Skiing Burke Mountain in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom
Last Saturday morning— after driving north and away from the heart of the Blizzard of 2013 the night before—I grabbed my gear, skis over my right shoulder and trudged up from the parking lot to the lodge at Burke Mountain in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.
Inside the Mid-Burke Lodge, a small stove cranked out heat and warmed the toes of those inside. I sat at the edge of one of the picnic-style tables and methodically booted up, preparing for a cold day on the slopes. It was chilly outside. The wind was howling.
I got some friendly what-to-wear advice from a man and woman who sat across from me. As they sipped their hot chocolate, they grinned with wide smiles and advised me to layer up. They said it was so cold that the little bit of skin showing on their faces between their goggles and neck warmers kept freezing up as they skied down. I took it as a warning to watch out for frostbite. But, more importantly, it made me appreciate people who embrace winter.
They weren’t telling me that it was too cold to ski. They weren’t telling me to stock up on water, and locate emergency candles. They were telling me that they drove up on Thursday night to make sure wouldn’t miss out on fresh snow. And despite needing to take a hot chocolate break every now and again, they told me that the snow was fantastic. Was it 20+ inches of powder like some of the more southern resorts got from the storm? No. But it was pretty darned good, wind chill and all.
I could have asked them more questions, like where they were from and if this is their home mountain. Those are simple pleasantries and the small talk that gets exchanged inside a ski lodge. But, I saw their season passes hanging around their necks and that told me everything I needed to know about them—that they were my kind of winter-loving people.
Burke is definitely my kind of mountain—lots of great skiing, and very little hype.
If you know anything about the Northeast Kingdom, you’ll have a sense for what Burke is like. It’s certainly not about glitz and glamour; you’d be hard-pressed to find something that falls in the category of hustle and bustle. Will this all change now that Burke is under new ownership? Not according to their website. They have plans for minor development in the future, but they are taking it slow. According to this, from their web site, Burke will remain Burke:
“In the summer of 2012, a new ownership group purchased the mountain. People who understand what made Vermont skiing great in the first place. People who want to keep the trails narrow and the trees thick. Maverick types. True Vermonters. We like that. We also like that the same group owns fellow Northeast Kingdom (and now sister) mountain, Jay Peak. But, no worries, they’re not out to make Burke Jay East. There are no plans for a water park or a golf course–that’s Jay, and it’s fun–you should try it. But it’s not Burke–we’re siblings, not identical twins. Any changes that are made, including additional trails or lodging options, will stay true to the area’s natural heritage and racing traditions. For better or worse, Burke is going to stay Burke.”
Good thing. Cause if you couldn’t tell, I like it just the way it is.
Other Burke Tidbits:
World Class Skiers: Burke Mountain is home to the renowned Burke Mountain Ski Academy, founded in 1970 by Warren Witherall, the oldest ski academy in the United States. They churn out top quality athletes and students. According to BurkeMtnAcademy.org : “Since 1970, over 110 BMA graduates have been members of the US Ski Team or other National Teams. More than 50 have been Olympians and more than 60% matriculate into highly selective colleges.”
Year-round Mountain Biking: Come back for mountain biking fun at nearby Kingdom Trails which operates year round (snow biking and Nordic skiing in the winter).
Wind Turbine: The Burke Wind Turbine supplies 15-20% of the mountain’s energy needs with renewable wind power.
Local Food Sourcing: Check out the Vermont products Burke sources for their on-mountain food and drink.Farm and Forest Ranch
Vermont Smoke and Cure
Vermont Butter and Cheese
King Arthur Flour
Black River Produce
Vermont Bean Crafters
Vermont Fresh Pasta
North Country Smokehouse
Kingdom Creamery of Vermont
Green Mountain Farm Direct
Vermont Bread Company Koffee Cup Bakery
Jasper Hill Farm
Stafford Organic Creamery
Boyden Valley Winery Eden Iced Cider Vermont Spirits Distilling
Woodchuck Hard Cider Provisions International Trout River Brewing Kingdom Brewing Belmont Stock Farm Joe’s Brook Farm Parker Sugarhouse Lyndon Farmers’ Market Mocean Mate Rookie’s Root Beer Yolo Snacks Green Mountain Creamery Vermont Family Farms Stonewood Farms Pete’s Greens Berry Creek Farm Deep Root Organic Spring Hill Angus The Garden of Eurbin Vermont Soy West Meadow Farm Bakery