Taste of Vail’s Mountaintop Picnic a ‘dizzying, dazzling affair’ | VailDaily.com

Taste of Vail’s Mountaintop Picnic a ‘dizzying, dazzling affair’

Amid the glory of Colorado's High Country, attendees of a recent Taste of Vail enjoy samples from chefs at restaurants throughout the Vail Valley during the festival's annual Mountaintop Picnic. The picnic takes place atop Vail Mountain at 10,350 feet above sea level.

VAIL – Anyone who’s attended Taste of Vail would agree its signature event, the Mountaintop Picnic, is the ultimate in “haute cuisine.”Preparations already are under way on top of Vail Mountain for the annual culinary extravaganza, where food and fine wines are on offer Friday, April 7, from 12:30-3 p.m. Amid spectacular springtime views of the Colorado High Country, it’s all part of Taste of Vail, serving Vail Valley charities for 16 years.”The picnic is a dizzying, dazzling affair,” the Tampa Tribune reported from a previous Mountaintop Picnic. “Hundreds of happy skiers line up at the various booths as chefs in white toques dish up samples of grilled salmon, shrimp etoufee, buffalo chili and double chocolate torte as everyone mingles in the midday sun.”Chefs from 17 Vail Valley restaurants serve samples of their best dishes and winemakers and owners from 60 world-renowned wineries pouring their finest. Picnic-goers with tickets can arrive at the picnic site – a snow arena west of Eagle’s Nest with two-story-high walls for shelter – on skis or snowboards; or they can take the gondola to the top of the mountain free of charge, loading as early as 11:45 a.m. Snowcats, some with heated cabins, are on hand to shuttle picnic-goers between Eagle’s Nest and the picnic.

“This picnic is like nothing else I’ve ever seen,” Doug Margerum, a California winemaker, told Wine Spectator magazine last year. “It unites wine and skiing, two of my passions.”This year’s Mountaintop Picnic is included in Taste of Vail’s $375 full event package; tickets for the picnic can be purchased individually, however, for $110. Guests are encouraged to wear clothing appropriate for any conditions, as the Mountaintop Picnic goes on, snow or shine. Previous picnics have enjoyed sunny skies and unseasonably warm spring conditions; others have endured snow, high winds, hale and even lightning.”This is by far the best picnic in the world – without ants,” says Kevin Foley, co-chairman of the picnic for the past 15 years.Foley and co-chairman Bud O’Halloran supervise a crew of 30 volunteers on a mission of erecting the picnics various tents, tables and temporary kitchens in two days – then clearing it all off the mountain by dark the evening of the event.

“We put in a whole lot of work into a picnic that only lasts two and half hours,” says O’Halloran. “And when it snows, things get really challenging.”Foley and O’Halloran proudly say the Mountaintop Picnic is the “best event” of the four-day Taste of Vail festival, April 5-9. It would never happen, however, without the help of Vail Resorts, which donates hundreds of man-hours, teams of snowcats and the use of the Eagle Bahn Gondola to the event, they add.”The Mountaintop Picnic is a great tradition. In some ways, it’s the community’s official acknowledgement spring has arrived,” says Bill Jensen, co-president of Vail Resorts’ Mountain Division. “The Taste of Vail, in general, is a celebration of everything good about ski season. And it’s the level of energy that makes it unique.”Taste of Vail is a charitable, nonprofit organization. Over the past 15 years, the festival has contributed more than $300,000 to Vail Valley charities. This year’s proceeds will be evenly distributed among: the newly created Taste of Vail Educational Scholarship, a joint effort with ProStart and Eagle County; the Vail Valley Youth Foundation’s soccer program; and other local charitable programs that otherwise would not be able to continue without additional funding.

For more information about the 16th annual Taste of Vail, or to buy tickets, visit http://www.tasteofvail.com or call 926-5665. High Country picnicWhat: Taste of Vail Mountain Top Picnic

When: 12:30-3 p.m.Information: Visit http://www.tasteofvail.comVail, Colorado

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