square-foot penthouse at the new Ritz-Carlton Residences in Lionshead, one of the first homes built in Vail in 1962, a traditional ski “lodge” on Beaver Dam Road, a home that was recently “lifted” to provide an addition below and a magnificent 8,000-square-foot European-inspired ski retreat, complete with an indoor pool and ski chalet off the Born Free ski run.Tickets for the tour are $45 in advance and $50 on the day of the tour and include the tour of homes, lunch by Larkspur and complimentary parking and transportation. To purchase tickets and learn more about senior citizen and group discounts, visit http://www.vms.edu/hometour, or call 970-477-7169.Hike, Wine & Dine, Beaver Creek, Sept. 26:The second Annual 4-mile mile hike at the peak of Beaver Creek’s aspen season includes gourmet tastings from Beaver Creek Chophouse, Dusty Boot Steakhouse & Saloon, Rimini, Grouse Mountain Grill, D’Oro, Beano’s Cabin and The Park Hyatt. Registration begins at the base of Centennial Express chairlift at 9:30 a.m.The 4-mile run begins at 10 a.m., with wine tasting at the finish.Call 970-569-7645 for more information.Vail Restaurant Month, Sept. 20 to Oct. 17:The town of Vail and Vail’s Commission on Special Events is presenting the first-ever Vail Restaurant Month. Vail restaurants, hotels and retail shops will participate in offering various deals in an effort to get those driving through to look at the fall colors to stay a while. Vail Restaurant Month will feature four themed weeks, which include Market-to-Table, Health/Wellness/Outdoors Week, Lovefest and Family Week. While there are going to be special prices on the various packages, those involved with Vail Restaurant Month are careful to say it isn’t just another discount package, said Ilene Rapkin, a former publisher of magazines including Conde Nast Traveler and Bon Appetit who is helping market the event.”It’s not about discounts, it’s about the experience,” Rapkin said. “We want people to come in, get a signature experience and experience all Vail has to offer.”For more information, visit http://www.vailrestaurantmonth.com.Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.