When the holidays come to Stowe, Vermont, the Trapp Family Lodge goes all out, decking the halls of the mountain getaway with twinkling lights, evergreen boughs, and 19 Christmas trees. The old-fashioned ski resort is still owned by the descendants of Maria and Baron Georg von Trapp, who eventually moved to the Green Mountains after fleeing Nazi-occupied Austria.
“The Austrians take Christmas very seriously,” said Executive Vice President Sam von Trapp, who is the grandson of Maria and the Baron.
For those visiting the Trapp Family Lodge, the winter season is a glimpse into Austrian Christmases past. On Christmas Eve, the von Trapps gather for a caroling session with overnight guests. Sam von Trapp and his family don classic Austrian attire for the holidays; women wear dirndls in wool and leather, while men sport traditional shirts with buttons carved from antlers.
“We’re in a beautiful room with a big fire going in the fireplace, and it’s not a performance,” Sam von Trapp said. “It’s a tradition that we’ve kept since I was a little kid.”
Music has long been important to the von Trapp family, whose singing career was dramatized in The Sound of Music.
“The carol that’s very powerful for us is ‘Silent Night,’” he said. “It was written in Salzburg, and we still sing the first verse in German.”
If you catch the notes of jingling bells outside the sprawling lodge, watch for the shaggy-maned Belgian draft horses that draw sleighs over the hillside through the winter months. Day visitors to the Trapp Family Lodge may join group sleigh rides on a first come, first served basis, or plan ahead by booking a private sleigh ride in advance.
Throughout the property, cross-country skiers kick and glide over 37 miles of groomed trails — when it opened in 1968, the Trapp Family Lodge was America’s very first commercial cross-country ski center, and it’s now one of just a handful of cross-country ski areas in Vermont that cover the trails with man-made snow. (Trail passes are available from $25/adult, $15/junior, $10/child.)
After a gradual 3-mile climb from the lodge’s Outdoor Center, skiers reach the roaring fire at Slaton Pasture Cabin, where you can warm up with mugs of rich hot chocolate. Turn your skis downhill, and you’ll head for the lodge’s Austrian-style brewery and bierhall, where pints of lager are served alongside hot pretzels, bratwurst, or spaetzle.
But the sweetest taste of a European Christmas might be at the diminutive Austrian Tea & Tap Room, a cozy café that’s also accessible on cross-country skis. Inside is Maurizio Helmut Odermatt, one of the newest additions to the Trapp Family Lodge staff and a German-trained master baker who was raised in the Bavarian Alps, not far from the Austrian border.
The Austrian Tea & Tap Room is decked with gingerbread ornaments that hang from wooden ceiling beams, and the kitchen turns out legions of European holiday treats. Loaves of marzipan stollen line up alongside Viennese vanilla horns, butter cookies, and Nürnberger lebkuchen, a spice-rich cookie that’s long been a favorite at German Christmas markets. As the property fills with carols and the swish of skis, Odermatt’s pastry kitchen glows with warmth. Using fruit from the trees that dot the property, the baker and his helpers roll out sheets of dough for the lodge’s signature pastry, which may be the ultimate Christmas breakfast: a rich apple strudel served in a sweet flurry of icing sugar.
Trapp Family Lodge is located at 100 Trapp Hill Road, Stowe, Vermont. Reservations for the Trapp Family Lodge can be made by calling 800-826-7000, and the lodge’s outdoor center, bierhall, café, and lodge dining room will be open to day visitors and overnight guests through the holiday season. Pastries, including apple strudel, may be ordered in advance for pickup.