Tuesday, Mar 13 2012

An Ode to Winter at Trapp

by author, Christopher Biddle, lives with his wife in Moorestown, NJ

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Meet the Old Man of the Mountain, Gordon Winchell. 

Gordon and his wife Enid were among the first purchasers of a Trapp Family “guest house” in the mid-1980s.

More than 25 years later, they still make the annual journey from their home in Lincoln, MA—through rain and snow and sometimes sunny blue skies—to enjoy the unique magic of this resort in the first full week of March.

The beauty of this place makes Gordon’s heart sing, quite literally.

At 92, he cuts a fine figure on his cross-country skis as he bounds off the trails and onto the broad meadows with the mountains behind.

“I love the mountains and the valley, the open fields and blue sky,” he says, his expressive blue eyes twinkling beneath a flowering thatch of woolly eyebrows.

On his first ski this year, Gordon snapped on his boards, slid down the snowy hill outside the guest house, thrust his ski poles high in the air and broke into a yodeling song, his 92-year-old voice wavering but true:  “Over the mountain trails we go. Yodel ay he, yodel ay he, ay he who. Lovely mountain streams below. Yodel ay he, yodel ay he who!”

This is a good time to disclose that I am Gordon Winchell’s son-in-law, and I was standing next to him during this melodic outbreak. I came into the Winchell family picture 32 years ago when I was fortunate enough to marry their delightful daughter Meg, who is every bit as passionate as her Dad in her exuberant love of all things Trapp.

In fact, Meg and I purchased the Winchell guest unit from her parents six years ago, as much to indulge our own selfish pleasure in being here as to ensure the continuation of a favorite family tradition.

Today, we are Enid and Gordon’s chauffeurs, happily transporting them once a year in our Jersey van from their Massachusetts’ home to their Stowe guest house. (And, yes, Snooki, the Jersey shore can’t hold a candle to the Vermont mountains. Read this and weep.)

What attracted my in-laws to this place more than 25 years ago is still a powerful magnet for visitors today.

Enid says that long before the guest houses were built, she and Gordon were attracted to the “the aura of a very pleasant place”—the land, the Austrian-style accommodations, the von Trapp family, “and of course we loved the music, Dad being a singer.”

When our children were young, Meg and I would bring them here to teach them how to cross-country ski before they would attempt a downhill run.

Now in his twilight years, Gordon skis, often twice a day, while Enid works on her memoirs about leaving war-torn England as a child to escape the looming Battle of Britain and the London blitz. She and her siblings were cared for by American foster parents. Of course, she fell in love with a handsome Navy medic, her future husband Gordon, before returning to England after the war. The rest, as they say, is history or, in this particular case, history in the making. We look forward to the completion of Enid’s memoirs.

At our Trapp condo, wrapped in the cozy warmth of a blazing wood fire, we enjoy looking through the east-facing picture window to watch the sun rise or witness a howling Nor’easter bury the hills and valleys in a thick blanket of snow, all the.  We prepare most of our meals in the kitchen here, but we also enjoy one or two fine dinners at the lodge’s Austrian-style restaurant.

As I write this, Meg and her father are outside, enjoying a last day of cross-country skiing before returning to Boston.

I haven’t told you yet about the cougar and moose tracks we found in the woods on a ghost-silent winter morning ... or the chance encounter with Johannes’ long-haired Highland cattle along the “Skater’s Waltz”… or the excitement of hearing a clattering cowbell announce the winner of a collegiate cross-country ski race.

I could ramble on, and maybe I have done so already.

It’s nearly time to start packing for our Saturday departure. Our memories of another pleasure-filled visit to the Trapp Family Resort will soon be all we have left  —until we return again next March.

And we will be back. That’s for certain. You will know us by the Old Man of the Mountain, with that twinkle in his eye and a yodel in his voice.

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