EPISODE 24: TRAPP FAMILY LODGE NORDIC SKIING AND LAGER

One of the more famous inns in this part of Vermont is the Trapp Family Lodge. Founded by the von Trapp family of Sound of Music Fame and located high on a hilltop overlooking the ritzy town of Stowe, the lodge is a four-season resort that draws as many curious tourists who are fans of the movie as it does guests who are there to enjoy the five-star accommodations.

Among the many outdoor activities available is an excellent cross-country ski trail network.  Very early on we learned that Trapp has a reputation as the best nordic facility around.  The premium trail pass fee ($25) certainly suggests this place is one of the best – even with a captive audience of inn guests, there is too much competition nearby to not deliver good skiing.
We decided to go check it out on Sunday.  We were coming off some rain overnight on Saturday and near-freezing temps on Sunday, and we were concerned about the conditions.  However, given the Reciprocal program that allowed us to ski for free, and given that winter feels like it is fading fast, this was a low-risk trip.  It’s unlikely that we would miss out on better conditions later in the season.

We took the same approach that we used for Craftsbury, heading out late in the morning in hopes of getting a run in before lunch and then ski for an hour or two in the afternoon.  We checked in at the ski center, which is a big building with a big gift shop on the top floor that also sells ski gear, where we picked up our passes.  Downstairs is a rental facility and changing facilities.

We made a plan to start out on a loop across the road and a bit downhill from the lodge: Sleigh Road to Skater’s Waltz.  This looked like a nice warmup, about 5K of mostly blue terrain that should get us back to the lodge in an hour or so.  One on the trail, we had a glimpse of what the fuss is all about.  We started out in a big field, but spent most of the time in the woods.  The woods trails were wide and well groomed, and this feels like a well thought-out layout.  One highlight was coming out into a wide field with a herd of Highland cattle hanging out and grazing.  We stopped here to take a couple photos of the cows and a compulsory selfie.

That said, the skiing was pretty bad.  The snow on the ground was wet and sticky, as was the stuff coming out of the sky.  Our waxless skis weren’t doing us much good, with snow collecting on the kick portion of the undercarriage.  The downhill wasn’t too bad, but there was no glide to be gained on the uphills, turning our skis into long, skinny snowshoes.  It was slow going.

We found the trails to be well marked, with the exception of the home stretch.  By then we were on the Deer Pond Trail, which intersects with Morton’s Maze, the center’s race loop network.  Here the signage was ambiguous at times, and we lost track from a moment as to what course we were actually on.  Not helping matters was the wind; when we came back out to a clearing, the drifted snow made it difficult to follow the tracks.  After a bit of head scratching and at least one wrong turn we made our way back to the lodge.

As we enjoyed our brown bag lunch we plotted our afternoon route.  I had originally hoped to go out the Haul Road, which is a 7K loop that surrounds the uphill side of the layout, with the plan to cut it off at the Bobcat Trail and work our way back.  The slow going made me rethink that route and I suggested we take a much shorter run on the Telemark Trail and call it good.  But the more we thought about it, the more we weren’t moving.  Eventually I suggested that we call it quits and move on to Plan B.

Despite the aborted mission, I look forward to returning to ski at Trapp Lodge for skiing in the future.  It’s an impressive facility well set up for skiing and snowshoeing.  (Note to future self – bring snowshoes as a backup when conditions are iffy.)  In addition to the 60K groomed terrain, there are 100K of backcountry trails, and this is right along the Catamount Trail, which traverses the entire state North to South.

Plan B was a visit to the onsite Trapp Lager Brewery.  The brewery has the fantastic quality of being accessible by a ski trail, but we took the car as we had to go by it to leave anyway.

Though I haven’t mentioned it all that much yet in this blog, the brewing industry is booming in Vermont, and local beer will be the subject of many future posts.  Trapp is something of an anomaly here, brewing lagers in the land of the IPA.  (And Double IPA.  And Imperial IPA.  And American Pale Ale.  Lots of hops in the beer here.)  That suits me, as I have long preferred the happier beers, and haven’t really favored the Golden Helles the couple of times I ordered it at the Three Penny Taproom.  But we’re checking things out here, so I was willing to give it a chance.

The room wasn’t as crowded mid-afternoon as it likely gets as the trails start to close, and we were able to find a couple of stools on the corner of the bar.  I was a little disappointed that there were no seasonal or other special offerings on tap at the time, just the four year-round offerings.  Because it’s still winter I decided to order the Dunkel, the darkest beer available.  My disappointment quickly disappeared with my first taste.  The Dunkel features a nicely toasty malt flavor, finishing lightly with just a hint of hops.  It’s delicious, and really has me reconsidering the way I habitually turn my nose up at lagers.  They all aren’t stale Boston Lagers.  Doreen even enjoyed the taste she had.

The food menu at the brewery (technically the DeliBakery portion of the building) is short, and not vegan-friendly other than a salad and a veggie-wrap.  We were really hoping for a pretzel, but none was evident on the appetizer list.  Doreen asked the bartender, who was super nice, and he said they come as a side to a couple of items but he could sell us a serving on their own.  We took him up on the offer, and in short order we were served a plate with two six-inch pretzel torpedoes with a side of cranberry mustard.  They were tasty, but a little on the cold side, and the cranberry mustard seemed like an unnecessary indulgence.  A classic spicy yellow mustard would really be appropriate.  Still, we scarfed them down and they were a nice accompaniment to the Dunkel.

At the moment Trapp Lagers aren’t available in stores, but on the way out we walked past a rack filled with quart bottles available to go.  Spying a shelf of Dunkers, I pulled one off the shelf and brought it home.  Making lemonade out of a rather lemon day.

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