by Joshua Kulzyck
Three times as much snowmaking next winter at Burke Mountain? Yes!
Construction began Jan.10 to expand Burke Mountain's snowmaking capability. The project, costing $1.5 million, will begin drawing water from the east branch of the Passumpsic River to create artificial snow. This will triple Burke Mountain's ability to make snow.
The project is located on Route 114 and all that remains to be done is to wire the buildings. This will be done during the summer. Dixi Nohl, senior vice president of Burke Mountain, said, "If we wanted to, we could push it and have it running this winter, but we have the pond so we really don't need it this winter."
The two structures sit on 20 acres north of East Burke village. One of the buildings, which is like a small box, is made of concrete and sits at the river's edge. This facility houses the equipment that is used to take the water from the river. The other structure is a pump house built of wood, and is about 20 feet by 30 feet.
"It's exciting. This expansion is necessary for the economy of the Northeast Kingdom. It should have happened five years ago," said Jean Bailey, owner of Bailey's Country Store.
"This expansion in snowmaking will give trails back to the public, without having to depend on natural snow coverage," said Linda Morrow, a resident of Lyndon and a ski instructor at a nearby resort in New Hampshire.
Burke Mountain was purchased by Northern Star Corp. for about $1,000,000 in December 1995 after a history of several owners, a rough financial past and a governmentrelated beginning.
The road to the summit of the mountain was built in the 1930s to help develop tourism. The project took two years and was built between the summer of 1933 and the fall of '35. The work force included 160 men on an 18-month tour of duty with the government-sponsored Civilian Conservation Corps. The crew converted the rough wagon path with a truck, a Caterpillar tractor, dynamite, picks and shovels. The road was paved in 1938.
While they were building the road, the workers also constructed a shelter, made way for running water and completed over two miles of skiing trails. After the road and trails were completed, local skiers used them for various events. It wasn't until 1953 though, when 13 men formed a company called "Ski Burke Mountain Inc.," that the mountain took its place as a ski resort.
In 1955, a Poma lift was installed that went to the summit. Today, there is still a lift at Burke Mountain called the Poma lift, but only the bottom third of it is orginal. There are also three other lifts at Burke Mountain.