In Vermont, an Austrian-Inspired Lodge That Brings Nordic Ski Culture to Life

Vermont's Trapp Family Lodge brings a uniquely European sensibility to cross-country skiing in New England.
The cross-country trails are well-marked at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont (Photo: Penelope Roberts)
Cross-country skiing at the Trapp Family Lodge (Photo: Penelope Roberts)

There’s something satisfying about the kick and glide of cross country skiing. I’ve never really taken to downhill ski resorts with their steep drops and even steeper ticket prices, but Nordic skiing has always been one of my favorite winter pastimes. And having recently discovered there’s a whole world of cross-country ski resorts around the U.S., I knew I wanted to try building a winter weekend around one for myself. 

There are a few cross-country ski lodges to choose from in the northeast, where I live. I settled on the Austrian-inspired Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont, because it was easily doable as a romantic weekend getaway for me and my husband, and its alpine elevation means there’s almost always a good base of snow. Having honeymooned in Stowe years earlier, I was excited to return and experience the idyllic Vermont town in a new season.

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View from a guest room at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont (Photo: Penelope Roberts)
Guest rooms at the Trapp Family Lodge have sweeping views of the surrounding mountains (Photo: Penelope Roberts)

Cross-Country Skiing at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont

The Trapp Family Lodge’s main guest house and nearby outdoor center are at the heart of about 40 miles of groomed trails, and there’s a trail for everyone. They’re well marked and easy to follow, and the lodge provides a free trail map to help you navigate. We stuck to cross-country skiing, but we did see snowshoers out enjoying the mountain too. There are groomed trails intended just for Nordic skiers and others just for snowshoers, which makes it easier for both groups to maneuver without affecting anyone else’s enjoyment.

First-time Nordic skiers can take a ski class and practice climbing and stopping before heading out on a nice flat ski through the meadow. We skied the beginner, advanced beginner, and intermediate tracks. I’m used to cross-country skiing in the woods close to home, plowing my own path or following in the trail of others. But the trails at the Trapp Family Lodge are all wide, well-groomed, and almost unbelievably scenic. It’s like a storybook dream version of European alpine skiing right here in the United States.  

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Leaving the Austrian-inspired lodge with its warm fires, my skis freshly waxed, the first inhale of cold air quickly pushed the routine of my daily life far from my mind. We skied for about four hours, and there was nothing to think about but the motions of skiing and the snowy forested trails as we made our way to the rustic lunch cabin, where we knew we could look forward to hot soup and fresh bread. 

Making small elevation gains and losses as we skied, we met more slow skiers like us as well as others who glided by with amazing speed and grace. The trail up to the lunch hut can be challenging in places, but nothing that a little duck walk or sideways walk can’t conquer. After a while we were skiing without our heavy sweaters and hats, and we passed skiers on their way back to the lodge who urged us on. 

It takes some work to get there, but the warm fire at lunch hut is well worth it (Photo: Penelope Roberts)
It takes some work to get there, but the warm fire at the Slayton Pasture Cabin is worth it (Photo: Penelope Roberts)

Three miles from the ski center, the trail widened into an open dell with the rustic Slayton Pasture Cabin at the top. Everyone’s skis were upright in the snow banks awaiting their owners from inside. As we entered, we were greeted by two people behind the counter and large vats of soup bubbling away on the stovetop. A fire blazed in an open fireplace and damp clothes were hung around the hearth to dry out. We ate at a long wood table beside other skiers and snowshoers and learned that the food is brought up by Snowcat from the lodge. There’s one hardy soul who stays at the cabin through the night to light the fires in the morning.

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The trip to the lunch hut was mostly flat or uphill, so the loop trail back to the lodge was the opposite—a bit more downhill. After studying the trail map, we chose a path that was longer but seemed to be a more gentle descent. My husband, a cross-country skiing novice but who has lots of downhill skiing experience, quickly got the hang of gliding downhill on the long skis. I’ve cross-country skied my whole life, but going downhill while turning still intimidates me. We both managed, though. There were some places where my husband zipped down and I chose to remove my skis and carry them around a sharp bend. Not often, though, and before long we reached flat trails again and could ski easily back towards the rising smoke of the lodge’s chimneys. 

It was a day of cross-country skiing unlike anything I’ve experienced before, a true taste of Nordic life just a few hours from our suburban Boston home. It had a little bit of the alpine energy you feel at a downhill ski resort but with gentler trails, fewer people, and no lift lines. It’s an experience I can’t wait to repeat again. 

The rustic Slayton Pasture Cabin is about three miles from the Trapp Family Lodge outdoor center (Photo: Penelope Roberts)
The rustic Slayton Pasture Cabin is about three miles from the Trapp Family Lodge outdoor center (Photo: Penelope Roberts)

Staying at the Trapp Family Lodge

The Trapp Family Lodge traces its history back to the family who inspired the Sound of Music, and in many ways it feels directly lifted from the Austrian Alps. On winter weekends, you can even snuggle under blankets on a horse-drawn carriage ride through the snowy hills, literally laughing to jingle bells all the way.  

The lodge’s main dining room serves breakfast and dinner, and there’s a spa, hot tub, and fitness programming like yoga classes to keep you occupied when you’re not on the trails. We spent our evenings playing board games by a roaring fire in the lounge. I recommend heading into downtown Stowe for a hearty breakfast before coming back to the lodge for skiing or snowshoeing the magical trails.

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Penelope Roberts
A mother of two, Penelope Roberts has traveled all across the world with her family. Her favorite destinations include Iceland, Ireland, Maui, Panama, and the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Penelope's travel photography has appeared in multiple publications, including Highlights Magazine and Britain and Ireland's Wildest Places.