By Roger Lohr – Resorts run by families, are great for family winter vacations packed with something for every family member from fresh home cooked food to the atmosphere and fond memories.
These family-run resorts offer family clientele a combination of togetherness and/or solo time. There’s never a concern about nothing to do because there are so many choices. From reading a book to hiking, horseback riding, swimming and kayaking in the summer to sledding, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating and other nearby snow sports in the winter. Many of these recreational activities are perfect for family bonding and they create joint memories to last a lifetime. Some folks like to simply unplug and enjoy being away from the hurried world of jobs, schedules, and commitments. Many families opt for their vacation time to become untethered from modern-day trappings such as smart phones and social media, for a heightened state of relaxation to enjoy a quieter, easier world.
The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT built by the singing Von Trapp family is synonymous with family-run resorts, but there are many others such as the Breckenridge Nordic Center in CO, which has been run by Gene and Therese Dayton with their kids for decades. A recent visit by a couple looking for a place to hold their wedding reception stated “Your lodge is gorgeous! We like the cozy feel and the fact that it’s family-owned.”
Therese Dayton commented “Our three children grew up living and breathing this business, where they could see and contribute their hopes and ideas toward a future. They have worked at the center since they were quite small, and had to earn all of their own ski equipment working on weekends and holiday breaks each winter. She noted, “Our employees and guests are part of a family legacy in the making. We try to lead by example and not with formalized documents, policies, and procedures. We treat our staff and guests on an individual basis, considering feelings, trying to do what is best and right above all rules. They have seen our children and now grandchildren grow up and they remember stories about when our children were young, and skiing, whether competitive or not interested in racing, always just having fun on skis.”
Dan Baumann of Golden Eagle Lodge in Grand Marais, MN stated, “I have been at Golden Eagle Lodge for 41 years now – running it with my parents, then my wife joined the staff, and then our three kids also helped out. This October my oldest son married a long time guest, who we watched grow up, and they are planning to take over the lodge in a few years.”
Bob Frye of Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI jokingly commented “we’ve used our daughter Mariah as forced child labor since she was eight and many of our skiers have seen her grow up. It’s her business now!” He stated that the families are an important part of a growing business. “We’ve established trust as the experts in the ski business so our skiers feel that we’ll choose the right stuff for their gear and clothing.” We’re like a free expert for other families and Mariah has great experience in racing so she has experience that can be trusted in that area.”
Emily Christie of Falcon Trails Resort in Falcon Lake, Manitoba said “We are a family run resort and it is a huge part of the identity and spirit of our business. Falcon Trails was founded by my parents Barb and Craig, who have been carpenters in the area since 1980. They have a love of skiing and were very active members of the local Nordic ski club. When the government decided to close the local ski area, my parents came up with a proposal to build rental cabins to provide a financial crutch that would help keep the ski hill alive. So for the last 20 years our family has owned and operated the local ski slopes/Nordic trails, which is now a four season cabin rental resort. Today my two sisters and I, along with their partners, run the resort together.
I think that being family makes for a very special aspect of our business. It’s like it breathes a soul into the business. When you visit Falcon Trails, you aren’t just visiting a resort you are visiting a community, a little world out in the woods. You are staying with family. It is immediately apparent in the feel of the place, the characters you encounter during your stay and the authenticity of Falcon Trails Resort.”
Eli Einman of Sleepy Hollow Inn located in Huntington, VT commented that “Our customers appreciate and like to support our family run business. We’ve been in operation for 17 years now, and each of us has our own roles in the business. As an example, several long time skiers here know they can request certain trails to be groomed by my Dad, and he almost always obliges. Often we hear from our customers that they really like to buy season passes from us because they like to support small and family run enterprises. Folks often tell us there is a good vibe from Sleepy Hollow, and I know that’s just from the casual & colorful (non-corporate) banter that gets thrown around the front desk area.”
Anne Carter, owner of Carter’s Cross Country Ski Centers in Bethel and Oxford, ME has two daughters and sons-in-law that help with the operation of the two centers. “They’ve been playing at the ski areas since they were one and half years old and then helped out since they were in middle school with the operation in the shop, grooming, and giving lessons.” Of course, the kids’ friends were attracted to the ski areas and the customers got to watch the girls grow up and then see the grandkids around the centers.
Jay Richards, the second generation manager of Maplelag Resort in Callaway, MN lives with his wife and kids at the resort, which continues to be the home of his parents so it’s truly a large family with three generations involved. Maplelag prepares plentiful, home cooked meals and family members gather in the dining area to mingle with other guests from other families. The family-style meals served at elongated tables are known to feed the camaraderie and family magic that can be had at the resort. Whether skiing or not, people rave about their time spent at Maplelag. The lodge is a treasury of Norwegian Folk Art with nooks and crannies to enjoy together or get away to relax and read a book. A Variety/Talent Show is organized each week and it’s a big hit for families whose performances feature everything from jugglers and family skits, to jokes, musical instruments and German beer drinking songs. The show is followed by the Saturday Night Dance, which offers an eclectic collection of music for dancers of all ages.
The Richards pride themselves on making everyone who comes to Maplelag feel like they are part of the “Maplelag” family. They feel very connected to their guests and many have been coming for over 30 years. The bottomless cookie jar philosophy at Maplelag is a great example of how having access to cookies at any time at no charge creates a feeling of being “at grandma’s house” instead of feeling like the corporation is doing everything to maximize profits.
Owner Jay Richards commented, “It is important that guests don’t ever experience feeling unwelcome at Maplelag. The word hospital stems from hospitality – and Maplelag is an operation that wants people to feel better physically, emotionally, and mentally after they have visited Maplelag. If the experience is enriching, then people will hopefully come back for more “Maplelag therapy”…and all of our families could use a little “fun” therapy.