Vail’s Oktoberfest celebrations this fall were a standout success, drawing twice as many visitors as the 2021 events. Thanks to a partnership with event company Team Player Productions Inc., which took over the event for the first time this year, that success has led to an influx of funding for local nonprofit Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance.
In the state of Colorado, all liquor licenses for special event permits must be pulled by nonprofit organizations to encourage a supportive relationship between for-profit events and local initiatives. Ernest Saeger, executive director of the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance, said that the organization has had a long relationship with Team Players, pulling licenses for the Vail Craft Beer Classic, and jumped at the opportunity to partner with them for Oktoberfest.
In addition to pulling the license, the alliance provided 156 volunteers working a total of 665 hours to fully staff the event, enabling all tips and a percentage of profits to go directly to the organization. Ryan Slater, the chief operations officer of Team Player Productions, said this was a new approach that worked due to the commitment that so many volunteers showed to the cause.
“We switched up the model of the bar system and worked with Ernest and the Vail Valley Mountain Trails guys to help run our bars, and they were able to do that event with all volunteers,” Ryan said. “Knowing how big that event is, it felt good to know that a lot of that is going right back to the valley and keeping the trails maintained.”
In total, the nonprofit received $45,000 from the event, which will primarily go toward funding its seasonal trail conservation crew, a six-person team that started in 2021 with support from a pandemic relief grant. The trained staff now works 40 hours a week, May through October, to maintain and conserve trails across all public lands in Eagle County.
The conservation crew focuses on trail maintenance, trail building, protecting seasonal wildlife closures, closing illegal and social trails, designating campsites and closing illegal campsites, communicating fire restrictions, educating trail users at trailheads, removing garbage and generally mitigating recreational impacts on trails and public lands.
Saeger said that the annual cost of supporting the crew comes to around $175,000, meaning that the funds raised by Vail Oktoberfest will cover over a quarter of the overall cost.
“We hope to continue to partner with Team Player Productions and Vail Oktoberfest in the future,” Saeger said. “It’s really awesome that this event is supporting our community in this way.”
Projects undertaken in 2021 include maintaining the Minturn Bike Park, rehabilitating Meadow Mountain trails, rerouting sections of the Game Creek Trail and Colorado Trail, building the Adam’s Way and Will’s Thrill trails and continuing to fund and advocate for the preservation of the West Avon Preserve. The organization will produce its 2022 report at the end of the year.
For more information about the work and volunteer opportunities at the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance, visit VVMTA.org