COVID Creates Challenges for Burke Mt. Academy: Part 2

Burkies planning in-state competition schedule
Published: Dec. 23, 2020 at 10:55 PM EST
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EAST BURKE, Vt. (WCAX) - After some initial questions, Burke Mountain Academy got the go-ahead this Summer for students to return to campus in the Fall.

“We basically put every single student through an entire quarantine period,” said Burke Head of School Willy Booker. “So they were required to get a test before they arrived, we tested them on the day they arrived, they quarantined for 7 days, and then we tested them again.”

Booker said the vast majority of Burkies were able to navigate the new set of rules and return, but it wasn’t easy. And as a result, the school has seen a slightly different makeup to the student body than they’re used to.

“We had one Chinese national, a young woman that we love very much, was not able to come back to school this year,” Booker said. “It was very sad.”

“It came down to crunch time, families deciding whether or not they’ll actually send their kids away in such uncertain times,” added Burke Mountain Academy Athletic Director Brad Wall. “We had some students who decided to stay home in their existing programs.”

The simple nature of boarding schools tends to keep everyone in constant contact, so Burke has had to be very strict about maintaining somewhat of a bubble atmosphere.

“Some of the staff members who live in residence have spouses who work off campus, and those spouses are not allowed on campus,” Booker said. “Our students have a small warming hut that will be open only to them and they won’t be allowed to go in any of the public lodges.”

And what about competition?

“In any given normal year, we’d travel to New York, Maine, New Hampshire, travel out west for different series where there’s national championships,” Wall said.

Obviously that’s not happening this year. There is however one advantage Burke has that a lot of other ski academies don’t: their proximity to similar schools.

“Mt. Mansfield, Stratton Mountain School, Green Mountain Valley School, Mt. Snow Academy, Okemo Mt. School,” Booker listed off.

They’re still working out the kinks right now, but Burke and the other in-state programs plan to avoid the travel issues by pitting the best ski racers in Vermont against each other.

“The Vermont Alpine Racing Association has managed to build a calendar for the FIS aged athletes that’s actually really quite robust,” Wall said.

It’s not perfect, but given all the hoops they’ve had to jump through, the Burkies are just glad their kids will have the opportunity to compete.

“It’s the most uplifting thing that you could possibly imagine,” Booker said. “They are so happy to just be able to go out and ski. You know, do what they’re passionate about. It’s been very difficult, I wouldn’t deny that at all but it’s very rewarding at the same time.”

Burke’s racing season is expected to start in January.

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