What's going on at Burke?

To the Editor:

The headline yesterday "Burke resort cuts ties with mountain biking trails network" is both puzzling and troubling. The new CEO Ary Quiros says he intends to continue "bike lift" operations independently in June 2014. What he may not understand is the fierce loyalty that many in the mountain biking community feel. Kingdom Trails has built up a pretty devout following who come to Burke to ride the trails. Some weekends the out of town plates number in the thousands as avid bikers take to the meticulously groomed Kingdom Trails network. Kingdom Trails has been hailed by the mountain biking industry as one of the best trail systems in the world. Visitors come from Boston, NY, Montreal, Quebec and even from Europe to experience the riding. Kingdom Trails has been singularly responsible for putting Burke on the map. While visitors do come to ski Burke Mountain, they are not coming for Europe to do so. Burke is a great family ski area, but it is not Killington, or Stowe or Jay Peak for that matter. The real attraction to Burke is the "small town family feel". Its a mountain where people want to bring their kids to learn to ski, to enjoy being in rural Vermont. But that "small town family" family is being destroyed. It is being replace by dissension and ego. The partnership with the local community is being severed, Burkie The Bear is gone in favor of some new bear that is supposed to either look "awesome" or because someone was sold something by a slick advertising agency.

In the past Burke Mountain has been a part of the larger Burke area community. Even when Burke was owned by out of town corporations like the GINN corporation, the CEO understood the importance of maintaining the community's ties to Burke. When there is no snow, no influx of down country skiers, its the locals who keep Burke alive. The CircumBurke, the Pond-skim, Live Music, and the great food and local family feel of The Tamarack made sure that there are still butts in the seats and dollars flowing in. By severing the partnership with the not for profit Kingdom Trails, Burke is saying "we don't need you or your community, we don't want to see you succeed and we want to keep all the dollars flowing here in our pocket". By firing long time staff who are deeply embedded in our community they are demonstrating that this is not the Burke Mountain of old. Visitors are going to feel the difference. I know many of my local neighbors who say "I am all done going up to the mountain until something changes". Corporate America has reared its head in Burke and what the powers that be may not realize is that what might work in Boston or in the "management text books" probably doesn't hold much water in Burke.

I don't know how many of our mountain bike visitors are also "bike lift" riders. I know for myself that the lift service is a bit beyond my riding ability. It may be that there are not enough bike lift riders to make it worthwhile for Burke to continue the service. Kingdom Trails will keep on doing what they do best, providing wonderfully groomed mountain bike trails for riders of all levels. Its a mountain bikers dream and people will continue to come to Burke to ride Kingdom Trails. What is less certain is the future of Burke. It is a mountain who's real strengths are being undermined by a CEO that is evidently not able to see whats in front of him. I've heard it mentioned that maybe Jay Peak doesn't want competition from Burke so they've sent Ary to end the mountain once and for all. In any other situation I would say that is a ridiculous conspiracy theory, but with so many bad decisions in such a short period of time, it does make one wonder.

Val Davis

East Burke, Vt.

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