By Evan Johnson
EAST BURKE –– After a brief dispute and parting of ways over trails, usage fees and chairlifts raised protest locally as well as online, Q Burke Mountain Resort (formerly Burke Mountain Resort) and Kingdom Trails now look to meet in the middle.
The three-year-long relationship between the for-profit resort and the local nonprofit was regarded as a unique one, negotiated in part by prior Burke Mountain manager Tim McGuire, who stepped down in August.
In 2010, the association constructed their first excavated downhill trail for singletrack biking.
The network of three trails was accessed via Burke’s Sherburne lift. The award-winning Kingdom Trails As- sociation has maintained a network of over 100 miles of trails adjacent to Burke Mountain.
Through the partnership, Q Burke handled monetary transactions on be- half of the resort and Kingdom Trails: Q Burke charged $20 for the chairlift and Kingdom Trails charged riders the normal day-usage fee. No daily trail fee was charged to those with annual Kingdom Trails membership. When the trails expanded, Burke completed and submitted permits and Kingdom Trails led construction.
In December, when Q Burke CEO Ary Quiros revisited the Kingdom Trails contract as part of housekeeping efforts, that relationship was ended.
“The reality of it was confusion as to how the arrangement was being made,” says Tim Tierney, executive director of Kingdom Trails.
Quiros originally refused to pay roughly $20,000 to the organization ac- cording to the contract, which he said he had not been aware of at the time it was signed. He later agreed to the payment but canceled the partnership going forward. He also said $20 was not enough to cover the resort’s costs of operating the chairlift and participating in the program.
The news did not sit well with local bikers. Brian Riordan is president of the Upper Valley Mountain Bike Association, a group that frequently addresses issues of trail access and usage between various groups. Riordan says he was dismayed at the news of the separation and sent an e- mail to Jay Peak and Q Burke manage- ment expressing his dissatisfaction. He received a response hours later from Q Burke CEO Ary Quiros.
That response went viral in a matter of minutes. Q Burke’s Facebook page was overrun with comments, and the discussion even emerged on ride- monkey.com, the official online forum of Bike Magazine.
“I put it back in the community’s hands,” Riordan says. “It can be kind of a learning experience for someone who’s not from Vermont and might not be fa- miliar with the desires and motivations of people in the area. As soon as the news hit social media, the community came to- gether around their resource and declared where they stood.”
Just a few days later, Bill Stenger, president, CEO, and co-owner of Jay Peak and Q Burke, backpedaled on Quiros’ earlier comments, responding to multiple e-mails from concerned members of the Burke community and declaring a will- ingness to find a solution.
Quiros declined to comment, but Andrew Baird, director of marketing, says the two parties will reopen talks in January.
While the development has cap- tured public frustration on forums and social media, all agree on the need for levelheaded dialogue. Tierney says he was surprised by the initial decision on Q Burke’s part, but he remains optimistic the two partners will reach an agreement that will form a much stronger relationship.
“We’re ever-hopeful that sensible, practical people will see the strength of what we bring to the community,” he says. “This discussion has really caused the cream to float to the top, so to speak. If anything, this [dialogue] will serve to strengthen Kingdom Trails and the relationship between the two.”