The new guy at Trapp Family Lodge really isn’t new at all.
Walter Frame, 46, now one of the top executives at Trapps, has been part of the von Trapp family since he married Kristina von Trapp, daughter of resort-owner Johannes, in 2000.
And, he didn’t have to move to take the job. From 2003 until earlier this year, Frame was vice president and director of real estate development at Spruce Peak Realty, overseeing Stowe Mountain Resort’s $400 million investment in a luxury hotel, deluxe mountain cabins, Spruce Camp base lodge, the Stowe Mountain Club golf course, and the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center. He’s still president of the nonprofit organization that runs the arts center.
There are significant differences between the organizations: Trapps is family-owned and embraces a quaint atmosphere, built on the legend of the von Trapp family and its “Sound of Music” story. Stowe Mountain Resort is a sleek, modern, evolving complex and is owned by Chartis, a subsidiary of insurance giant AIG.
Bringing Frame into the family business “always seemed like a natural fit,” said Sam von Trapp, Kristina’s brother; he and their father run the 61-year-old resort.
Frame said he’s adjusting well to the switch.
“I’ve been hanging around with Sam and his lot going back 13 years,” he said. Frame also notes that his brother was Sam von Trapp’s roommate at Dartmouth College.
Frame walks into an interesting time for Trapp Family Lodge. Recent investments in cross-country skiing and mountain biking trails, a brewery, refurbished deli/bar and luxury three-bedroom villas have diversified the resort’s year-round offerings.
Sam von Trapp said Frame is a “numbers guy” who can handle the day-to-day business of the resort, while von Trapp and his father focus on the customer service and planning they enjoy.
“It was always a no-brainer that he was a natural fit,” von Trapp said. “We came to a situation where he could have a very natural role here. I said, ‘Walter, this is the time.’ We really complement each other well.”
Frame said he has focused on the “software” of the resort — managing and expanding programming — rather than the “hardware” of large investments in buildings.
Business and pleasure
Frame has a long history in the resort industry. He grew up in Waterville, Maine, earned a bachelor’s degree from Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., and holds a master’s degree in business administration from the Carroll School of Management at Boston College.
He met Kristina while he was working for Ashcroft Ski Touring, a cross-country ski center in Aspen.
“I got into the industry because it is a great mix of business and pleasure,” he said.
At Trapps, Frame said he sees potential in the multigenerational side of the business: “It’s the grandparents who take their grandchildren here to spend time. People have been coming here since 1950, and now we’re seeing the second or third generation of that family.”
He said he’s looking into all the tools available to help the resort business along, including the federal EB-5 immigration visa program, which gives foreign investors a path to U.S. citizenship. Jay Peak resort used the program to finance a $240 million expansion project.
Frame doesn’t see anything of that scale coming to Trapps, but said growing the Trapp Lager brewery and the mountain-bike offerings is a possibility.
“I don’t think we’re changing the recipe; we’re just looking to add a few garnishes on the side,” he said.