Planning a ski vacation with your kids can be a challenge; throw in grandparents and family friends and it gets even more complicated. Add a milestone birthday to celebrate and the stakes are even higher. Even someone who has executed numerous mountain vacations with her family might be cowed.
I’m happy to report that I found a simple answer to this puzzle: Book your friends and family ski trip at Burke Mountain Resort. This just-right ski area offers the versatility I needed to keep three generations happy.
Spread out, socialize and sleep at Burke Mountain Hotel
I visited Burke for a long weekend in February with my two teen sons, my husband, my stepmother, her beau, and a couple who are such old family friends that they are more like an aunt an uncle to me (or, as I like to call them, “framily”). My first concern was making sure that everyone had enough space so that we enjoyed each other’s company without feeling crowded.
The Burke Mountain Hotel offered the perfect solution. My family of four stayed in a one-bedroom suite with a full kitchen and a gas fireplace; my stepmother Joan and her beau Steve were in an adjoining standard studio room that had a kitchenette. This arrangement suited all of us perfectly. Not only did everyone have some extra elbowroom; adjoining rooms meant access to two bathrooms for six people while still giving Joan and Steve privacy.
Our suite had room for us to spread out all of our gear so that it could dry and warm up for the next day’s adventures (the hotel does also offer free lockers for skis boards near the ski shop on the second floor, so you don’t have to keep them in your room). My husband Matt and I appreciated that there was a door between us an our teen boys Tommy and Teddy, who don’t always want to go to bed as early as we do after a full day on the mountain.
Having a kitchen meant we could prepare all our breakfasts, saving time and money in the morning. We were also able to fit everyone’s snacks and beverages in the full-sized refrigerator. And our room became the logical gathering spot for us all après-ski.
We all loved being together around the fireplace sharing stories about our day. On our third night, we celebrated my stepmother’s birthday with champagne and gifts.
The hotel is also incredibly convenient, offering ski-in, ski-out access to Burke’s fifty-plus trails and glades. Our rooms were mountainside, which means we faced the lift – a great motivation to get going in the morning. Rooms on the other side of the hotel look out over the Willoughby Gap, one of the prettier and more unique views in Vermont.
Enjoy mountain fun for everyone, outdoors…
Of course, “stay” is only half of a multigenerational ski-and-stay vacation. The other critical aspect is that everyone, from the youngest to the oldest, has fun. Burke Mountain Resort delivered on this front as well.
Tommy and Teddy are dedicated tree skiers (and when they deign to let us join them, Joan and I enjoy the glades as well). With over a dozen named glades and a few that are unmarked, it’s possible to spend almost all your time at Burke in the woods – which is what the two of them did. We were blessed with perfect tree-skiing conditions, including an unexpected squall on our third day that left about four inches of new powder, and the boys made the most of it.
Matt and our family friend Jean never met a long intermediate run that they didn’t like and since Burke is a racer’s mountain (Burke Mountain Academy is located just down the road and the students train here) there are lots of these trails. Pretty much every blue trail, and even some of the black diamonds, is groomed. With a 2011-foot vertical drop, the mountain is steep enough to be interesting but not intimidating.
In fact, Matt built his confidence up so much on the fun, fast blue trails that by our fourth day he was ready to give the glades a whirl and had a great time practicing his turns around trees.
Steve is not a downhill skier, but he does love to snowshoe, which he was able to do every day at the resort’s Dashney Nordic Center. With 15 kilometers of groomed and well-marked trails, there’s plenty of variety in terrain, both wooded and meadows, as well as views of the ski area and surrounding mountains.
…and indoors too
There are also numerous places in the hotel for everyone to hang out off the slopes. Teddy spent a lot of time in the hotel’s arcade and even managed to win a stuffed version of his favorite dragon.
Jean and Dick enjoyed reading by the gas fireplace in their room. And Matt and I had fun checking out the scene and live music at The Bear Den in the Mid-Burke Lodge.
