Maria von Trapp, 72, cross-country skis nearly every day - mostly along the gentler traisl that wind through the birch and evergreen woodland around the Trapp Family Lodge. She glides along dressed in havy wood cap pulled dowwn over her ears, looking very much like any other skier on the trail.
Mrs. von Trapp (she dropped the title of Baroness in 1948) took up the sport four years ago after her youngest son, Johannes, manager, of the lodge, began offering it as a winter attraction at the lodge in 1970.
"Johannes is a forester by profession, and he has a forester's eye," she says proudly. "He has laid out these trails beautifully."
Bringing cross-country to Trapp's was as much an act of desperation as anything. Located four miles from the big downhill runs of Mt. Mansfield and Spruce, the lodge had suffered several disastrous winter seasons.
As Von Trapp says, "We had to figure a way to attract people off that mountain road."
"He had 500 people here that first winter," says Mrs. von Trapp. "And he was thrilled. Today we can have that many people on a Saturday. He really got the snowblal rolling, so to speak."
Von Trapp is as surprised as anyone at the success of his enterprise. For the first four years, business doubled each year. Now it's settled down to a healthy 40 per cent annual growth rate.
Business has not been without its problems, however. Last winter a fire demolished the ski shop, destroying every ski, pole and boot Trapp's had for rent or sale. While the Stowe fire department was still trying to douse the flames, Von Trapp and an assistant were driving to Boston to refurbish their supplies. The next day it was handled out of the maintenance shop.
Until Von Trapp took over the lodge's management from his mother in 1967, Maria von Trapp herself ran the Trapp Family Lodge, and she still gives the place a large degree of its character. She's a handsome woman, clear-eyed and ramrod straight. She's very much in evidence, poling her skis along Sugar Road trail, stopping to chat with visitors to the gift shop. She sees to it that geraniums from the lodge's hundreds of snummer flower boxes are blooming all winter in the ski shop. ANd she personally greets all guests who stay at the lodge.
"This was our home," she says of the lodge. And it is still hers. She occupies a paneled apartment in the rear of the building. The walls are lined with bookcases and the windows, full of plants, look out on a view of wooded hills rather like those in her native Austria.
"When we bought this land in 1942, we did what I advise everyone not ot do," says Mrs. von Trapp. "We bought a house in 'fair condition.' The next year it fell down."
The lodge, which has since been added on to, was the Trapp's replacement house, and they built it with deep eaves and porches to resemble a Tryolean manor house. Over the fron door are the words "Cor Unum," or "One Heart," a reference to the first Christians in Jersualem.
Today Maria von Trapp no longer sings. That part of her life was very much tied to her family. Baron George von Trapp died in 1947, and the Trapp Family Singers held their last concert in 1956.
In addition to writing books about her family's adventures, Mrs. von Trapp now has her own business bailiwick, the Trapp Gift Shop and Tea Room. The tea room, which serves excellent soups and specializes in homemade breads and cakes, is a favorite stop for skiers using the Trapp traits.
"Everyone bothers me for recipes," says Mrs. von Trapp. "So now I'm working on a cookbook."