Burke Adds Gravity to the Kingdom
28 Aug 2014
Moving on to our sixth bike park of the ECRT, we headed back in to North Vermont and to the relatively new Burke Bike Park. Or, if you’ve noticed the recent re-branding and nice new logo, Q-Burke Bike Park! The mountain was bought by a company that brands most of it’s property and resort projects with the Q, so in order to bring the resort inline with their ‘portfolio’ of resorts, Burke has had to absorb the Q in to their name, and logo. Smart marketing or just weird – either way, we’re not qualified to make that call!
The route from Mount Snow to Q Burke Bike Park.
The resort sits just outside the small town of East Burke, famous as the main activity hub for the Kingdom Trails XC network. Given the influx of mountain bikers to the region each summer it was only a matter of time before Burke realized the potential – providing gravity assisted trails for the downhillers and freeriders would mean options for every rider interest, and the size of riding groups could well increase. So, Burke opened the lifts to bikes in 2010, initially using the trails on the mountain that had been developed by the Kingdom Trails Association, and were still maintained for riders as part of that network. Being on the main mountain - these trails were obviously more gravity oriented, and so eventually Burke assumed the responsibility and took over the operations here in full, with it’s own trail crew and bike park staff. However, the Burke and KT are fundamentally joined at the hip in terms of trails, and it’s the intent of the bike park here to add to the success of Kingdom Trails and compliment that established bike destination by growing the gravity element of the overall trail network.
Wow a lift queue - not been in many of these so far!
The 4-man Sherburne Express chairlift takes riders up an elevation gain of 560ft, so not huge vertical. However, there is a shuttle vehicle, which gives you access to the peak and some serious DH and freeride trails, but we’ll get to that later. The trails on the ‘lower’ mountain are generally smooth, flowing single track, with very few rocks, and never really steep – even on the blacks. In fact, we wouldn’t rate the black trails as black at all, but it must be remembered that the grading here is in relation to the other trails on the hill. So in terms of progression, the ‘technical’ trails like Black Forest and Enchanted Forest are black because they are a step up in difficulty from the smooth flow blue trail Jester. The Jester trail is probably the most popular trail here, with awesome berms and doubles that seep down under the lift and shoot you out in the finish area over the East Burke Sports drop feature. It’s a super fun trail that anyone can ride, and the big booster at the end is not mandatory so you wont get stuck there.
The berms and rollers of the Jester trail.
The Knightslayer trail is the only double black on the lower mountain and this is purely down to the size and frequency of the jumps and step-downs – they’re everywhere! But gradient is gentle and everything is roll-able – no gaps or mandatory features so you can scope it out and work yourself up to hitting the bigger features in your own time. It’s actually named after the trail designer and builder himself - Knight Ide, who has been an integral part of developing the whole Burke Bike Park and Kingdom Trails network, but more on that to follow as well.
One of the many jumps on the Knightslayer trail.
We went exploring down the Drawbridge Trail leading to J-Bar, in the belief that it led to the base. There is no trail map at the top of the lift, and foolishly we didn’t have one with us. The further we went, the more convinced we were that the trail was taking us well away from the resort and in all likelihood we would end up way down in the valley below, with big DH bikes to climb back up with. But keep the faith (or check the map) this does indeed return to the base so you’re safe. However, for this trail and really all of the trails on the lower mountain, you really don’t need a full on DH bike. For the jump trails, you can even get away with a hardtail jump bike, and for the technical trails, a freeride or all-mountain bike is probably more suited, as they can be a little 'pedally'.
Riders scope out the huge wallride towards the end of Knightslayer.
...and one of them demonstrates exactly how to do it!
For the beginners, the Roly Grail trail is superb, with beautifully sculpted berms and perfect gradient that can really help a new rider progress. The only thing missing are rocks – it’s just smooth dirt with the odd tree root the whole way down. Which is great of course, but it doesn’t really give any opportunity to develop those necessary riding skills, especially when you realize what’s waiting for you on the upper mountain! It could really benefit from a skills area with a few hand-made rock sections and wooden drop features, to give riders looking to take the next step somewhere to make it happen.
The big booster at the finsh of Jester. Keep your speed on the run-in...
We spent our time riding and filming the lower mountain trails with guys from the trail crew and other local riders. Burke summer marketing intern and general shredder Mike Borowski was joined by Ryan McEvoy – trail crew and MTBVT rider, and by Jon Unsworth from East Burke Sports bike shop in the village. Then, Mike and Kory Buck from the Burke trail crew did the honors on Jester.
Lots of bikes taking a well-earned rest...
There is a very relaxed and chilled out atmosphere at Burke, no need to rush anywhere. The lift area has a wide-open grassy space to spread out and doze in the sun between laps, and it’s right next to the Tamarack Pub and Grill, for a steady supply of beer! It’s not really possible to separate Burke from what would be more supply of beer at the Tiki Bar down in East Burke Village.
The Tiki Bar - a biker hangout without any leather pants in sight!
In fact, it’s not really possible to separate Burke from Kingdom Trails, and that’s true for all the facilities in East Burke village. We’ll cover them in more detail in the KT articles, but it’s just so easy to drive the 5 minutes down the road and hit the Tiki Bar for beers and food after the ride. It’s an awesome biker hangout, and not the Harley Davidson kind! Given their stated desire to add to what KT has to offer, it’s doing a pretty good job of that. Even just the lower mountain trails are an awesome addition to the whole trail network, and we still have the upper mountain to come…
One of each please...
The food truck next to the Tiki Bar - great burgers.
A 3-rider train on the lower half of Knightslayer.
Mike sends it over one of the Knightslayer doubles.