A Weekend Escape to Burke Mountain
January 04, 2017
For a small ski area, Burke Mountain is a big deal in the world of outdoor recreation.
Burke Mountain Resort is 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
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
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 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
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.
Inside this early 19th century building that originally served as a local church is where you’ll find some of the best coffee, pastries, and sandwiches around. After sitting empty for the last decade, the building caught the attention of Johnny and Linda Lotti, who had moved to the area from Massachusetts and jumped at the chance to open a coffee shop. Not only is the food delicious, but the setting is bright, offbeat, and welcoming. What could be better on a winter day? (603 Route 114, East Burke; CafeLottivt.com; 802-427-3633)
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.