What’s New for 2002: Timberline Resort 28
Author thumbnail By John Sherwood, DCSki Columnist

Timberline intends to augment its snowmaking capacity by 15 percent this season. The West Virginia resort will accomplish this goal by improving power distribution on the mountain, refurbishing 10 snow canon guns, and adding three new guns to its arsenal.

Timberline has also added 25 new lots to the Winterset area. Most of the new lots are slopeside.

View what’s new for 2002 at other Mid-Atlantic resorts
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About John Sherwood

John Sherwood is a columnist for DCSki. When he's not hiking, biking, or skiing, he works as an author of books on military history.

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Reader Comments

MitchH
September 4, 2002
Considering all of Timberline's problems, this is unimpressive. They need at least one new lift and a doubling of snowmaking capacity. Timberline could be great resort but with their current problems (broken lifts, excessive lift lines, inability to open up many slopes), I think it generally sucks and not worth my while to travel to. I usually only go there when: (1) I am already in Canaan Valley for cross country skiing, but the natural snow is not sufficient for x-c; or (2) warm or rainy weather has ruined the slopes of closer resorts.
John
September 5, 2002
Mitch:

I understand some of your frustration with Timberline. As a property owner, I would love to see a big corporation buy the resort, put in a high-speed lift, cut new trails, and upgrade other facilities. I would double my money overnight. :-)

Realistically, this is not going to happen in the near future. A big company tried to buy the resort a few years ago and the owner backed out at the last moment for reasons that remain unclear.

On the positive side, the current owner should be given credit for:

a)Making some modest progress with its snowmaking and infrastructure improvements.
b)Creating a decent work environment for his employees
c)Being a progressive environmentalist. To prevent runaway development at Timberline, the owner sold a large amount of resort land to the Nature Conservancy, which in turn donated it to the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. This move will curb development in the future, enhance current property values in the valley, preserve the beauty of the valley, and most importantly, give rare, migratory birds a place to rest during annual migrations.

Overall, Timberline offers one of the greatest collections of 1,000 foot vertical trails in the Mid-Atlantic, as well as access to unlimited back country skiing. With 15 percent more snowmaking and a little natural powder, it will be well-worth a visit or two next season. Think snow!
Myrto
September 11, 2002
Mitch you are a little over the top. What timberline needs is better lift access and a normal WV winter. Give it that and it is right up there with the best the mid atlantic has to offer. When you combine it with canaan you have an awful lot of above average skiable terrain.
Really I'd say the only better skiing south of NY is Snowshoe. But they are two completely different experiences and we are lucky to have the two to choose from. While snowshoe has a lot of great points it has generally the most out of control skiers (all those southerners that are just learning in their jeans),the highest prices by a klarge margin, Corporate Charm ;(, over developement and it doesn't have a real town with charm like Davis or Thomas.
Joe
October 7, 2002
I would like to know of a place in the mid atlantic that is better then Timberline. Don't try to tell me snowshoe or seven springs are better. The longest lift line I ever stood in was at snowshoe on a day when all the lifts were running. The snow at snowshoe and seven springs gets skied off by 10:00 AM at the latest. It's true that Timberline needs a new lift but the snow and the hill can't be beat around here.
joe bish
October 8, 2002
Nothing can compete witht he atomosphere of Timberline. Timberline resort and surrounding areas are not very developed, giving the feel of the perfect get away. Everyone should take a good group of friends, rent a cabin and have a blast on the slopes. The trails are decent, the people are really nice and the experience is unforgetable. I think Timberline should stay the same, I am glad that the owner did not sell out to a big corperation. A big coperation would ruin the atmosphere that makes Timberline so great. The only improvement Timberline could use, is better snowmaking capacity and another lift. Timberline is a wonderful place to ski/snowboard when you just need to relax.
John Sherwood
October 8, 2002
What I really like about Timberline is the New England feel of the mountain--it reminds me of Waterville Valley in the early 1980s. It is so rustic and unspoiled--a true skier's mountain. There's nothing like waking up early for first tracks at Timberline after an 8 inch snowfall. The long ride up the Thunderdraft triple makes the experience even more precious.
John Sherwood
October 14, 2002
I just got back from Timberline. They are constructing at least two new tower guns at the base of the mountain and I suspect more work is going on further up the mountain.
Carl
October 21, 2002
John,

You seem new to Canaan, so let me bring you up to date. Timberline has operated on the edge since they bought the place.

