The freshly groomed slopes look like snowy corduroy under the brilliant morning sun. With a great snow base, mild weather and barely perceivable winds, I couldn’t ask for a better day to ski.

Burke Mountain – A Vermont Classic

Burke Mountain skier

Burke Mountain
Photo: Julie Kalan

After traversing the width of the run, I begin turning to the left. Picking up too much speed, I find myself heading towards the trees and unable to stop. In a moment of self-preservation, I throw myself onto the snow and slide, most ungracefully, to a stop just before the edge of the run.

View of Willoughby Gap from Burke Mountain

View of Willoughby Gap from Burke Mountain
Photo: Julie Kalan

As a “never-ever” skier, this is not the first or last time I’ll be sitting on the snow today.

While looking up towards my very patient instructor Hannah, I see the stunning Willoughby Gap, which was carved out by glaciers during the last ice age. Nestled in the Gap, Lake Willoughby rests between the 1000 ft (over 300 m) granite cliffs of Mount Hor and Mount Pisgah.

Often described as the best-kept secret in the Northeast, Burke Mountain offers one beautiful view after another. This truly classic mountain has remained as pure as the snow that cloaks it, by limiting on-site buildings and keeping the focus on skiing and snowboarding. The atmosphere is laid back and friendly across the 250 acres of uncrowded terrain. Nevertheless, do not be fooled – the atmosphere may be relaxed, but there is plenty of serious skiing. In fact, the Burke Mountain Ski Academy has produced 47 Olympians along these 45 trails and glades.

A Darling Place to Stay

The Wildflower Inn main building

The Wildflower Inn main building
Photo: Julie Kalan

Only a few minutes from the Burke Mountain slopes, on Darling Hill Road, is the family friendly Wildflower Inn. Nestled in 570 acres of rolling hills, the inn offers 24 rooms and suites.

On-site amenities and activities include: snowshoeing; ice skating; sledding; Nordic skiing; horse-drawn sleigh and wagon rides; hiking and mountain biking on the extensive Kingdom Trails, ranging from easy to death-defying; a heated outdoor pool (summer only); and farm-to-table dining at Juniper’s Restaurant.

When it comes to keeping children happily occupied, innkeepers Jim and Mary O’Reilly’s eight children have made them bona fide experts. They offer indoor and outdoor play areas, a summer activity program and the “fun for kids of all ages” petting barn.

After a day of skiing at Burke Mountain and snowshoeing along the serene trails at the Wildflower Inn’s doorstep, you can head down the road and ease your weary muscles at the Stepping Stone Spa. Guests can choose from an array of facials, body scrubs (including the locally inspired Vermont Maple Sugar scrub), herbal wraps and massages. I highly recommend that you take a little time before or after your appointment to enjoy a cup of tea and the pastoral view from the acclimation room.

The Peak of Perfection

Thanks to the Jay Cloud (a term coined by locals, referring to the often seen clouds that hover over the mountain and abundantly deposit frozen precipitation), Jay Peak is the snowiest resort in the East, with an average snowfall of 374 inches (9.5 m). Loved by die-hard skiers and riders, almost 80% of the mountains 76 trails, glades and chutes are rated intermediate or advanced. For beginners, like me, The Zone on the lower slopes provides an easy terrain for lessons. The enclosed Magic Carpet is a fun and quick way to reach the top of this area.

Vermont’s only aerial tramway takes a mere 7 minutes to reach the 3968 ft (1209 m) summit. Watching from the lofty tram, skiers look like colourful dots gliding along a myriad of trails.

Enjoy the views from inside the tram, because at the top the biting winds ensure that no one spends too long staring at the vista.

Making Waves on the Slopes

Jay Peak's Tram Haus Lodge

Jay Peak’s Tram Haus Lodge
Photo Julie Kalan

Recently, millions of dollars have been invested into upgrading and expanding the Jay Peak experience. After adding an 18-hole championship golf course in 2006-07, upgrading their 20km of Nordic skiing trails and adding the Ice Haus skating arena last May, the best is still yet to come.

Currently under construction is a new Hotel Jay with 170 rooms, conference center and what promises to be New England’s largest indoor water park. Scheduled to open December 2011, the attraction will feature a retractable glass roof, lazy river, double Flow Rider for surfing, and what is sure to be the water park’s signature ride, the Aqua Loop. Those brave enough to try it will enter a launch capsule, then after the floor of the capsule opens, vertically freefall for 60 feet and be propelled into a near 360§ loop.

Only a year old, the Tram Haus Lodge features 57 suites, a café, restaurant and a great aprés-ski bar. Order a Vermont beer like Switchback or Long Trail and impress the locals. This comfortable hotel proudly displays its local heart with everything from furniture to wool blankets produced in Vermont.

In fact, a local carpenter crafted the tables at the restaurant using reclaimed wood from area barns. Adding to the decor are sections of old tram cable, used as exterior deck railings and on all room number signs. When you check in, pick up the weekly events schedule to look for sleigh rides, groomer rides and tours of the nearby Couture’s Dairy and Maple Farm

Travel Planner

To take advantage of the last few weeks of spring skiing or learn more about spring, summer and fall activities in the Northeast Kingdom, please visit the sites listed below.

For more information on all Vermont ski resorts, visit
Burke Mountain, located only 7 miles (11 km) off Interstate 91, is an easy 2 hour and fifteen minute drive from Montreal. For more information on local activities, accommodations and promotions, visit
Jay Peak is about 2 hours from Montreal. For more information regarding accommodations, skiing and golf, visit
The Wildflower Inn is located 3 miles (5 km) from Burke Mountain. Rates run from $130 to $474 per night based on double occupancy and include a full country breakfast and afternoon snack.
Stepping Stone Spa
Couture’s Maple Shop
Kingdom Trails

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