In The Spotlight
Northern Vermont's Burke Mountain Resort might have been through some tumultuous times lately, but the thriving ski and riding, the new lift-served Burke Bike Park, and the opening of the 116-room Burke Hotel are victories for many in the Burke community who have worked hard to create a vibrant four-season resort at a mountain that is still recovering from April 2016 news that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleged investor fraud at EB-5 projects at Jay Peak and Burke.
With court settlements taken place and EB-5 obligations still to be met, Burke probably won’t see new owners for a while, but in the meantime, the resilient resort community is looking forward to a bright future.
“As a resort we’re incredibly positioned to both re-create and enhance our winter operations through the things we are doing - the capital improvements, the culture change that we’re trying to bring forth here,” Burke’s Director of Resort Services Kevin Mack told SnoCountry.com.
“Having a hotel that was procured, if you will, through some interesting means, we’re excited about what it can do for this resort and the longevity and sustainability of the resort and the things that we can do with it and the people we can attract,” Mack told us.
The area offers a true outdoor playground, whether you’re into Nordic skiing at the Dashney Center or fat tire biking at Kingdom Trails. The downhill skiing and riding has amazing terrain and some of the best views in the state, overlooking Willoughby Gap. Summer brings upwards of 90,000 mountain bikers to enjoy the Kingdom Trails and Burke Bike Park, all accessible from the new Burke Hotel.
The community has a lot of practice in looking to the future after going through numerous owners in the last few decades. “There is certainly a resiliency here to know there is going to be another owner, at a certain point. The town has practice in understanding that Burke has gone through a lot of changes and has always seemed to come out of it. The next great test for us is that each owner has put a little something into Burke and made it a little better, but has not been able to fully make it what they wanted it to be.”
Since taking over as court-appointed receiver in April 2016, Michael Goldberg has provided $2 million in capital to make improvements to snowmaking and infrastructure, as well as opening the new hotel.
Mack continued, “Mike Goldberg understands that the Burke community is really central to this place and vice versa. We are part of the community. We are not stuck so high up on the hill that we are removed. We need them; they need us. Whoever comes in here next is going to need to see a place that is welcoming and that gets that we’re only going to make this work if we do this together.”
In addition to locals who have lived, skied and worked in the area for years, stakeholders such as Burke Mountain Academy and Kingdom Trails are optimistic that this special corner of Vermont has a bright future.
“Now the test for us is how to we make it better. For me, how do we continue to change the culture back to one in which there’s a lot more 'yes' being said than 'no'. If we can do that, the guests we have here we can hold on to and attract more guests,” Mack added.
Only one resort in North America spins its lifts in all four seasons. That’s Timberline Lodge Ski & Snowboard Area, hard on the slopes of Oregon’s Mount Hood and beneficiary of both high elevations and the largesse of the Northern Pacific storms.
Both the iconic lodge and a rope tow opened in 1938, and the nation’s longest chairlift (at that time) went in the next season. It’s one of four resorts on Mt. Hood.
Terrain. Like all volcanoes, Mt. Hood slopes at a consistent pitch – the angle of repose for lava rock. Thus, majority of trails rates blue or green; the black diamonds cluster around uppermost Palmer lift in the snowfields. Timberline Lodge sits at treeline, halfway up the hill. Many of the trails radiate down below the lodge, served by three of the five high-speed quads on the hill. Lower mountain blue cruisers, like Uncle John’s Band, Mustang Sally and thigh-burnin’ Kruser, are favorites. Green trails wind around on lower mountain, and a few expert shorties keep things interesting. Terrain parks abound off Stormin’ Norman lift. Up above, the trees fall away, and it’s classic alpine terrain. Famed Magic Mile chair gets you onto the snowfields, and the Palmer chair drops off at high point of 8,500 feet. Want to test your legs? With right conditions, you can ski or ride 3.5 miles from top to bottom. There’s more night skiing here than most, off Pucci and Molly’s chairs. By Memorial Day, the lower mountain is closed. But Magic Mile and Palmer typically run daily to Labor Day, then on weekends through the fall.
Play. Non-skiing distractions are limited. Snow cats run to top of Palmer Snowfield, both in day and on full-moon nights. Snowshoeing takes off from the lodge, which has game room and fitness center, as well as hot tub, heated pool and sauna.