The sale of the land to the Wildlife Refuge was to keep them from going under and not from a concern for the environment.

Sounds like you need to really study the history of Timberline and its owners.
John
October 21, 2002
Carl:

You are right that the owner sold the land to Nature Conservancy to raise funds (Nature Conservancy then turned it over to the Wildlife Refuge). However, I believe he also did it to curb development. If the owner really wanted to make big bucks, he could have sold the entire resort to Intrawest when it made him a very generous offer. My take on him is that he is not in this game for the money but for the love. He likes the resort as is, and enjoys being the "mayor" of Timberline. The resort is very popular with locals and has a reputation for being a great place to work. Furthermore, despite slow lifts (which by the way curb traffic, and make Timberline's snow, some of the best in the Mid-Atlantic), and a snowmaking system that did not compete well with some of the other resorts, Timberline actually made more money last year than the banner year we had two years ago. Go figure. Think Snow!

John
Carl
October 22, 2002
John,

Don't know who is giving you your info. If, Intrawest had made a generous offer, we wouldn't be having this discussion. They weren't interested!! Locals tried to raise money to buy the place-couldn't. The area sold to the WLR was permitted for a golf course and development all the way to White Grass. They couldn't get the money for the golf course and the state put a stop on sewer expansion in the valley. They sold off the cherry trees for lumbering one year to stay open and they sold to WLR. They have an interesting sewer solution to the expansion of Winterset. I have been going to Canaan Valley for a long time, have property there and know the local culture(relatives in area). Timberline is one of my favorite ski places, but please do your research using many sources and stay away from the "snow job." You could go there to ski in December and they are gone.

Carl
John
October 22, 2002
Carl:

Timberline made money last year during one of the worst snow seasons on record. My source for this is the general manager of the resort. Hence, the resort must be doing something right these days. The resort went through tough times after expansions in the past. However, since there have been few major improvements in the past few years, the resort has gained some breathing space and begun to earn some revenue. Property owners moan about the lack of new lifts and other infrastructure improvements, especially when they look at what the competition is doing. However, the resort itself might not benefit at all from additional improvements. They might never recoup their costs from these improvements, not to mention the high electricity bills that high speed lifts demand. Unlike much of the competition, there is little land left for Timberline to develop. As a result, it must make hay the old fashioned way: through sales of lift tickets, food, and service. I think the improved snowmaking will make a big difference and 2002-03 will be another profitable year for the resort. All we need is for this cold weather to continue.

John

PS The fact that Timberline continues to spur much debate on DCSki is a good sign. People clearly like this place and are concerned about its past as well as its future. :-)
MItch H.
October 26, 2002
There seems to be a consensus that Timberline doesn't need high speed lifts. I agree (however, one advantage of the high speed lift is not necessarily the speed, but the way they come to a complete stop so uncoordinated skiers do not fall off while getting on). But it still needs new lifts. The current two lifts break down too often. On busy days when only one lift is operating, the lift lines are intolerable. They should at a minimum replace the main three person chair with a new four person one.

And they need more snow making capacity so more slopes can be opened up earlier in the season and the black diamond slopes can be opened. Sounds like they are moving in that direction.

It is supposed to snow out there this week! I just got my cross country skies out of the closet!
Giantleap
October 28, 2002
I am going to go look up my source on this however...

