There are many couples who have found a "tie that binds" through
skiing and mountain living. That was the case for Donna and Burnie
Burnham "Burnie" Martin fell in love with New England and skiing
while a student at Dartmouth College. Donna first skied as a
youngster in Grove City, PA where she and her friends carried their
wooden skis with a single strap up local hills to ski down. No
lessons, just kid-styled fun.
That changed when Burnie asked her to marry him. He had
previously "dragged me to a small ski area - rope tow on a farmer's
hill," Donna said, adding, that while she had shared his interest
in skiing, when he proposed, she had said, "Yes, but no skiing on
So where did they go? Skiing, of course. Donna recalls that he
skied on one side of Mount Tremblant and she had lessons on another
section of the mountain. It was her first bona fide ski
instruction. That was 1959.
Although they had returned to his native town in Ohio for Burnie
to work in the family real estate business after they had married,
Donna acknowledges that it didn't take too many trips back East to
convince her to move to Vermont or New Hampshire.
Burnie was scouting for a job when he stopped in at Killington and
found out that Pres Smith was looking to start a real estate
department. The Martins moved to town in 1963, and while he went
through the Vermont licensing process, Burnie worked for Killington
doing various jobs, from construction to PR. In 1964 the Killington
real estate office he had set up began operations.
Feeling he could better serve the ski area as a separate entity,
Burnie left Killington to set up his own brokerage firm - in an
A-frame (now the site of a bakery) "with a card table for a desk
and a cardboard box for a file cabinet." Later her formed Martin
Associates with partners Walt Findeisen, Charlie Wise, and Bob
Johnstone (1969). Later yet, the partnership changed to
Martin and Findeisen, and Donna joined them from 1978-1988,
handling rentals with Judy Findeisen. Burnie retired in 1993 but
not before serving on Vermont's Board of Realtors for many
During this time, the Martins had leased and operated the Snow'd
Inn for the 1963-64 season and then bought a farmhouse on River
Road, which Donna operated as Happy Hill Lodge from 1964 to 1967.
She gave that up to focus on raising their four children and later
joined the Mountain Times (1973) where she did a variety of jobs
from staff writer to ad sales. She also served as a substitute
teacher and was an active volunteer, serving on many boards and
committees and was a founding member of the nursery school and
As with many other families who settled in Killington when it
was still a growing town, the Martins have fond memories of being
part of a group who were actively supporting a new and growing ski
area and at the same time building a community that could offer
many opportunities and advantages for children.
The Martins cited the sense of community and the feeling of
family that developed early on in the town. "Sue Smith used to call
when she was going into Rutland and ask if I needed anything,"
Donna recalled of the way people looked out for one another and
newcomers to the community. They agreed that there was a definite
sense of "being in this together," and Donna noted that she has
referred to their generation as the "new Killington pioneers"
because there was a strong sense of building a community and a
living for those who took up residence there.
"You didn't have to have a lot of money to fit in or to make it
work here. A lot of people were doing things on a shoestring, and
there were lots of young people. . . you weren't the only
ones. Killington really can be defined as a sweat-equity town that
was built on skiing," Burnie noted.
The building of the original Killington Gondola was an exciting
highlight, Burnie said, recalling that, "It spurred on the real
estate business. There were 29 lots that sold for $1995 an acre
before the round lots in Killington East, which were developed with
the new 1968 Master Plan. The gondola spurred the sale of
land there with lots going for $6,000 to $8,000. By 1988 a
trail-front lot went for anywhere from $100,000 to over $200,000
depending on number of bedrooms permitted."
Burnie also observed that an unusual benefit came to the real
estate business when the 'no-gas era' struck in the 1970s. "Before
that time, buyers had to put down 50 percent on vacation homes. But
with the economic and business slowdown caused by the gas crisis,
the banks in Rutland learned that skiers did not welch on loans and
as a result 80 and 90 percent loans became available. Those years
were difficult because they dipped into cash flow and revenues, but
they also illustrated the importance of the second-home industry,"
One of the greatest benefits from their move to Killington was
to provide an environment where the kids could learn to ski, which
they all did as preschoolers as well as through the elementary
school's ski program and Sunday lessons in the Killington Junior
Recreational Program. All four went on to try racing or freestyle
programs, and Bill also participated in the Junior Ski Patrol while
son Chuck went on to freestyle competition, in combined (moguls,
ballet and aerials) and bumps and to compete in the Olympics
Both Martins noted that being able to ski midweek when the
slopes weren't crowded was a nice plus, adding that they met many
customers while riding the lifts. Quite a few people who rented ski
houses also moved up and became good friends, they added.
Donna and Burnie, who moved to Chittenden in 1988, enjoy summers at
their Lake Champlain cottage as well as western travels to visit
family and playing and singing in the folk group the Potluck
Donna noted that their kids have remained "outdoors oriented,"
whether camping, mountain biking, river guiding, skiing or
snowboarding, commenting that their upbringing in Killington
provided "a healthy lifestyle and shows that we were right to move
It's a lifestyle that has been passed on to their grandchildren,
which with their own ongoing love of the outdoors and natural
world, pleases both Martins immensely.