Eat/Drink. One restaurant on the mountain, the Philox Point Cabin near base of Pucci lift, serves tacos, beer and hot drinks. Good selection at the lodge and base area. Hearty mountain fare at café and full bar in Wy’East Day Lodge. Timberline Lodge has several bars with food, and high-end Cascade Dining Room, with elite seafoods. More down the road in town of Government Camp.
Stay. The Timberline Lodge is, of course, the go-to accommodations. Classic ski lodge timber décor, well-appointed rooms and stunning views add up to a high-ground experience. Groups can rent a night at Silcox Hut, a European-style hut on the mountain at base of Palmer Snowfields. Six miles away, Government Camp has a half-dozen condos.
Travel. Portland and its airport are an hour’s drive away. Ample parking by the lodge and base area. A shuttle runs from suburban Sandy to the hill, and another circulates between Government Camp on Hwy. 26 and the mountain. Aspen Limo Tours runs everything from stretch limo to 40-seat bus in and around the area.
Deals. Stay-and-ski packages abound out of Timberline Lodge – everything from midweek to holiday to late-season deals. Condos at Government Camp include lift tickets. Spring pass keeps you skiing and riding through May, and Mt. Hood Fusion Pass includes Mt. Hood SkiBowl. Various season pass options for parents, beginners and occasional visitors. As a member of the Powder Alliance, get three free days Sunday-Friday (restrictions apply) with an anytime season pass to any other Powder Alliance Resort.
Powder Alliance, the so-called “off-beat” combined pass, is now a partnership of 19 resorts in U.S., Canada, Japan and Chile with the addition of Sugar Bowl, Loveland and two mountains in the Canadian Rockies.
Convenience is the calling card of Powder Alliance. Season-pass holders at any of the Alliance’s resorts simply show their pass at the ticket window of any participating mountain and gets three free days Sunday-Friday of non-holiday weeks – and half price on Saturdays.
The pass is targeted at pass-holders from any of the participating resorts who want to try out another mountain or make last-minute powder trip in the West.
In addition to California’s Sugar Bowl and Colorado’s Loveland Ski Area, the Alliance brought Alberta’s large Castle Mountain Resort (3,500-plus acres) and Ski Marmot Basin – with the Canadian Rockies highest elevation – into the fold for the 2018-2019 season for the “pass affiliate” program.
They come into Powder Alliance on the heels of 2017, when Idaho’s Bogus Basin and Chile’s La Parva signed up.
In 2013, a dozen ski resorts formed Powder Alliance, a season pass exchange program that was seen as a response to Vail’s Epic Pass and the Mountain Collective. Unlike these multi-resort programs, Powder Alliance does not require purchasing a separate pass.
Powder Alliance managers use social media extensively to notify skiers and riders where the best powder is during the season at any of the resorts on the season pass reciprocal network.
Western U.S. & Canada
It's that time of the year when resorts hold one final bash to cap off the season. Natural "fireworks" will be in the sky and no, we're not talking lightning but rather heavy snow!
The first strong spring storm will be ongoing for British Columbia (BC) and the Northwest Thursday, April 12. It will spread through the central Rockies Friday and Saturday providing 7-10" of snow for most spots above 7,000' elevation. That means we love BC's Sun Peaks, Montana's Big Sky, and Utah's Brighton this week! The second spring system will arrive on Sunday in the Northwest, once again spreading through much of the Rockies Monday and Tuesday.
The Midwest gets a mention this week because of a huge late-season storm. Thursday and Friday will be snowy for parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan (and Ontario) so for those resorts opening back up this weekend, enjoy!
Eastern U.S. & Canada
Incredible warmth and bitter cold will be separated by only a short distance this week, making for a challenging forecast. If you're looking for snow/cold go farther north. Resorts in/around the Canadian border stand the best chance to stay colder and snowier this week.
That's why this week we love Quebec's Tremblant and New Hampshire's Bretton Woods. Light rain/snow showers will move through the East Thursday, then a heavier mix Friday/Saturday. Snow will change to rain, and vice versa, before finally drying out Tuesday as a cold front passes. The best snow opportunity will be in Quebec and northern New England, take a look.
Lyndon State College senior meteorology students Philomon Geertson and Liam Kelleher contributed to this article.