Much like its broad-shouldered neighbors to the west and east — Vermont’s Jay Peak and Sugarloaf in Maine, respectively — Burke Mountain in Vermont’s stunning Northeast Kingdom requires a commitment simply to get to the hill. If you’re particular about who you’re rubbing elbows with on the slopes, and the chairlifts, you’ll understand that’s a good thing.
That’s because Burke is far enough away from the Big Apple to keep most faux skiers at bay. Yes, that statement admittedly reveals an unabashed (and unapologetic) New England bias, but I’ve had far too many “New York moments” on the slopes of southern Vermont to be a disingenuous diplomat (and, as a New Jersey native, I know the “New York attitude” when I encounter it). A major reason why I’ll happily add an extra hour or so to my drive is to get beyond Yankees fans. And, I guarantee, those Empire State skiers and snowboarders who do make the extra effort to make the trek to Burke aren’t your typical “me first” New Yorkers.
Secondly, Burke reflects my bedrock belief that skiing, at its core, reserves its greatest rewards for the bold, the self-sufficient, those who whine the least, who embrace winter and all its warts. Old Man Winter can get pretty testy in the Northeast Kingdom. That’s a double-edged sword for Burke. On the plus side, the people here tend to be more outgoing, more genuine; no-nonsense gems polished by windswept snows.
“I like that Burke’s vibe is low-key and most everyone is friendly,” said Tony Ong of Andover, Mass., who started skiing Burke after his sister bought a ski house in the area in 2014. “It’s fun to ask strangers on the lift what their Burke story is, meaning, how did they ‘discover’ Burke. It’s usually some out-of-the-way story or random happenstance that got them there for the first time. But once they come, they stay.”