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Savoring the woods on a snowshoe-y evening

The Outdoor Center at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt.Megan Lisagor Stoessell

“Um, mom, we don’t need these things,” my son reported as he reached the edge of our yard in his new snowshoes. The equipment came as a gift in the mail after we moved to a small town following years in big cities. My daughter trudged behind him, clutching chocolate-chip cookies to bring to our neighbors. The street had already been plowed, and they clapped along the asphalt, ditching their snowshoes in a drift before continuing on. Once home, they stashed the gear in our garage, and I couldn’t convince them to use it again that season.

It was always going to be a tough sell with kids who prefer their winter sports to involve risk and speed, but I love snowshoeing and knew they would, too, in the right situation. So like any good parent, I bribed them. While they may not be motivated by snowy walks through the woods, they are motivated by sausage and French fries, which is why I booked us a moonlight tour to the Bierhall Restaurant in Stowe, Vt., this January. Among the snowshoeing trips I found that ended with eating, this one had the added appeal of wearing headlamps.


Snowshoeing at the Trapp Family Lodge.Trapp Family Lodge

We arrived at the Outdoor Center at Trapp Family Lodge around 5 p.m. on a Friday. Founded by the singers immortalized in “The Sound of Music,” the resort spans 2,600 acres with trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. “It’s so beautiful, like a painting,” my youngest, Elinor, 8, exclaimed, gazing at the mountains. Activities director Bob Stafford shared his own ties to the land as we walked to a nearby yurt to get ready. A father of four with a gentle disposition, Stafford helped us cinch our straps and pick our poles to the delight of Elinor, who doesn’t have them yet for downhill.


Her excitement only grew with the headlamps, as he explained, “It creates a whole sense of adventure at night because you can’t see deep into the woods,” describing the two-mile trek as going “through the trees, through the forest,” and so on. Fully equipped, we paused to take in Venus and learn about the planet before setting off into the dark, Stafford first, then Elinor, her brother Graham, 11, and me. We stopped by the family cemetery and headed uphill, making way for a skier, the last person we’d pass before the Bierhall.

The author's family reaches the Bierhall.Megan Lisagor Stoessell

Quiet soon descended, the only noise coming from our snowshoes as we ducked under branches and went by streams, Elinor giving her poles a workout. From my perspective, the woods and our guide seemed equally enchanting as Stafford taught the children how to identify animal tracks and sugar maples, as well as the chaga found in birch trees. The best was yet to come, however. At an apple orchard, we turned off our headlamps to stargaze, calling out constellations and spotting several satellites in the inky sky.

About an hour into our tour, the Bierhall appeared in the distance across a field blanketed in white. Like a marathoner approaching the finish line, Elinor suddenly felt tired. She managed to push through with Graham’s encouragement, and we arrived on foot to dinner. Stafford left with a hug, and we waited for a table, sweaty and tired, in the airy space made warm by cheerful customers sampling the house brews. There was no complaining, just contentment, even when our meals required more waiting.


Digging into his bratwurst and sauerkraut at last, Graham remarked, “It was fun and peaceful.” For her part, Elinor chimed in, “It was fun and peaceful.” They agreed that “the amount of stars we could see” was the highlight, though at that moment the pretzels and mustard seemed like a close second, not to mention the Austrian wine I had ordered. Still, what stuck with them days later was being out at night on an adventure, and I realized that my kids enjoy snowy walks through the woods, after all.

If you go

The moonlight tour typically runs on Fridays in the winter. Check the activities calendar and call ahead to reserve a spot. Our first outing was canceled because of the wind chill. The $40 cost covers snowshoes, headlamps, and a shuttle ride back from the Bierhall Restaurant. trappfamily.com/outdoor-center.htm.

Megan Lisagor Stoessell can be reached at mlisagor@yahoo.com.