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Updated 9 months ago
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9 months ago

We have a big group trip planned for Timberline in February and I’m getting very worried about the resort’s safety status due to the lift accident from last winter and reports here of delayed opening and other financial problems at the resort. What agency is responsible for inspecting the lifts to ensue they are maintained and repaired? It’s such a great mountain to ski and the group packages for youth groups and scouts and such are unmatched. But the fear having a big group of kids on the mountain if the lifts are unsafe is keeping me up at night w worry. Any insights or assurances from the experts here?  Thanks. 

 

9 months ago

Lift accidents are exceedingly rare in the industry.  After the lift failure at Timberline last year, the resort says the lifts were carefully checked by outside experts.  I don’t think their insurance company would provide coverage if they weren’t confident the lifts are safe.  Skiing is a sport with inherent risks, and the chance of kids getting hurt themselves on slopes (by falling down, hitting each other, etc.) or getting in a car accident on the way to the slopes is probably much, much higher than a lift malfunction.  I personally would not hesitate to ride Timberline’s lifts, but I understand people need to make their own decision.

9 months ago

Obviously, a major lift failure like what happened at Timberline last winter is something all of us take seriously.  Nobody, even the most hardcore individuals, wants to be unexpectedly thrown from a lift from 25’ off the ground.  However, I think all of us following the incident were impressed with the speed (just a few days) in which Timberline took action to repair the lift and get it back in operational shape.  I showed my confidence in the situation when I bought a lift ticket and spent an afternoon skiing at Timberline earlier this month.  I rode the repaired lift many times that day without incident.  Slow snowmaking is a separate, but non-trivial issue.  I think that fact that your event is in Feb should be a big help in that regard.  Hopefully, with some cold temps the mtn will be operating in normal or near normal fashion by then with lots of open trails.  They were blowing snowguns aggressively on the date of my visit Jan 8:  http://www.dcski.com/forum/89064

Speaking as only an interested observer with no inside knowledge, until or unless I see signs of new problems, I would whole heartedly recommend you proceed with your Timberline ski trip plans.  However, if you weigh other options and decide to go elsewhere that would make perfect sense to me.  We are lucky to have many ski areas within a few hours of DC.

9 months ago

Most of the recent lift issues/failures at Sugarloaf, Sunday River, Timberline, Suicide Six are exclusive to Borvig designed and fabricated lifts.  I certainly understand why you may have concerns about Timberline; you can tell a lot about a resort’s maintenance program by observing how often they repaint the lifts.   

My disappointment with Timberline is the fact that Borvig issued a 1987 advisory/service bulletin to retrofit crossarms that were designed and constructed with fracture-critical connections.  Timberline was not in full compliance with the 1987 service bulletin retrofit until the start of this ski season.  From my perspective that is unforgivable.       

West Virginia does not have a state tramway commission that regulates aerial lifts.  Compliance with the ANSI B77 Standards are up to each resort and their insurance agency.  Based on last year’s crossarm failure I don’t have much confidence in Timberline or their insurance company.

I have concerns about the Timberline’s Thunderdraft lift beyond last year’s crossarm failure.  The Sunday River Spruce Peak top terminal foundation failure was a result of drilled and grouted/chemical anchors.  Both the Spruce Peak and Thunderdraft lifts are 1986 Borvig installations.  It seems plausible that the same construction means, methods and details were utilized on all Borvig lifts of that vintage.  If the Thunderdraft top terminal does have drilled and grouted foundation connections I would have concerns about riding that lift.    

 

9 months ago

teleman wrote:

I have concerns about the Timberline’s Thunderdraft lift beyond last year’s crossarm failure.  The Sunday River Spruce Peak top terminal foundation failure was a result of drilled and grouted/chemical anchors.  Both the Spruce Peak and Thunderdraft lifts are 1986 Borvig installations.  It seems plausible that the same construction means, methods and details were utilized on all Borvig lifts of that vintage.  If the Thunderdraft top terminal does have drilled and grouted foundation connections I would have concerns about riding that lift.    

 

FWIW, The foundation for the top terminal on Thunderdraft was replaced due to cracking at some point in the late 90’s, early 2000’s. I have no clue how the new foundation was connected but it was quite a large hole that went to rock.

9 months ago

Timberline put the lifts and lift safety ahead of a lot of other financial obligations at the end of last season following the accident.  I will also be there weekend after President’s Day with my teenage kids.  I’m more concerned about the weather and amount of snow than I am about the safety of the ski lifts.  The drive up the mountain is always WAY more risky than riding the lifts all day.  I have faith that the management has the lifts as safe as they can be… granted they are a little more shaky than more modern places but you get what you pay for.  If you want modern high speed lifts you will have to pay more and ski elsewhere… on terrain not as challenging or beautiful..

They could do a lot there to modernize, but the rustic, albeit somewhat rickety ambiance is one of the things I like about the place.

9 months ago

Beautiful and challenging slopes are useless from a skiing perspective without snow on them.  Why Timberline was unable to get more slopes covered earlier this month and mid-December during the extended cold snaps is a mystery and unfortunate; it does not give confidence for when the cold returns in late Jan and early Feb.  and the rest are of this hopefully back loaded winter!  Certainly not the confidence I have in the other MId-Atlantic ski resorts and their state-of-the-art snowmaking systems (now to include Canaan Valley ski area).

