Fine dining is an integral part of the mountain experience, and now so are gourmet food festivals. At these events, you can taste vintage cabernets and learn cooking techniques from signature chefs and well-known TV Food Network celebrities.
Others, like the Vermont State Barbecue Championships at Mad River Glen, are homespun gatherings, excellent excuses to sample regional brews and barbecue. Here's a taste of this year's tastings.
VAIL, COThe 10th annual Taste of Vail, from April 6-8, will feature more than 50 winemakers and over 35 chefs from the Vail Valley at tastings and dinners. The most prestigious food event in Vail, it will welcome winemakers such as Acacia Winery, Murphy Goode Estate and Robert Sinskey Vineyards. Tickets for the full event are $325 and individual tickets are available. Contact 888-311-5665/ www.tasteofvail.com
ASPEN, COThe Food and Wine Magazine Classic at Aspen has evolved into one of the most important food events in the country. Running from June 9 to 11, and sponsored by Food & Wine magazine, it features more than 80 cooking demonstrations, wine tastings and panel discussions, with nearly 1,000 wines available for tasting. This most star-studded of food events will this year feature Jacques Pepin, Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and the irrepressible Emeril Lagasse. Contact TK/
BEAVER CREEKBeaver Creek's Summer Culinary Festival runs from June 23 to 25 and the National Pastry Team Championship is on June 24. For tickets and event information, call 1-888-920-2787. To book air and lodging call 800-594-0104/ www.beavercreek.com
The first Annual Snowshoe Food and Wine Festival will be held on July 29, featuring local chefs and live music. Regional produce will be featured and winemakers from both Virginia and West Virginia will offer tastings. Contact 304-572-1000/ www.snowshoemtn.com.
On August 11 and 12, check out Bluesapalooza and Mammoth Festival of Beers. As you might guess, it's a celebration of brews and blues, bringing together great blues musician and the country's top microbrewers for two days in an outdoor setting. Contact 760-934-0606 / www.mammothmountain.com.
The 2000 Kitchenaid Vermont Wine & Food Festival runs from August 11-13, with three days of tastings, dinners and seminars. A festival pass is $249, which includes the seminars, tastings, and demonstrations, plus entry to Grand Tasting Tent. Individual event tickets are also available. Contact 800-STRATTON/ www.stratton.com
On August 12, the 15th Annual Rocky Mountain Wine, Food, and Beer Festival will be the summer highlight at Winter Park. There are wine seminars in the morning and a grand wine and food tasting in the afternoon. Hundreds of wines and champagnes, as well as dozens of microbrews, will be poured. A Silent Auction will be held as a fund-raiser for the National Sports Center for the Disabled. Winemaker dinners will be held at several locations around Winter Park on the Thursday and Friday night prior to the event. Tickets are $30 in advance and include the seminars. Contact 970 726-1543. For lodging packages that include festival tickets, contact 800 729-5813/ / www.skiwinterpark.com.
MAD RIVER GLEN, VT
The very first Vermont State Barbecue Championships will be held at Mad River Glen on August 18-19. The event, which has been officially sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, awards cash prizes for chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder/butt, beef brisket and barbecue sauce categories. Cooking teams will compete for trophies and prize money, leading to the crowning of the Vermont Grand Champion. In true Vermont style,, admission is free to all. Contact 802-496-3551/www.madriverglen.com.
MOUNT SNOW, VT
On September 2 and 3, it's the 6th Annual Mount Snow Brewers Fest, where you can taste 60 microbrewed beers. Food tastings and live music round the weekend out. Contact 800-245-SNOW/ www.mountsnow.com.
BIG MOUNTAIN, MT
The 13th Annual Taste of Whitefish on September 7 is when more than 20 local restaurants participate in a celebration to mark the Whitefish Summer Games. Held at the Performing Arts Center and adjacent Depot Park, the event will feature tastings of restaurants' signature dishes and locally brewed beers. Contact 877-862-3548/ www.whitefishchamber.com
The 10th Annual Fall Foliage Festival and Brewfest on September 23 will feature tastings of more than 50 microbrews. Contact Steamboat Central Reservations at 800-922-2722 or www.steamboat-ski.com.
ATTITASH BEAR PEAK, NH
Oktoberfest is welcomed here on October 7th and 8th, with classic German fare served in a beer garden offering a choice of regional microbrews. There will be traditional Bavarian music and German dancing, as well the third annual People's Choice award for favorite ales and the inevitable sauerkraut-eating contest. Contact 888-554-1900/ www.attitash.com