Burke Mountain Resort offered us the perfect mix of independence and time together. Since we were all staying right there on the mountain, it was easy for everyone to just do what they wanted – no one had to ski longer than they wanted to or spend time waiting in a crowded base lodge for the others to finish.
And comfort, convenience and fun are all important of course, but they aren’t what made my stay at Burke Mountain Resort really special. My favorite part of this trip was watching my children and their grandmother delight in each other’s company. From laughing on the lift to discovering feet of un-skied powder in the woods, the three of them spent four days making memories in a way that only a perfect ski vacation offers.
Dining at Burke Mountain Resort
For breakfast and lunch Edmund’s Cafe in the ski-in/ski-out lower level of the hotel offers typical ski area cafeteria food including very yummy chicken fingers. If you’re more interested in grabbing a quick bowl of chili or soup in a fun old-school ski bar, The Bear Den, which is in the Mid-Burke Lodge offers both along with a wide range of craft beers and ciders. Tamarack is a full-service restaurant in the Sherburne Base Lodge, next to the beginners area that’s below the hotel.
For dinner, Burke Mountain Resort offers a few on-site dining options. The View Pub is great for families; the menu includes favorites like wings, batter fried green beans, and chicken and biscuits, and fish and chips. Although they don’t take reservations, the friendly staff told us to show up later in the evening (after 7:30) with our party of 8 on a busy holiday Sunday; we were seated within 20 minutes. (Tamarack offers a very similar menu for lunch and is open for dinner on some weekend evenings as well.) We also ate at the higher end Willoughby’s in the hotel, but enjoyed our more reasonably priced meal at the View Pub more.
The Burke Publick House is right at the bottom of the mountain road that leads to the resort. The menu is family-friendly, with highlights that include poutine with Vermont cheddar, chorizo, and bacon; bangers and mash with locally made sausages; and chipotle meatloaf. This is a popular spot, so reservations are a good idea, and essential for a big group on a weekend or holiday evening.
Activities and more at Burke Mountain Resort
Burke Mountain Hotel offers ski-and-stay packages that include lift tickets for your arrival day if you stay more than two nights (we got there late on a Friday morning and skied the rest of the day). We were able to get an early check in to our room, but if we hadn’t the hotel would have safely stored our gear for the day and let us use their locker room to change. Book a one-bedroom suite like ours in March and the hotel offers free skiing for kids ages 6 to 18.
If you like to swim or soak outside in the winter, the hotel has both a heated pool and hot tub for guests. There are also several nearby offsite spas that offer a full menu for guests from massages to facials.
Burke offers a full slate of lesson programs for kids aged 3 to 17 including freestyle lessons in their terrain park. There are also fun indoor activities as well, including pizza and trivia nights on Thursdays in the View Pub and Burkie’s Clubhouse, which offers arts and crafts and activities for kids ages 5 to 11 in the hotel on select holiday evenings and weekend afternoons.
The Nordic Center offers family-friendly activities as well, including night hikes with a pizza party and campfire and naturalist snowshoe tours. And if your family includes furry friends, dogs are allowed on almost all of the trails as well. There’s a free shuttle that will take you and your family to and from the hotel and the Sherburne Base Area.
There isn’t a lot of shopping around Burke, but if you enjoy sweets, be sure to check out Burke Mountain Confectionary. Owners Tom and Nancy Taylor make and sell a wide variety of delicious handmade chocolate treats in their shop less than 10 minutes from the resort. It’s worth a visit just to enjoy the smell of the goodies being made. Everything is produced in small batches using ingredients like pure local cream, cider and maple syrup.
Mara Gorman may live at sea level now, but she’s a native New Englander and mountain aficionado who grew up skiing in Vermont. She spends as many days each winter as she can chasing her two teen boys through glades and across mogul fields and regularly journeys far and wide to get on the slopes. Mara blogs about her family’s many travel adventures at The Mother of all Trips. She is also the author of The Family Traveler’s Handbook and an award-winning freelance writer whose work has appeared in various USA Today print publications as well as on websites such as BBC Travel. When there’s no snow, Mara and her family can be found hiking, biking and eating around the United States and Europe.