Johannes von Trapp is the Stowe Area Association's Stowe Business Person of the Year.
“I guess it's a sign I'm getting old if I'm getting all these honors,” Von Trapp, 72, said in an interview Monday.
Von Trapp, of the world-famous family featured in the film and play “The Sound of Music,” runs Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. He received the award at the Stowe Area Association's annual membership dinner June 22 at Edson Hill Manor.
“Johannes can be accurately described as a pillar of the Stowe community,” said Chuck Baraw, president of the association and head of Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa. “The Von Trapp family legacy has been a tremendous association for Stowe, and the Trapp Family Lodge has been a top landmark and an asset to the Stowe brand.”
The association names a different business leader each year. Von Trapp was chosen because, “driven by his personal love of the land, and despite obstacles along the way — including a fire which destroyed the lodge in December 1980 (that) took a couple of years to rebuild — Johannes has continued to grow the Trapp Family Lodge by providing more ways for guests and outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy the 2,400-acre resort,” the association's announcement said.
Von Trapp once sang and played the recorder with the Trapp Family Singers. He's run the lodge since 1967, and in 1968 started the very first commercial cross-country ski area in the United States, according to the association
In 2010, Trapp Family Lodge started its own brewery, producing Trapp Lager, a line of Austrian-style beers now sold at more than 100 places in Vermont and New Hampshire.
“We were really excited to give him the award,” said Ed Stahl, executive director of the association. “You could tell he was totally surprised. He's meant a lot to the town, and with his new brewery under way, it's another sign of a prosperous company.”
Von Trapp is a founding member of the Stowe Land Trust, a longtime board member of the Stowe Area Association, and last year was inducted into the Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum Hall of Fame.
Plenty of other issues were covered at the association's meeting.
Stowe Mountain Resort reported 330,000 skier visits during the past winter, an 8 percent increase from the prior year — and double the average 4 percent increase at ski areas across the state, said Jeff Wise, the mountain's communications director.
Wise briefed association members on installation of a new lift, replacing the ForeRunner quad that's the most popular lift at the resort; additional chairs will boost capacity by 60 percent, from 1,500 to 2,400 per hour. Technology improvements should also counter ice and wind problems that can affect that route.
In addition, the mountain is replacing all tickets and passes with media cards, with computer chips that will be scanned automatically when people get on a lift. If the card-holders agree, the chip will allow people can connect to Facebook to see which friends are on the mountain; it will be much easier to track young skiers who become separated from their parents; and many other connections will be possible.
Baraw said the Stowe Area Association is in good shape. Its revenues totaled about $900,000 for the last fiscal year, down 2.5 percent from the prior year, and down 16 to 17 percent from its peak, but he said association revenues tend to track the revenues of member businesses, and many were crimped by the recession. The association has more than 300 members, he said.
He noted the addition of a summer lacrosse tournament and lacrosse camps to Stowe's calendar this summer, and next year it will host a farm and forest show.
He urged members to buttonhole town selectmen and tell them the Mayo Farm events field needs to be improved; soggy conditions there are an obstacle to landing more events.
A small group is working on a business plan for a new ice rink to replace hoary Jackson Arena, the 1974 facility that's on its last legs.
“A world-class ice rink is tremendously important to this town,” Baraw said.
Townspeople rejected a $6.5 million replacement project in March. “A few people still need convincing,” Baraw said.