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Visit the Von Trapp Family’s Vermont

Spoiler alert: the Sound of Music is based on a real family who traded the Austrian Alps in for American slopes. Follow their footsteps on a weekend trip to Stowe, Vermont.

Photographs by Kyoko Hamada

The Trapp Family Lodge all aglow and covered in snow.

As the 1965 Oscar-winning best picture The Sound of Music fades out, the triumphant ending shows the von Trapps escaping Nazi-occupied Austria by crossing the Alps into the safe haven of Switzerland. But in 1938, the real family simply crossed the street and boarded a train. While there was fear that they wouldn’t be allowed out of the country, the refugees were fortunate. “They had a concert promoter in the United States, and it was in his best interest to make sure their arrival went smoothly,” says Sam von Trapp, grandson of the late Georg and Maria von Trapp.

After touring as the Trapp Family Singers in Europe and the U.S., the family took up an offer to stay at an off-season ski house in Stowe. “As soon as they saw the views, they fell in love with Vermont,” von Trapp says, noting how the natural beauty and tight-knit community reminded them of their hometown of Salzburg. So they bought a hilltop farm, and in 1950, they started welcoming guests.

20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

These days the family has another claim to fame, with the 2,500-acre Trapp Family Lodge, which they call “A little of Austria, a lot of Vermont.” Experience a winter weekend in the Appalachians’ Green Mountains, and you’ll find these hills are just as alive.

Day One

A few of the von Trapp family’s favorite things today: beer, farming, and Nordic skiing, all of which can be experienced on the property.

In 1968, Maria’s youngest son, Johannes, now 80 and president of the lodge, opened the first full-­service cross-country ski center in the U.S., with 38 miles of trails. One of the most popular is the three-mile trek to Slayton Pasture Cabin. “It’s a physical challenge, but the reward is a rustic cabin and a roaring fire along with homemade soups, hearty sandwiches, and hot chocolate,” says Airbnb host Olwen Pongrace, who rents out her Trapp Family Lodge villa.

“Doc Ponds on Mountain Road is our go-to for a bite and a craft beer. I tell our guests, ‘They’ll take care of you.’” — Heather Snyder, Airbnb superhost

Afterward, kick back at the Bierhall Restaurant — a true taste of Salz­burg beer culture. Started in 2010, von Trapp Brewing produces up to 36,000 barrels a year, including the Helles (German for “bright”), a crisp, clean lager. Also on the menu: items harvested on the family’s farm, like the egg in the TrappCobb and the chicken schnitzel.

Pretzels and brews on tap at the von Trapp Brewing Bierhall.

There’s no shortage of activities nearby, including sleigh rides and visits to the Maple Sugarhouse, wine cellar, and Kaffeehaus Bakery & Delicatessen. History tours end with a question-and-answer session with a family member, and on special occasions, you may even find yourself singing with a von Trapp. “My father still has a fantastic voice,” von Trapp says of Johannes, who toured with his family from about the age of 7 to 17.

Day Two

There’s much to explore off the lodge’s property within a few miles of Mountain Road. Start with a different kind of European ode at PK Coffee. Cofounder Katrina Veerman channels elements of Euro cafe culture with Vermont ingredients: milk from Sweet Rowen Farmstead and flour from Elmore Mountain Bread.

Stock up on snacks for the slopes at another local mainstay with Austrian roots, the Edelweiss Mountain Deli, opened by ski instructors Aldi and Ingeborg Yoerg in 1968. The two were brought over by Sepp Ruschp, who moved to Stowe from Austria in the 1930s and started the ski school at Stowe Mountain Resort.

The Stowe Mountain Resort ski lift.

The downhill ski resort is about seven miles up the road and boasts 314 inches of annual snowfall on the slopes of the state’s highest peak, the 4,395-foot Mount Mansfield. With 116 trails in 485 skiable acres, including the daring Front Four trails, even adventurous skiers are guaranteed an adrenaline rush.

Then end your day the Stowe way at the Matterhorn, a cozy après-ski spot so beloved by locals that regular customers are rewarded by having their own designated mugs stashed at the bar. The perfectly crisp Buffalo wings cooked in the wood-fire oven and sushi made with tuna flown in from Hawaii take bar food to the next level.

Day Three

Veer downtown, stopping in at Stowe Bee Bakery & Cafe for the gigantic popovers made with homemade butter. (And go early — they usually sell out quickly.)

Then visit Umiak Outdoor Outfitters, where you can choose your own adventure. The company offers dog sledding with Alaskan Huskies during the day or Siberian Huskies in the evening, as well as snowshoeing and tubing tours. For the more independently minded, rent snowshoes and head out where the locals go. Airbnb superhost Heather Snyder recommends Smugglers’ Notch State Park or Wiessner Woods. “It’s pretty magical when the snow is fresh and sparkling in the light through the trees,” she says. “It changes the acoustics and makes everything quiet. You can’t help feeling more peaceful afterwards.”

Dog sledding

Finish off the idyllic small-town winter weekend by browsing the historic shops on and around Main Street. Weave through country stores like Shaw’s General Store and Stowe Mercantile, as well as Green Mountain Fine Art Gallery, inside a Federal-style building, and Northwood Gallery, featuring the state’s artisans. Be sure to pop into Laughing Moon Chocolates, which offers daily chocolate dipping demonstrations (with samples) at 2 p.m. in its open kitchen — and leave town with a homemade hot chocolate in hand.

Maria’s Salzburg

Long before Nonnberg Abbey had its close-up in The Sound of Music, the beautiful Salzburg nunnery was already an essential part of the Austrian landscape. Founded between 712 and 715, the oldest female monastery in the German-speaking world is famed for its Gothic architecture, works of art, and the angelic Gregorian chorals sung by the convent’s nuns.

©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

The journey to the Benedictine Abbey is all part of the experience, and any way you go about it offers glorious views. Take the 144 steps via Nonn­bergstiege, traverse the narrow lane from Nonntal, or hike the Hoher Weg path. If you make it there early enough, you just may hear the daily 6:45 a.m. singing of the nuns, which Maria once longed to be part of.

About the author: Californian-turned-New Yorker (well, Hobokenite) Rachel Chang is a writer-editor who has worked at Us Weekly, CosmoGIRL!, J-14, and the WB and written for Travel + Leisure, Mic’s Out of Office, Mental Floss, and Intrepid Travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.



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