“I go to the hills when my heart is lonely.” This text written by Oscar Hammerstein II for the title song in The Sound of Music likely brings to mind Julie Andrews twirling around on her famous mountaintop in the 1965 film. While many have heard the lyric countless times in passing, the concept lies deep in who I am as a person. And as a traveler.
I do go to the hills to fill up my heart. I’ve been drawn to mountains my entire life. Being privileged to experience many landscapes known for mountains and hills, one holds a special place in my heart. Nestled in the Green Mountains of Vermont, the village of Stowe is straight out of a storybook. Little Stowe lies 30 miles from Burlington International Airport in a vast valley formed by Mount Mansfield and the Worcester Mountain Range. The picturesque white steeple of Stowe Community Church rises above the quaint streets, which are lined with boutiques and pill box houses strung with real greenery in wintertime. Driving out of town on Mountain Road, the calzones and garlic knots at Piecasso are to die for. (Check them out at www.piecasso.com.)
Branching off to the left from Mountain Road, Trapp Hill Road leads travelers to an alpine paradise. Perched on a mountainside overlooking the vast valley below, the Trapp Family Lodge is one of New England’s greatest treasures. The resort sits on 2,500 acres of wilderness sporting a European lodge, villas, guest houses, large meadows, a fitness center with indoor and outdoor pools, various dining options, and seemingly endless cross country ski trails. The Main Dining Room serves a traditional Austrian breakfast each morning. A highlight is the fitness center’s outdoor hot tub with mountains looming in the background (I relaxed in this on a day that’s temperature peaked at 15 degrees Fahrenheit – what a thrill!). A visit to the Trapp Family Lodge is equally delightful in summer or winter, but the property is most famous for cross country skiing.
In 1968, the Trapp Cross Country Ski Center opened to the public. It was the first of its kind in the United States and is “considered the foremost cross country ski touring center in America today”, according to the lodge’s official website. The ski trails crisscrossing Trapp Mountain are expertly groomed to such a degree that often skiers glide along through the woods without much assistance from ski poles. Lessons are offered for beginners and experienced skiers alike.
The Sugar Road Trail forges deep into the forest passing the Trapp’s Sugar House, where maple syrup is harvested from surrounding tapped trees. After arriving at Picnic Knoll, a variety of ski trails branch off in all directions across the mountains. The Slayton Pasture Cabin, a rustic winter respite high in the hills with a roaring fire and delicious soups, sandwiches, and desserts, welcomes skiers from the cold. The trip from here back to the Lodge is mostly downhill, which makes the journey totally worthwhile. (Racing through the trees with the only sound being the snow falling is an experience I’ll never forget.)
Besides being one of the premiere ski resorts in the country, the history surrounding the Trapp Family Lodge has become known across the globe. Captain Georg and Maria von Trapp escaped Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938 and fled to America in search of a new life. The family was musical and, having established their own singing group two years before, began touring the country as the Trapp Family Singers. After searching for a place to permanently settle, Georg and Maria happened upon alpine property high in the mountains above Stowe. The magnificent mountain vistas reminded the family of their abandoned Austrian estate in Salzburg. Guest rooms were added to the family’s home and it opened for public lodging in 1948 after Georg’s death, with Maria taking full charge of operations. The original lodge tragically burned to the ground in December of 1980 and the current structure opened in 1983. Maria remained at the helm until her death in 1987. Sam von Trapp, son of Georg and Maria’s youngest son Johannes, operates the lodge today. Several members of the von Trapp family, including Georg and Maria, are buried in the family cemetery located a stone’s throw away from the Lodge.
The von Trapp family’s story was immortalized in The Sound of Music, the last collaboration of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1959; six years later, the Academy Award-winning film adaptation catapulted the family’s story to international fame. The Sound of Music is shown in the Lodge for guests, along with a variety of other films each week. History talks, a documentary detailing the von Trapp family’s story (with footage of Maria von Trapp returning to Salzburg in the 1980s), and weekly musical events are also regularly scheduled.
Visit the Trapp Family Lodge for mountain vistas, top-notch outdoor activities, and lessons in the history of one of the most celebrated families of our time. All Lodge amenities, activities, and offerings are detailed on the resort’s website – www.trappfamily.com. Go to the hills – your heart will fill up!