Trapp Family Lodge: Country-Style Living, European Flair

Travel Weekly art director Judy O'Sullivan spent a weekend at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt., learning to cross-country ski. Her report follows:

STOWE, Vt. -- Previously home to the Trapp Family Singers of "The Sound of Music" fame, the 2,200-acre Trapp Family Lodge resort offers Vermont country living with a distinctly European flair.

It is difficult to believe that the resort, ranked No. 1 by Snow Country magazine among cross-country ski centers in the U.S., with more than 60 kilometers of groomed trails, started out as a crude trail marked with tin can lids.

But according to Johannes von Trapp, president of the resort, it was the love of the sport that prompted the family to share the setting with guests, opening the first cross-country ski center in the nation.

The lodge opened in the 1940s, according to von Trapp, when his mother would take in guests while the family was away on concert tours.

The guests were skiers looking for accommodations near the burgeoning ski resort village of Stowe.

When guests began to overflow from the children's bedrooms and even the barn, the family added rooms and enlarged the dining room.

At dinner, there sometimes would be as many as 18 to 20 people sitting with the family, their mother always at the head of the table, overseeing the meal with the help of a live-in cook.

The family's innkeeping business was a natural outgrowth of these early days, von Trapp said.

The resort, which now has 100 rooms and is open year-round, was rebuilt in 1980 after a fire destroyed most of the original buildings.

Retaining the warmth and hospitality that characterized the family's home, the lodge prides itself on its efficient but cozy atmosphere.

On my first morning, after a hearty breakfast of pancakes smothered in local maple syrup, I set out for the Cross Country Ski Center, visible from the lodge's dining room.

Charlie Yerrick, director of skiing, instructed our group in the subtleties of staying upright on six-foot-long skis.

He demonstrated everything we needed to know, from how to attach our boots to the skis -- that was an easy one -- to stopping on an incline, which was less easy.

It was my first time on skis of any kind, so I set out taking baby strides.

Before I knew it, I got the hang of it -- as long as I was on a flat, level surface.

We set out to explore some of the resort's well-groomed trails, starting with Sugar Road Trail.

It was hard not to be envious of the more accomplished skiers who seemed to glide up the mountain, deeper into the maples, pines and birches that these trails showcase.

After an hour or two of skiing, we enjoyed a short break of cider and donuts back at the Sport Shop. The ski center carries a full line of cross-country ski equipment. Rental skis and lessons are available.

The resort also offers snowshoeing and sleigh rides.

Most of the guests at the property are cross-country skiers; about 20% do not ski at all.

Those who would rather enjoy the scenery from indoors can do so, thanks to the huge bay windows in the main dining room.

In addition to breakfast, dinner is served in this room, where Austrian and seafood specialties are the order of the day.

There is a lounge with a bar menu and nightly entertainment by local musicians.

The Austrian Tea Room and the gift shop are located about a half-mile from the main lodge. Lunch and light snacks, specialty teas and pastries are offered for midday meals.

There is a library with a selection of books for guests to borrow and a sun room for reading and relaxing.

The resort's fitness center features an array of exercise equipment as well as a heated pool.

Aerobic and workout classes are available, and guests also can book Swedish massages for an additional fee.

The property offers nightly movies in St. George's Hall. Available are such family fare as "Free Willy," "National Velvet" and "Sleepless in Seattle."

Plans for the property include the re-creation of a working New England farm, where guests can opt to participate in the daily chores.

The newly opened Sugar House, which is built on the same site where one once stood in the 1950s, houses the raw sap collected from nearly 100 sugar maples. There it is boiled down, using a centuries-old process.

To reinforce the authenticity of the process, the resort's team of horses pull the buckets from the sugar maples to the Sugar House and back.

"On a warm afternoon, you can hear the plunk of the sap dripping into the buckets, sounding like a natural percussion ensemble," von Trapp said.

The syrup is sold at the Austrian Gift Shop and the Sports Shop under the Trapp Family Lodge private label. Darker grades will be used in the Trapp Family Bakery for its fresh-baked goods and confections.

Six cows and a calf reside at the Trapp farm, and von Trapp hopes eventually to reintroduce sheep.

For equestrians, his plans include an Equine Inn, a stable where guests can lodge their own horses.

"I would like the guests who stay at the lodge to have the opportunity to experience real Vermont country mountainside activities," von Trapp said.

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