Burke Mountain is, both geographically and spiritually, a monadnock–an isolated, solitary mountain.
Geographically because, well, we say it's too much mountain to be part of a range. Geologists say the mountain is made up of rock resistant to erosion, so as the surrounding landscape eroded, it remained. Spiritually, it's a similar story. As the surrounding ski landscape changed, Burke was resistant. Now, as some resorts have (by some opinion) eroded away into treeless, homogenized, corporate-run experiences, Burke remains.
WE'RE NOT ANTI-CHANGE. WE'RE FOR IT.
We even create change–when it makes sense. As long as it stays true to the sport, making it more accessible to more people by pulling the skier and rider up and not flattening the experience down. But first, a little history. The Earth cooled. Snow fell. Vikings skied it. Then, in 1932, men cutting a road to the summit of Burke Mountain decided to also cut the Wilderness and Bear Den Trails. Non-Vikings skied them. When the road to the summit was completed in 1935, Burke became a popular skiing destination, holding the first of many, many downhill races in 1937. More races took place. Then, in 1970, an aspiring ski racer asked legendary coach Warren Witherell to train her full-time. He agreed, and they created the Burke Mountain Academy–the first of the now-ubiquitous ski academies and home of over 55 Olympic racers. Later, on the rolling trails and steep pitches of Burke, the s-curve was first taught, giving skiers a more natural and efficient way to control their speed–a technique that changed the way new skiers were taught for decades. That’s good change–homegrown change. Just the way we like it.
NOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED AGAIN.
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. So, in that way, we still stand alone.
Sometimes it’s just what we’ve always done. Other times it’s not so easy and calls for a change in behavior. But either way, we love the outside–this is Vermont, it’s kinda what we do best–so we’ve committed to doing everything possible to take care of the land–as long as it passes the incredibly unscientific East Burke Market Test. If people at the market think it makes sense, it probably does. If they think it's a little overboard, costly or trying too hard, it probably is. With that test in mind, here are some efforts from our ever-growing list.
Local is important to us. We are, after all, locals. Up here, you don't use your neighbors products because it's cool or trendy or someone invented the word localvore. You do it because it makes more sense. It's closer, so it's fresher. Less fuel is used in transportation. And, you have a better sense of the people involved in raising or growing what you serve to your guests. Not to mention we're supporting local farms. That's why, whenever possible, we use locally-sourced ingredients in all of our kitchens.
We are always looking for new local sources and our list will be updated as we invest in more of our neighbor's products.
We're proud to announce our recently awarded status of Green Restaurant in the Green Mountain State by the Vermont Business Environmental Partnership.
The Burke Wind Turbine was installed in Summer, 2011, and supplies 15-20% of our energy needs with clean, renewable wind power. Enough to more than offset the energy of the 2011-installed Mid Burke Express Lift, giving us, in effect, a net-zero high-speed quad. Something we’re pretty happy about. In its first year of production (October 2011-12), the wind turbine produced over 210,000 kWh (kiloWatt hours), approximately the same amount that 24 homes would consume over that same period and is equivalent to over 130 tons of CO2 saved to date.
Installed in the summer/fall of 2012, our snowmaking system uses state-of-the-art electric compressor to dramatically reduce the energy needed to make snow. Replacing three old diesel air compressors will save (according to Efficiency Vermont) over 224,000 kWh of electricity. It also means a reduction of 40,000 gallons of diesel used and an elimination of the associated fumes, air pollution and greenhouse gases those 40,000 gallons created. In addition, the over 100 new guns going in are between four and ten times more efficient than the guns they replaced. All in all, it was a big investment–form both the mountain and our partners at Burke Mountain Academy–but both know it’s well worth it. Not only to create a longer, more sustained season for skiers and riders, but to sustain the natural beauty of the Northeast Kingdom. But even with BMA’s help, we didn’t pay for all of it. Five of the new HKD fan guns installed are part of the NSAA Sustainable Slopes Grant awarded to the mountain for the green efforts on this page.
Composting, recycling and green materials
But it's not just about where we get food and energy. We're committed to making the small decisions that add up to huge benefits for the land. As we move forward and new advances and opportunities become available, we'll take a look and see if it makes sense to add them to our growing list of efforts, including:
•Burke Mountain helped launch an ongoing community composting program in alliance with businesses in Hardwick and surrounding areas. The program, initiated in winter 2012, has converted approximately 15,000 lbs of organic waste to compost used locally. This represents a reduction in greenhouse gases equivalent to not burning 707 gallons of gasoline. And just seven bags of garbage were removed from the Burke Mountain Bike Festival–a three-day event with over 700 campers. It’s amazing what a little bit of diligence and an extra trash can or two can do.
•Oil and grease from our kitchens is reused in various forms.
•Our maintenance building is heated with used oil.
•Recycling bins are located around the resort, and we encourage all guests to recycle everything possible.
•Whenever (and wherever) possible, we use green products around the mountain.
•Our marketing materials and trail maps are printed on paper made from post-consumer waste.
For years, you’ve been saying “Make things better, but don’t change a thing”. A pretty tall order, but OK.
So it’s no real secret that Burke Mountain has a lodging problem–always has. Sure there are great places to stay around the mountain–inns and B&Bs and such–but no on-mountain hotel. Well, finally, that’s going to change, in a big way. Or four small boutiquey-feeling ways, to be more accurate.
For the first time ever, we’ll actually be looking forward to spring.
The plan is for the first of the four new small (under 100 rooms) on-mountain hotels to break ground this spring. The first two will sit near the Mid Burke Express and will have their own unique amenities–dining options, aprés options–that sort of thing. Once those are in place and welcoming guests old and new to experience True North at its best, ground will break on two similar lodging options, one near the Sherburne Lodge and another at Mid Burke. It’s been a long time coming, and details will start rolling in throughout the season.
AND AFTER THAT?
Instead of building a golf course that people won’t drive three hours to play, we’ve been playing with the idea of turning some of the land surrounding the mountain back into what it once was–rolling Vermont farmland. To that end, we’ve been talking with Sterling College. If all goes well, the field could be a classroom, where students learn and teach us the newest, best practices for getting the most from–and giving the most back to–the land. Who knows? Maybe we’ll surround that field with single-family homes. Homes where people spend their summers on a farm and winters on a ski mountain. They could work the farm–if that’s their thing. Or spend their days riding Kingdom Trails and come back to food raised, quite literally, in their backyards–a new look at community agriculture.
And as the hotels and homes begin to fill, maybe it will be time to expand our trails. Maybe take advantage of the more than double the space we have to grow and do what we can to keep that feeling of owning the mountain that comes with the lowest number of skiers per acre in Vermont.
But that’s a ways away–and in a sport that’s so dependent on weather, you learn quickly not to depend on the long-range forecast and just ski or ride what you’ve got. So let’s focus on the hotels for the time being. We’ll be adding a page to this site in the near future for you to keep up-to-date on everything about the development and where things are headed.