Long cruisers, no lift lines, price
Limited snow making, distant
I spent MLK weekend skiing at Burke. I was apprehensive at first as I grew up in New England and had never even heard of the mountain, but I was won over instantly. Although it is well north of the some of the bigger and better known Vermont mountains, the low prices and utter lack of crowds even on a holiday weekend with a lot of snow made it a great choice.
The mountain is basically divided into two parts: a beginner's section on the bottom and intermediate/expert terrain on the top. There is a lodge at the base of both "halves," and you can drive to the mid-mountain lodge and avoid the bottom if you desire. There is only one main lift for each half, but I never waited longer than a minute (literally) to get on a lift all weekend.
I am a good intermediate skiier, and found the blues to be a nice variety of wide open cruisers and more narrow trails winding through the woods. The expert trails were generally shorter and narrow with large moguls. There is only one wide open black trail, and that was being used for racing practice much of the weekend (although you could still ski out of the way of the racers). There were also extensive glade trails. I saw some tracks but was very surprised I didn't see anyone skiing them. There was a good selection of trails for beginners and plenty of room for learning and practice.
The conditions were great because they had gotten a good amount of snow the previous week and a half, plus another six inches or so on Sunday. A lot of snow is necessary as there is not a lot of snow making, especially on the more wooded trails. For example, a couple of the mogul runs had very thin cover (icy patches and grass/underbrush poking through the snow) even with the fresh snow we got on Sunday and few skiers.
The terrain parks were limited to a few jumps and maybe a single rail. From what I saw they were used very infrequently. This could be why there were hardly any snowboarders.
Burke felt like an old-school mountain, not a modern resort. The food in the lodges was your basic fair at average prices. Most people I saw preferred to bring their food and leave it in either open cubbies or in packs in the locker rooms. The trails felt more natural and winding instead of clear-cutting straight down the mountain. The trails were mostly ungroomed, so their character changed over the weekend. There were very few condos around (although there are rumors of the owners trying to create a destination resort), and the towns of Burke and nearby Lyndonville had a handful of bars and restaurants. I heard one of the lodges had a lot of people hanging out with a band on Sunday night, but was not around to find out. If so, it was one of the very few places for nightlife.
For a classic skiing experience, Burke is very hard to beat. You can ski all day on empty trails and get a good microbrew at night before collapsing from exhaustion, and then do it again the next day. I think it would cater more to intermediate skiiers as there isn't a lot for experts other than glades. The area still has that rustic feel; as my dad put it, "there was no fashion show." I will definitely be back next year.