Posted by on Jan 4, 2017 in activities, Caledonia County, lodging, skiing, winter | No Comments

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For a small town, Burke is a big deal in the world of outdoor recreation.

Not only is this Northeast Kingdom community home to Burke Mountain Resort, it’s also where you’ll find Burke Mountain Academy, a world-renowned school for ski racing, and Kingdom Trails, an extensive trail system popular for mountain biking, fat biking, and Nordic skiing.

I lived in this area 20 years ago while working as a young reporter for a local newspaper.  Kingdom Trails was just getting off the ground and Burke Mountain was nearly two decades from breaking ground on its slopeside hotel.

I returned to Burke last month for my first overnight visit since 1996. While a few things have changed over the years, Burke is a ski town that remains true to its roots.

Burke Mountain Resort

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While Burke Mountain attracts skiers and snowboarders from as far as Boston and Hartford, it mostly feels like a locals mountain (which is what makes it all the more appealing). With 36 trails, 14 glades, three terrain parks, and four lifts, the mountain offers terrain for beginners, intermediate, and advanced skiers. Located east of the Green Mountain Range, Burke is a monadnock that stands at an elevation of 3,267 feet.

The ski area recently opened a 116-room Burke Hotel & Conference Center, complete with two restaurants, a coffee shop, retail store, arcade, fitness center, and year-round outdoor heated pool and hot tub.

Located just steps from the Mid-Burke Express lift, the mid-mountain hotel offers guests a true ski-in/ski-out experience on one of the most scenic mountains in Vermont.

With one, two, and three-bedroom suites available, guests can enjoy comfort, amenities, and beauty at every turn. Hotel windows face ski trails or the dramatic view of Willoughby Gap to the north, giving guests a true sense of place. Rooms are a stone’s throw from the Magic Carpet learning area for kids and the high-speed Mid-Burke Express, which gets skiers to the top of the mountain in minutes.

Mountain History and Ski Racing

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To fully appreciate Burke and its unmistakable sense of place, look no further than the mountain’s history.

The ski area, which first opened in the winter of 1955-56, has been through more than its fair share of tough times, cycling through several ownerships, challenging weather conditions, and even bankruptcies (one that I covered as a reporter in 1995). A recent EB-5 scandal put the resort in receivership, and it’s expected to be sold after this ski season to a new owner.

Still, time and time again, this is a mountain community that knows how to survive.

Part of what makes Burke Mountain special is the world-renowned Burke Mountain Academy. Established in 1970 as the first ski academy of its kind in the United States, Burke Mountain Academy has produced numerous national team members and Olympians over the years, including 2016 World Cup Winner and 2014 Olympic slalom gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin.

Burke Mountain recently reached an agreement to become an Official U.S. Ski Team Development Site, the first of its kind in the country. The designation means that members of the United States Ski Team will train and hold elite skiing competitions at Burke Mountain.

Off-Mountain Dining and Activities

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The new hotel now means that a visit to Burke no longer requires that you go off-mountain for lodging, food, or shopping. But the small village of East Burke along Route 114 and nearby Darling Hill Road are worth exploring. A general store, restaurant, and shops can be found in the village. A few miles up on Darling Hill Road is where visitors can access Kingdom Trails for fat biking, as well as fat bike rentals.

The Northeast Kingdom Country Store

Originally built in the mid-1800s, the two-story Northeast Kingdom Country Store is part deli, part gift shop, part wine cellar.  Shop for maple syrup, antiques, pottery, and gifts or sit down for lunch and enjoy tasty waffles, sandwiches, or pizza. The best part? Breakfast is served all day (466 Route 114, East Burke; 802-626-4611; www.nekcountrystore.com).

Burke Publick House

Just in back of the country store is the Burke Publick House (one called “The Pub Outback”). Enjoy wings, nachos, salads, burgers, chicken sandwiches, fish and chips, sirloin tips, pork chops, and more (482 Route 114, East Burke; 802-626-1188).

The Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville

Jim and Mary O’Reilly have been welcoming guests to The Wildflower Inn for more than 30 years. Surrounded by 300 acres in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, the inn offers 24 rooms and suites in one of the most scenic settings in Vermont. The Wildflower Inn also serves as the hub for Kingdom Trails. After a day on the trails, head over to Juniper’s restaurant at the inn, which serves up steaks, salads, burgers, pasta, and more. (2059 Darling Hill Road, Lyndonville; 802-626-8310; www.wildflowerinn.com).

Fat Biking, Snowshoeing or Nordic Skiing on Kingdom Trails

Kingdom Trails can be enjoyed year round. About 25 miles of singletrack fat biking trails are open on the east side of Darling Hill Road as well as a portion of the west side.  Summertime mountain biking favorites such as Pines, Ridge to Rim, and Riverwood can also be enjoyed in the winter. The Village Sports Shop Trailside shop on Darling Hill Road (next to the Wildflower Inn) and East Burke Sports on Route 114 offer fat bike rentals (802-626-0737; http://kingdomtrails.org).

Scenic Drive: Darling Hill Road

This scenic route between Lyndonville and East Burke is one of the prettiest roads I’ve ever seen. Here you’ll enjoy views of Burke Mountain, Mount Pisgah, Mount Hor, Lake Willoughby, and Kirby Mountain. The best part? It takes you straight to Kingdom Trails.

**If You Go to Burke: From Interstate 91, take Exit 23 to Route 5 and travel north for five miles to Route 114 to the village of East Burke. Just north of East Burke is the Burke Mountain access road.

For more information about Burke Mountain, visit www.skiburke.com.

You can read more about the new Burke hotel in my article on Ski Vermont’s All Mountain Mamas blog.

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