Blue skies, bumps and birches at Burke Mountain

Monday, March 2, 2015 at 03:25 PM

Fun glades on the east side of Burke Mountain, Vermont.
Trees and bumps.
Looking down the lift line of the old Willoughby chair.
Sunny turns in Birches glade.
View from near the top of the Mid-Burke Express.
The new hotel being built just below the Mid-Burke Express.
The Sherburne Base Lodge on the lower mountain.

We have not been to Burke Mountain for about seven years. That's a long enough time to test our memory, for sure, but we did recall liking the mountain. We rustled up some friends to ski in the Northeast Kingdom this past weekend and we became reacquainted with this little gem of a mountain on Friday.

It was nearly a two-hour drive from the Burlington area over through Montpelier and Lyndonville to East Burke. We stepped out of the car and were pleased to see the temperatures had risen a little. But more importantly the skies were bright blue and the sun felt warm.

We booted up in the Sherburne Base Lodge — a nice lodge with lots of windows — and we zipped up the Sherburne Express quad and then the Mid-Burke Express quad. We were then ready to push off of the 3,267-foot summit. We started with a cruising run on the freshly groomed Upper Dipper and Big Dipper — a long, intermediate cruiser. But our real mission was to hit the glades that spill off both sides of the mountain.

On our next run we jumped into the Sasquatch glades at the top of the mountain, enjoying a short stretch of bumps and trees before crossing Upper Power Line (an actual powerline to the summit) into the long Dixiland glades. The snow became softer and more plentiful as we descended into Dixiland. It was a great first tree run that would kick us out onto the lower East Bowl trail runout. This runout required tucking and skating.

Our crew would go on to test other glades on this side of the mountain in order, from skier's right to skier's left. From the top of the peak we descended on the Powderhorn trail until we found the Caveman glades. Here the trees were spaced out more and we could spread out to get our own lines. The sun shone through the trees and spilled onto the white moguls. I think Caveman was my favorite tree run of the day.

Next run: Throbulator. Here I dropped into a easy little chute to start the run and enjoyed well-spaced trees and lots of bumps. If you went to the sides of the glades you could find some soft powder, even though it hadn't snowed for days. Compared with other mountains, we found that going outside the “lines” of Burke's glades brought tighter trees and abundant brush that made skiing very challenging. (One time I looked over and saw the Skimeister getting up-close-and-personal with some hobblebush. I waited for him to slowly extricate himself from the deep snow.) 

We were curious about the upper East Bowl trail, which was the eastern edge of the resort. After a few turns on the trail we saw that skiers had dipped into the woods below it. We followed some tracks and found the trees very tight and again, lots of hobblebush. The snow was rather deep here in the shadow of the mountain. We hooked up with the Dixiland glade before being spat out on the lower East Bowl runout for our straight run down to the Mid-Burke Express.

We enjoyed the views from the top of this north-facing mountain. The most distinctive sight was the snow-covered Lake Willoughby wedged between Mt. Hor and Mt. Pisgah. It looks a bit like a fjord. We also felt really close to the big, white peaks of New Hampshire's Presidential Range. Very pretty.

When you looked down the mountain you could see the ongoing construction of two large building behind the old-school Mid-Burke Lodge and Mid-Burke Express. It is a new hotel and conference center which is expected to be open next season. I zipped by this area and then passed slopeside homes and condos as I skied down the novice High Meadows Pass for lunch at the lower Sherburne Base Lodge.

Next on the list were the Jungle and Birches glades on the western edge of the ski area. The consensus was that the Jungle glade was good, the sun-drenched Birches glade was nice, but Wayne's World (below Birches) was an odd, tight glade that was “not worthy.”

I took a couple intermediate cruising runs to finish my day. I stopped to take in the view and enjoy the sun on my face. The crew reported that they enjoyed skiing Fox's Folly (with groomed stretches and a steep, bumped-up section) under the old Willoughby Quad, which was snow-covered because it hadn't been in use recently. (The new, high-speed quad came onto the scene in 2011.)

On my return to the Sherburne Base Lodge, I checked out the easy Enchanted Forest glade next to the Sherburne Express lift. It was a mellow glade where kids could get the hang of skiing in the trees. The Sherburne Express serves the resort's only novice runs as well as this glade and terrain park features. (The upper mountain lifts only serve intermediate and expert terrain.) Down here at the base there is also a J-Bar and it was nice to see families coming out to have fun on a beautifully sunny Friday afternoon.

BURKE MOUNTAIN AT A GLANCE

  • Located in East Burke, Vermont
  • Summit elevation: 3,267 feet
  • Sherburne base elevation: 1,210 feet
  • Skiable acres: 267
  • Trails and glades: 50

    • 11% Novice
    • 47% Intermediate
    • 42% Expert

  • Lifts: Two high-speed quads, a Poma and a J-Bar
  • The old, fixed-grip Willoughby Quad is pressed into service on busy days, I believe.
  • Terrain park: 1
  • Percentage of snowmaking: 70%
  • Home to the Burke Mountain Ski Academy

Filed in: Alpine / downhill skiing, Burke

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