MorganB

 

9 months ago

The thing about Timberline is that if you measure the length of their recent ski seasons by the number of months per year they’ve been 100% open, you get a number staring with 1. For the best mountain south of New England, that’s criminal, and I’d imagine most homeowners are worried. Meanwhile, the management lectures on snowmaking temperatures (on their Facebook page) and hypes up things like snowmobile races and whatever band is playing on any given weekend.

No doubt weather like this has been playing a big role in their seasons lately, and you can’t fault any ski area for that. But when the cold air returns, it’s frustrating to watch other ski areas catch up quickly while TLine spins its wheels.

9 months ago

Yes, we all know that conditions both inside and outside at Tline are variable.  I would not worry about the lifts.  The good thing is that even if it sucksdue to constant rain, power outage, heat, crowds, poor management, etc…. we still have Canaan Valley, Whitegrass, Blackwater Falls, Siriani’s, Purple Fiddle, etc….. With families or groups in tow, you have to plan ahead, so you need to consider it a vacation that will likely have skiing.   You know in the good old days  before robust snowmaking, even going high out west was not a sure thing - you could get snaked.  For the Olympics at Lake Placid they were trucking in snow.  It’s an outdoor sport.   

9 months ago

The Colonel wrote:

Beautiful and challenging slopes are useless from a skiing perspective without snow on them.  Why Timberline was unable to get more slopes covered earlier this month and mid-December during the extended cold snaps is a mystery and unfortunate; it does not give confidence for when the cold returns in late Jan and early Feb.  and the rest are of this hopefully back loaded winter!  Certainly not the confidence I have in the other MId-Atlantic ski resorts and their state-of-the-art snowmaking systems (now to include Canaan Valley ski area).

MorganB

 

Canaan Valley is using their snowmaking only marginally better than is Timberline. I skied both on Monday; CVR was in worse shape than Timberline. Sad to have to say that.

9 months ago

Back to the O.P.  I always worried about everything at each scout ski trip or church group I led.   We always said the most dangerous thing we do is drive; everything else is a distant second.  You probably have done this before. Consideriing the attention last season, the Tline lift might be safer than ever, and accidents are still very rare events.  By all accounts they handled it pretty well.  

 

9 months ago

To the Original Poster, I do ride Timberline’s lifts (I was on the lift during the accident), but I’m not real confident in the lifts myself. Sort of whistling past the graveyard.

I’m also not as confident as others are about the quality of the inspections. I’d love to read the current insurance policy…

I don’t know if insurance is required by West Virginia to operate the lifts. Anyone know? I assume it would be, but you know what they say about assume. You could always self insure.

9 months ago

to echo what most have said, do not worry about the lifts, worry about the moron driving beside you on your way up and the out of control skier behind you once your there.  

 

And more realistically worry about the snow and slope conditions — go to a cool place that you will like,  like TL, CV, WG, and Blackwaterfalls, you can’t go wrong there

9 months ago

The Thunderdraft triple lift is now, probably one of the safest in North America.  After the collapse, it is my understanding that all lifts at T-Line were X-Rayed and inspected to ensure no cracks in the welds, etc.  Additionally, when you ride the Thunderdraft lift, please note the U-Bolts on both sides of the cross arms.  They were installed after the collapse and any cracks in the welds were identified and repaired.  As for the top base, it was compromised approximately 10 years ago, but was repaired.  As for the quality of the repair I could not say, but would imagine that the difference in cost repairing it properly or half-azzed would be minimal.  That said, it was probably repaired properly.  Had it not been, I would assume that after the collapse last year, the folks who examined the lift would have required repairs on it, as well.  As one poster noted, you are more at risk driving to the resort than riding the lift.

9 months ago

capitolhillmom wrote:

We have a big group trip planned for Timberline in February and I’m getting very worried about the resort’s safety status due to the lift accident from last winter and reports here of delayed opening and other financial problems at the resort. What agency is responsible for inspecting the lifts to ensue they are maintained and repaired? It’s such a great mountain to ski and the group packages for youth groups and scouts and such are unmatched. But the fear having a big group of kids on the mountain if the lifts are unsafe is keeping me up at night w worry. Any insights or assurances from the experts here?  Thanks. 

 

Back to the OP, maybe you’d find it valuable to hear from a fellow parent of young skiers.  (Maybe some of the other posters are also parents of skiing kids, but they have not said so.)  My children were on the lift when it failed.  They were not thrown from the lift (they were several towers uphill) but they did have to wait 90 mins to be evacuated and they were not with their parents at the time.  They ride the lifts regularly this winter and we are not concerned, nor are they.  I believe that the resort has (now) made maintenance and repair of the lifts a top priority, even to the point of deferring other spending.  I also believe in the insurance company “check” on lift safety:  regardless of whatever issue were missed in the past, the person making the coverage decision at the insurance company, and the 3rd party engineering inspector who they use, both know that if they miss something again, their jobs are on the line (or worse).  One mistake is an accident, two is negligence.

Also for what its worth, at Timberline the owner’s kids ride the lifts every weekend.  Whatever one might think of his competence as manager of the resort, I have no doubt that the owner cares about the safety of his kids as much as any of us.  So I would not allow lift concerns to be the reason you don’t come to Timberline.

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