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COVID Creates Challenges for Burke Mt. Academy: Part 1

Burkies lost a lot of time on snow due to restrictions
Published: Dec. 23, 2020 at 6:42 PM EST
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EAST BURKE, Vt. (WCAX) - For nearly five decades, many of the best ski racers in the world have spent their teenage years at a little school in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

“We’re at just about 70 students, which is right about our sweet spot,” said Burke Mountain Academy Head of School Willy Booker.

It’s not a big group, but it tends to be stacked with talent: Burke Mountain Academy has trained more than 100 members of the US ski team and 36 Olympians. Booker and athletic director Brad Wall both say the school’s dedication to time on snow has been a huge part of that success.

“We’re in a very lucky situation, we have an amazing relationship with Burke Mountain and we have just this incredible training venue,” Booker said.

“In a normal year, we would probably travel to ski in June and in August,” added Brad Wall, the school’s athletic director. “Whether it’s South America or to Scandanavia or Central Europe.”

But the Burkies have not been able to ski anywhere near as much as they normally would in 2020, with COVID-19 shutting down ski resorts and international borders for much of the year.

“All up, we probably missed out on an additional 30 or 40 days skiing in the prep period as well as roughly the last month of the season last year,” Wall said.

Considering just how tough the competition is both nationally and internationally, that has been a major cause for concern.

“There are selections to national team on the line which are very important,” Booker said. “There are also college admissions, recruitment opportunities that are on the line as well. Meanwhile the Europeans did not miss a beat. They skied as much if not more than ever so this is a real disadvantage for the American kids at the moment.”

So the Burkies put a big emphasis on dry land training, both at home over the summer and once they returned to campus this Fall.

“We certainly hammer home the message each year that their strength translates directly into speed,” Wall said.

Wall added that has become clearer than ever to the kids who put in the work now that they’re back on the slopes. But how has COVID affected the day to day operations of the school, and what will their competition schedules look like this Winter with the various travel restrictions in place? We’ll get into that in part 2.

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