Winter Park mainstay reopens under its original ownership
Winter Park correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GRAND COUNTY, Colorado – In the late 1960s, a little village called Hideaway Park tucked against the Western Slope was being transformed into a European-style alpine village.
New buildings were going up in the architectural style of the high Alps. Western European immigrants flocked to the area, drawn by the feel of home. Gift shops, restaurants, hotels and ski shops were being opened by immigrants from Austria, Germany, northern Italy and Switzerland.
In just a few decades, what had been a cluster of cabins with a few outposts by the river at the base of Ski Idlewild was growing into a thriving alpine ski town with businesses such as the Swiss Chalet, the Yodel Inn, the Olympia, Hi Country Haus and Hernandos.
In 1963, a young couple from the Rhine Valley in Germany came to Colorado by way of Canada and fell in love with Hideaway Park for the same reason as their predecessors: It reminded them of home.
Hans and Hanne Eichler went on to become mainstays in the town. And nearly 40 years later, they are still it at it. This week they have reopened their beloved restaurant and hotel Gasthaus Eichler with its authentic German fare and “willkommen” atmosphere.
“We are going back to the basics,” said Hanne, who learned the restaurant’s traditional recipes from her mother as a child.
After the war, her mother had to go to work, Hanne said, and she, like most young girls at the time, was responsible for the cooking at home.
“It’s what we learned as girls,” she said. “We learned how to cook. That’s just how it was.”
Hanne married Hans when she was 19, and months later they headed to North America in search of a better life.
“Things were difficult after the war,” Hanne said.
The young couple knew they wanted to live in the United States, and, at the time, moving to Canada was their best chance of ultimately being allowed into this country.
Their first vacation to the United States in 1963 brought them to Hideaway Park, and there they stayed, drawn by the feel of home.
Hans was a stone mason and quickly found work building foundations and fireplaces at Hideaway Village, which was under construction at the time.
From 1977 to 1981, they owned a gift shop called Plaza Gifts in Winter Park Plaza, near the current Hideaway Park.
In 1980, they opened their own restaurant, Gasthaus Eichler, in the current location of Ullr’s (formerly Buckets) next to the movie theater.
For a while, the restaurant was only enough to support the family in the winter when the skiers were in town. Eventually, however, Hans had to give up his stone mason work to help run the front of restaurant full time.
As the Gasthaus grew in popularity so did the pots in the kitchen, Hanne said, raising her hands to the height of a giant industrial soup pot.
When the time came to retire, the couple leased out the restaurant and the ski shop and hit the road in their motor home.
Then, last year, when the people who had leased the restaurant from them left, the Eichlers faced a difficult decision. They did not want to let the restaurant sit empty and unused. Yet, returning to run the restaurant full time in their 70s was a daunting idea.
“We thought about it for about 30 seconds,” Hanne said. “But, this is our livelihood. We built this restaurant. It is everything to us.”
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