Firsthand Report: Timberline Offers Up a Great Group Experience
By George Lyle, Guest Author

Chaperoning a ski trip of eight teenage boys requires lots of planning, so I made a grocery list of snacks to keep the boys fat and happy on the six hour bus ride. The boys, all from Asia and Africa, live in a boarding house while attending high school here in rural Virginia. They love Oreos, potato chips and Slim Jims. The host “dad” from the boarding house reviewed the list. “You’ll be trapped on a bus with them for several hours, better hold off on the Slim Jims.” Sage advice, to say the least.

“Robert” Zhang boards at the bottom of Salamander. Photo provided by Lisa Lyle.

The other good advice we got was to take our group to West Virginia’s Timberline Resort where youth group ski outings are affordable, convenient and well supported by resort staff. The group sales staff was organized and efficient ahead of time. When we arrived Friday, March 6 after 9 p.m. the group sales office was still open. In fact the equipment rental office stayed open until midnight, so late Friday arrivals could get their gear and be ready to hit the slopes at first chair on Saturday morning. Our group package was $130 per person, which included two days of skiing with rentals and lessons, two night’s accommodations in the group bunkhouse and five hot meals in the resort cafeteria. There were hundreds of Scouts on the mountain for weekend ski trips, but we managed to land nine guys in a 15 bunkroom all to ourselves and found the accommodations primitive but adequate for our group.

While Timberline regulars regaled us with stories of the fresh powder dumped by the prior weekend’s March storm, we awoke Saturday morning to sunny, 65-degree temperatures and knew we were not going to get any new snow. This was my first time skiing in such warm temperatures, but I found the groomer’s marks from the night before turned to a very “skiable slush” that reacted like a light dusting of powder on top of the packed base. The surface was a little sticky and slower, but still very friendly to carve some tracks on to.

Sally Lyle on Salamander. Photo provided by Lisa Lyle.

The warm temps had many in t-shirts and shorts and a few teens went sans shirts. I did not punish my fellow resort guests with my legs or bare chest and found my golf rain-pants and a light jacket were perfect for the conditions.

My daughter and wife had come along on the trip and we skied the Salamander many times in the bright sun while the boys hit the bumps of Drop Off and the other black diamonds down the center. We ventured to Twister in the late morning and found it wash-boarded out and pretty icy. A return visit in the afternoon found it smoother and easier to ski. I had skied Canaan Valley 25 years ago, but this was my first visit to Timberline and I was impressed with the trail selection and size on the 1,000-foot vertical. In fact, the two-mile Salamander run is “the south’s longest” according to their signage.

The day and night turned into a perfect ski day and night and I totaled about 20 runs spread across the day and night as lift lines were never more than a minute or two. About 32 of the mountain’s 37 runs were open and the slopes held up well during the 12-hour ski day. Three of the teens in our group had never skied before, but even they declared the mountain fun and beginner friendly. One boy from Vietnam, with one group lesson under his belt, was making it down the bunny slope solo and without falls by Sunday morning despite having never even seen skiing except on TV.

All our meals were surprisingly tasty, hot and plentiful for cafeteria style food and were an exceptional value to be included in the overall price. Timberline still has that small, family run resort feel and Sunday morning I was introduced to Rosemary Herz, one of the owners of the resort and was pleasantly surprised to recognize her as the lady who had served my meatloaf to me the day before. How many ski resorts do the owners work the cafeteria line?

Sunday was overcast but still warm. The groomers had again done good work and we got in 8 more runs from the summit down Twister, Winterset and Salamander before heading in for our last meal and onto the bus for the return ride home.

“Robert” Zhang of China and Young Seob Lee of Seoul, Korea head up the lift on a sunny Saturday at Timberline. Photo provided by Lisa Lyle.

As we snaked our way through the rural mountains of West Virginia the boys laughed about their weekend and then fell asleep. As they slept I pondered the small world that had brought together boys from Nigeria, Korea, China, Taiwan and Vietnam and placed them on a mountain in rural West Virginia for a ski weekend. I wondered how they will recall this trip, years from now.

I will recall the trip fondly. If you don’t mind “roughing it” in a bunkhouse with shared bathrooms, the Timberline group packages offer a great value on a fun mountain with quality customer service.

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About the Author

George Lyle is an attorney in Henry County, Va. His wife, Lisa is the admissions director at Carlisle School in Henry County where all the boys on the trip attend school.

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