Resort Spotlight: Trapp Family Lodge

By Jeff and Stephanie Sylva

Snow lovers like their winter family vacations filled with action-packed activities and adventures. Families seeking a family vacation destination that allows them to embrace the winter rather than escape from it should consider traveling to the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont. Here, you’ll find a family-friendly resort that will give everyone the chance to enjoy all that a winter family vacation can offer.

Trapp Family Lodge is aptly named – and for more reasons than just its famous family of owners, the von Trapps of “The Sound of Music” fame. The Lodge, set on 2700 pristine acres with wonderful mountain views, offers a wealth of activities that are perfect for families who want to get all they can out of winter. Additionally, the warm welcome and attentive service of the Lodge’s staff, many of whom have been part of resort’s “family” for many years, will make you feel right at home. So, with a famous family of owners, great family activities, and a warm welcome that makes you feel like part of the family, the Trapp Family Lodge proves to be “family times three.”

The von Trapp Legacy

Trapp Family Lodge is presently a world-renowned resort with numerous accolades, including membership in Small Luxury Hotels of the World. The Lodge began as a family farm shortly after Baron and Baroness von Trapp and their nine children (with a tenth child on the way) fled Austria and the Nazis in 1938. The family eventually settled in Stowe, Vermont because the landscape reminded them of home. This experience, together with the family’s musical prowess, inspired the play and movie, “The Sound of Music.”  Old World influence is evident throughout the resort in its nostalgic décor, classic Tyrolean architecture, and traditional Austrian dishes.

At first the von Trapps rented out rooms in their farmhouse, but eventually the beauty and warmth of this resort resulted in a world-class destination, now under the leadership of Johannes von Trapp. Continuance of the von Trapp tradition has been assured with the recent return of Johannes’ two children, Sam and Kristina, who have become integral parts in the resort’s management. We found both Sam and Kristina extremely hospitable and engaging. Sam and Kristina are often seen interacting with guests.

Winter Activities

Winter activities at Trapp Family Lodge begin with cross-country skiing, as the resort lays claim to the title of the “American home of cross-country skiing.” This is so because in 1968, Johannes opened the first commercial cross-country ski center in North America. Forty years later, Sam von Trapp added snowmaking technology that adds up to 8km of man-made snow to the lower trails. Today the ski center includes 100km of groomed and back-county trails that wind through 2,400 acres of woodlands and meadows with magnificent mountain views. Trails are available for all levels of cross-country skiing ability. The Lodge’s ski center hosts a number of prestigious cross-country ski events every year, attesting to the quality of its Nordic skiing. The ski center offers group and private lessons as well as rentals. Starting at three years of age, children can be outfitted for skiing or snowshoeing.

Another great activity that will get families outdoors is snowshoeing. We spent a few hours each day snowshoeing throughout the trail system, enjoying the exercise and the beauty of the natural surroundings. The ski center offers guided snowshoe nature tours, which are a great way to learn about the natural surroundings. The ski center even offers a snowshoe tour with instruction in winter survival techniques. Kids will love to build their own snow shelter using only what nature provides for building materials. A favorite trek of ours was the trip to the Slayton Pasture Cabin. Using one of the dedicated snowshoe trails, we eagerly accepted the challenge of the uphill, three-mile hike and were rewarded with a warm fire and hearty bowl of homemade soup at the cabin. The trek back was much easier, as it was mostly downhill. Snowshoe rentals are also available at the ski center.

One activity your family won’t want to miss is an authentic horse-drawn sleigh ride. Offered as a group ride or a private ride for up to about six people, the sleigh ride will take you over snow-covered meadows and into the woods as the jingle of the harness bells serenade you. We took our ride in the evening. Although we had limited views of the scenery, the star-studded night sky was a perfect accompaniment to this romantic experience. Parents may want to let the kids take the group sleigh ride and save the evening one for their own romantic getaway.

If anyone in the family wants to spend the day downhill skiing, Stowe Mountain Resort is just minutes away. Trapp Family Lodge offers a morning and afternoon shuttle bus to the slopes.

Mountain Kids Club

Because of the emphasis that Trapp Family Lodge puts on family, the Lodge’s Mountain Kids Club has expanded to an all-season program offering great indoor and outdoor activities for the kids throughout the year. On winter weekdays, children can join in the fun-filled activities of cross-country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, snow sculpting, winter explorations, and of course, lots of hot chocolate with marshmallows and cookies. Kids love to enjoy the hot chocolate and s’mores around the late-afternoon campfire. A variety of indoor activities are offered daily, including arts & crafts, jewelry design, wooden toy making, and creating your own lip glosses and body glitter. Most of the arts & crafts classes have a nominal fee.

During the warmer months, the Mountain Kids Club offers such activities as canoeing, volleyball, movies, pizza parties, adventure hikes, rock climbing, and even green thumb gardening in a small kids garden.

