Burke, of course, deserves to be loved. It’s a big, steep, charismatic mountain in the heart of the scenic Northeast Kingdom. Now it finally appears to have owners capable of exploiting its full potential and extolling its virtues to the uninitiated. Longtime Burke lovers probably always knew that their good thing couldn’t last forever, but they can’t be blamed for finding it hard to share what they once had to themselves.
The old Burke, nearly sold for parts a while back, was a place where Vermont powderhounds willing to drive a little farther didn’t have to compete with the savage powder-day hordes. Crowds were sparse, the summit quad slow; powder could last all day and into the next. And anyway, the mountain was best known as a hard-snow race factory. Halfway up the poma on Warren’s Way, Kirk Dwyer and his Burke Academy coaches stood watching, in all kinds of weather, as some of the nation’s best prospects flashed by in slalom or GS gates. Riding by on the way back up, each racer got 10 or 20 seconds of feedback—the perfect amount.
Photo: C. Nelson James/Meathead Films
That poma, locals knew, was also the fastest way to the top—or at least close enough to access the best Burke had to offer, which included great views of Willoughby Gap, a modest collection of interesting trails, and some of Vermont’s best, but least appreciated, tree skiing. Nightlife and dining? Ha. But after you’d finished a couple of Burke powder days with beers among the friendlies in the Mid-Burke Lodge’s Bear Den, you too began thinking it was one of the best après scenes anywhere.
Reports of Burke’s demise are hysterically exaggerated. For now the old Burke is very much intact. The poma’s still there. So are the Academy and the Bear Den. The hardwoods off the skier’s right side of Dipper are still just as steep and sweetly spaced. They track out faster, but most skiers would nevertheless consider the new Mid Burke Express high-speed summit chair, installed last year, an improvement. The owners of nearby Jay Peak, who bought Burke in June, have already announced big plans: snowmaking upgrades and four new lodges with beds for 1,200. Is that just a start? Will skier numbers rise sharply, as at Jay? Nostalgics fret. But the Kingdom could use the jobs. And maybe more skiers will learn to love Burke as much as it deserves.
EAT » Diner aficionados love the Miss Lyndonville, 15 minutes from Burke. Don’t miss it for breakfast. Then maybe go back for dinner.
DRINK » As we said, the Bear Den keeps it real without even trying.