The Trapp Family Lodge, near Stowe, Vermont, must be one of Saint Nicholas’s favorite stops during the holiday season. Tree ornaments depict the von Trapps’ musical legacy, crosscountry skiing turns snowdrifts into folly, and fireplaces blaze until the wee hours.
When Maria von Trapp first gazed at the snow-blanketed hills and valleys of Vermont’s Green Mountains after she and her family fled Nazi-occupied Austria, the area looked much like home—a sister scene to her beloved Alps. In 1943, the famous Sound of Music singing troupe bought a farm on Luce Hill, near Stowe, and welcomed guests to their farmhouse. Four decades later, fire destroyed the original house, but within three years, the family rebuilt and created a ninety-six-room inn that embraces Austrian style and outdoor vigor. Comprising 2,500 acres, the property includes villas and chalets, as well as a restaurant, garden, brewery, and bakery. The resort continues to thrive in the hands of third-generation von Trapps. Although the singing tours ceased in 1955, hospitality is now the high note they strive to achieve.
As thoughts turn to Christmas, no season could better frame the family’s long-held traditions. Snowshoes and cross-country skis become the preferred modes of transportation, and sleigh rides delight guests. Logs crackle in the many fireplaces, and steins of lager warm cheeks on brisk winter nights. The exterior balconies are lined with a cavalcade of fresh garlands and lighted firs. Ornaments brighten the holiday trees—fifteen in all, each with its own unique theme—and the intoxicating scent of evergreen suffuses the air.
On movie night, guests can watch actress Julie Andrews rhapsodize in that iconic alpine meadow or view a BBC documentary on Maria’s amazing life as a nun who left the convent to nurse a sick child and then became the second wife of widower Captain Georg von Trapp. It was she who nurtured the musical skills that garnered a world stage for the Trapp Family Singers. In the spirit of commemorating their talents, informal carols drift from the inn’s Mozart Room every Christmas Eve. “We always sing the first verse of ‘Silent Night’ in German,” says Trapp Family Lodge vice president Sam von Trapp. “It still brings tears to my eyes.” His father, Johannes, was the youngest child in the family and the only one born in the United States. Johannes began touring with his siblings at the age of 8, singing soprano. When the croak of his adolescent voice smoothed out, he then sang in the bass register. Sam regales guests with his father’s stories of the early days here, such as there being a secret door to Maria’s apartment on the top floor and that they opened gifts there on Christmas Eve.
The overall experience the resort provides is reminiscent of his childhood, says Sam. “It’s the connection with nature. You see deer and wild turkeys; we raise our own beef and make beer with water from our own springs,” he adds. “There’s a quality of goodness here.” The fourth-generation von Trapps are being groomed with the same stewardship of heritage and hospitality. To them, it is only natural to listen to the hush of a silent night while they, along with their guests, celebrate an old-fashioned Christmas.
“The Hills Are Alive with Holiday Magic” can be found in the November/December 2011 issue of Victoria magazine.
Text Kathryn Renner
Photography Kamin Williams