Indoor Activities

If the weather doesn’t cooperate for outdoor fun, there is plenty to do indoors. The Fitness Center houses a beautiful, heated indoor pool; a 20-person outdoor hot tub surrounded by heated slate (must be 16 years old); a massage center offering a variety of treatments; a well-equipped fitness center with the latest in exercise equipment; an exercise room for yoga and other classes; a new home for the Mountain Kids Club; and a climbing wall. We did our best to enjoy much of what the Fitness Center offered, experiencing wonderful massages after a day filled with yoga class, swimming in the pool, a soak in the hot tub as snowflakes cascaded down on us, and a session on some of the fitness center’s exercise equipment.

One activity that we rushed to after our trek to the cabin was a pastry instruction class given by Marshall Faye, the Trapp Family Lodge’s Executive Pastry Chef. Classes are conducted most Wednesdays and up to 10 – 12 people can enjoy this hands-on experience. Families or groups can book a private class on other days. Children are welcomed, and Marshall has had participants from ages 6 to 102 years old!  Every class includes a bread, a pastry and a cookie, and everyone is encouraged to have fun. The best part is that class members take home what they make. It is nearly impossible to fail, as Marshall and his assistants are extremely helpful.

Another indoor activity that parents may want to experience is the weekly wine tasting conducted in the lodge’s wine cellar. Tastings include a selection of about 5 or 6 wines, centered around a specific theme.

A Four-Season Resort

Trapp Family Lodge is an excellent choice for a winter getaway, but it’s fun to visit Stowe and The Lodge during other seasons as well. In the summer, the Mountain Kids Club is in full swing, outdoor fun abounds, and the beauty of the landscape and well-attended gardens is most visible. Summer activities include kayaking, canoeing, fly fishing, farm visits, tennis, volleyball, movies and pizza parties. The whole family will enjoy the horse-drawn carriage rides, hiking, mountain biking, and concerts in the meadow. Fall foliage time provides breathtaking panoramas and springtime presents a pastel palette of colors from blooming tulips, daffodils, and other types of flowers. March and early April is the time when maple sugaring is conducted. Families can explore the Lodge’s tapping system and visit the sugar house to view the process of boiling the sap down into pure maple syrup.

Elegant Accommodations and European-Inspired Dining

The Trapp Family Lodge’s wide choice of accommodations makes it easy for families to find just the right type of room. Accommodations in the lodge range from a large standard room with two queen beds to luxurious suites, all with mountain views from the balconies. Rooms in the main lodge have European furnishings and offer the charm and elegance of an alpine lodge. A number of common areas, such as the sunroom, the library, the game room and various family rooms, provide guests with many options to relax and feel at home.

The Guest Houses, which are traditional Tyrolean chalets, are a second option. Each Guest House has two bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen and a hearthside living room. Guest Houses require a one-week rental unless there is availability 30 days or less in advance of planned arrival. The Villas provide an even more luxurious option. Located in a secluded section of woodlands, the 2500 square foot villas offer a magnificent great room with a wood-burning fireplace, gourmet kitchen, and two deluxe master suites – one with a fireplace. Exposed beams and decorator furnishings combine the very best of Austrian sophistication and the enchantment of a Vermont country estate. Rates vary greatly depending on the season and a variety of package plans are also available.

Dining options include the casual atmosphere of the Lounge, which offers light fare and live entertainment nightly. In the summer, the Lounge doors open to the outdoor tables set on the front lawn for cocktails and afternoon tea - be sure to try the delicious cookies offered everyday at the afternoon tea. The more elegant Dining Room offers both Austrian cuisine and seasonal specialties that showcase local Vermont produce. From Austrian favorites like Wiener Schnitzel with Spatzel, or Bratwurst and other seasoned sausages, to venison and fresh seafood, the menu choices are sure to please. And all of the breads, pastries such as the famed linzertorte, and desserts are made fresh daily in the lodge bakery. The Dining Room provides a wonderful dining experience, yet it is very kid-friendly. In addition to a children’s menu, the kitchen staff is open to individual requests whenever possible.

A Little Bit of Austria

A visit to Trapp Family Lodge will envelop your family in the beauty of the pristine mountains of Vermont. Located just minutes from the authentic New England village of Stowe with its galleries, events, festivals, bike trails, and Mt. Mansfield, the highest mountain in Vermont – the Trapp Family Lodge offers activities for families year-round. Yes, you may just think you’ve traveled further than that – perhaps all the way to Europe for a little taste of Austria. It’s just what the von Trapp family felt every time they returned to Vermont from a singing tour.

If You Go:

* For more information on the Trapp Family Lodge and rates, call 1-800-826-7000 or visit www.trappfamily.com.

* At check-in, be sure to ask for the children’s booklet “Visiting Trapp Family Lodge with my Family.” Kristina von Trapp and her two daughters, Stella and Annie, share their suggestions for good manners while visiting their Lodge.

Jeff and Stephanie Sylva are retired high school teachers and have been professional travel writers for over twenty years. Their daughter Jennifer, who is currently in college, often travels with them.

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