Meet Heather Burke: (Brave) Ski Mom and Luxury Ski Writer

family ski trips yellowstone

Heather Burke and her family in Montana.

brave ski mom logoI’ve never skied with Heather Burke, New England based ski journalist, the founder, with her husband Greg Burke, of LuxurySkiTrips.com and FamilySkiTrips.com. But I’d like to.

The mother of a grown son and daughter, Heather, like many of us, is passionate about family skiing. And, judging from the photos on her website, Heather can rip. Not only in her home region of New England,  but all around the world.

I caught up with her last week, to chat about family skiing, her travel plans for this upcoming season and more.

Looking at LuxurySkiTrips.com, you had a very full season. What was most memorable about last season and why?

We skied an amazing 50 days at 26 different ski resorts this season, a new record for us. We traveled to Montana, Western Canada and Switzerland. The most amazing day, best ski run even, was from the summit of the 9,744′ Schilthorn in the Jungfrau Region. Fresh snow, a steep off-piste descent with spectacular views of the Mönch, Eiger and Jungfrau, skiing where James Bond’s epic ski run was filmed…perhaps we didn’t top 007, but it made our top 10.

swiss eiger monch jungfrau

Heather ripping the Euro-pow in Switzerland.

What do you have planned for this coming winter? Are you going anywhere you’ve never skied before?

I am truly excited about touring the Italian Dolomites, brand new territory for Greg and me. Looks like amazing country to ski, photograph (Greg’s job) and write about (my duty).  I have a feeling the Italian lodging, après ski and food will be fabulous as well. We also plan to visit Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe with our daughter Aspen.  We have been there before, but it has been 25 years so it will be interesting to see how it has changed, and how it has remained the same.

In addition to LuxurySkiTrips.com, you have a site called FamilySkiTrips.com, that focuses on family skiing. If you had to pick two family resorts to recommend, which would you choose and why?

Yes, FamilySkiTrips.com launched in 1995 as a guide to help others parents get their kids skiing, just like we were doing at the time.

On the East coast, Okemo Mountain Resort is an excellent family ski resort, with gentle well-groomed terrain, plenty of slope side lodging, a friendly staff and wonderful kids programs. The Vermont scenery and local food served in their on-mountain lodges is wonderful, too.

okemo vermont family skiing

Heather’s top family choice in the East? Okemo, Vermont.

Out West, we love Big Sky in Montana, with its beautiful scenery, swank slope side lodging at the Summit Hotel and terrain for everyone. Check out the long blue runs and serious double blacks off the Lone Peak Tram. The ski school is  fantastic  (our son teaches here so I am biased!). For a fun day off the slopes, take the family to nearby Yellowstone National Park to see Old Faithful and wildlife in winter.

big sky lonepeak

And out West? She picks Big Sky, Montana.

You’ve got one child launched and employed and another finishing college. Do you still find time to ski as a family?

Skiing as a family is our top priority, it’s the one sport we can all enjoy together. This past season we skied at Big Sky with my son and my 75-year-old mom, which was such a heartwarming experience. Name another sport that you can enjoy for a week with three generations?

three generations ski together

Three generations skiing together at Big Sky: Heather, her son Ian and her mom, too!

What’s your best family skiing tip?

I have two, be organized and keep it fun. As a ski parent you need systems in place to pack everyone’s ski gear and be ready to head for the hills on weekends and holidays. If you have checklists and each family members’ ski bags ready, it reduces the chaos and eliminate those forgotten items – like goggles, mittens, ski passes.

Keeping it fun should go without saying, but haven’t we all witnessed the stressed parent pushing their kids or yelling? I say don’t put pressure your kids to go from pizza pie to French fries or to take one more run when they’re cold.

Patience and a positive attitude will play better for their long term love of skiing and snowboarding.

When did you start skiing and what do you remember most about your early days on snow? How old were your kids when they started skiing?

My mom started me at 2 1/2, she said I was more coordinated on skis than I was walking. We started our son Ian when he was one, actually 23 month old – but technically still one! It was just two runs on the bunny slopes, more of a photo-op. We introduced him to the ski equipment in our carpeted basement the night prior so he had familiarity and excitement about his big début on snow.

Aspen started when she was two. We could be categorized as overzealous, but our kids still love to ski at 20 and 22.

aspen heather sunday river

Heather and her daughter Aspen skiing together at Sunday River, Maine.

What is your background in journalism and why snowsports journalism?

I studied journalism at University of Vermont, and I grew up in the ski industry in Vermont. My parents ran a ski lodge at Smugglers Notch, so the ski culture is in my blood. My husband Greg started skiing at age three. We met in the ski biz, and he encouraged me to write about our experiences taking our young kids skiing.  My ski writing career took off from there. He is an amazing photographer so that makes my job easier. We’re a soup-to-nuts ski journalism team.

family ski trip mont sainte anne

The Burkes at Quebec’s Mont Sainte Anne in 2000.

I currently write 3-5 articles a week in winter for Boston.com, the Globe’s online presence, and I contribute occasionally to Forbes Travel Guide, Maine Magazine and Liftopia, in addition to our two sites, www.familyskitrips.com and www.luxuryskitrips.com.

It’s summer now. A beautiful time in northern New England. What are you up to?

Living on the Maine coast, we love to boat. Water skiing is my fix and a great workout for the quads. I have new passion, too: stand up paddle boarding.

All told, how many ski resorts have you skied, in how many countries?

On a recent flight home from Colorado, my daughter tallied our stats on a cocktail napkin. She ran out of space at 68+, and the guy seated next to us was shocked, and probably “jealy” as Aspen would say.

I have skied 128 resorts in the US, Canada, France, Switzerland, and Austria, according to Liftopia’s “where I’ve skied” challenge…and I’m just getting started.

Photos by Greg Burke, www.luxurysktrips.com & www.familyskitrips.com

© 2014, Kristen Lummis. All rights reserved. Any use or publication of content, including photos, requires express permission.

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