I was not aware that Timberline was working with any type of profit margin what-so-ever. Infact, in addition to the land sale (which was not done for environmental purposes but for money) it was rumored 2 seasons ago that Timberline sold a groomer to cover a tax bill (I will find a source for this and re-post when I do).

Timberline has been operating on what could only be considered thin ice for some time now -- and while they are expanding snowmaking 15% this is not the substantial fix in infrastructure they need to continue to compete in the mid-atlantic. Last year (I believe) one of the large issues at Timberline was that their snowmaking system would break down and not be able to be used during periods of extended cold temperatures (I believe they had some type of issues w/ pipes, etc.??).

Timberline also suffers from the fact that they still rely on "natural" snow on many of their trails... while this may have worked in the late 80's early 90's (infact it worked until the winters started to become warmer/ dryer) now you MUST have snowmaking in the mid-atlantic if you have any ambitions of keeping trails open OR just opening trails. Timberline did not even approach opening their entire mountain last year.
Carl
October 28, 2002
John,

I don't know if you should use Timberline's General Manager for info. Have friends who have ski patrolled there for some time and the things they have done to keep the lifts going. One year they operated the triple with a crack at the top-saw it myself. They have robbed Peter to pay Paul for a long time. The tax problems they having had nothing to do with Timberline. It was a medical billing company in Philly. They make money on the water and sewer system and probably the ski area. It will be interesting to see how long they stay after they have sold off all the lots they have for sale. The owners and Timberline are an interesting saga in Canaan.
John
October 28, 2002
Mitch:

If Timberline replaced Thunderdraft (which it has no plan to do in the foreseeable future), I suspect it would bite the bullet and go for a high-speed, detachable, rather than a standard, slow quad. The mountain could probably absorb the extra skier traffic, although I think the increased loads would inevitably hurt the snow conditions and change the character of Timberline FOREVER. From what I have been reading, one of the big problems with the quadzillas is the power they require to operate. You really have to pack the skiers in to pay your energy bills.

John
Darren
November 6, 2002
Maybe Timberline should buy a windmill to power a new quad? :)
canaanman
November 13, 2002
Darren-Don't hold your breath. the new windmills (if you can call them that) aren't even bringing power to the state. Anways, I agree that Timberline really needs to get bought by another company, but I don't think that they need to do a bunch of fix-ups. If you put in a high-speed lift, that replaces the triple. I like the double, its reliable and comfy and quick (because it never stops). I know all about the "spit and gum" operation of the chairlifts. Didn't anybody else notice the tree hanging right above the cable of the Siver Qeen Double between towers 12-13? I think I had something to do with its removal.
Darren
November 15, 2002
Canaanman, That comment was totally tongue in cheek. I patrol at T-line and live in the valley and totally agree with you. The windmill statement was a half hearted attempt at stirring up some contraversy over their values and downsides. As far as upgrades, the facilities could use some sprucing up and a replacement for the triple would help cut down the lift lines. In the resorts current state a new lift is a pipe dream in my opinion. Otherwise T-line isn't really that bad.
Garrett
November 15, 2002
You guys may be right about ths all. And I can see why you fell that way. I snowboard In southern Pensylvania 2-3 times every weekend about 10 hours each time. I don't like the resorts that much but once you just think about what you are there for (the riding) and do it, it is fun. I wish timberline would build another lift like a fast quad but they don't seem to have the money. They also have to build a bigger and better pipe. But timberline seems to be a better place erery time I go there. I love to ride and that is what i do. so stop cumplaining and RIDE!!!!!!!!
John Sherwood
November 17, 2002
I think the last word definitely belongs to Garrett. No more whining! Let it snow, and let's RIDE!
canaanman
November 17, 2002
From what I hear most of the debts up there are working their way out. Ive also heard rumors that Cherry Bowl Glades might get reopened someday when they get the tops out of there.
I think we got a new groomer last year as well (or was it the year before) because the debt was lessening.
Darren
November 18, 2002
Canaanman, Cherry bowl is really a mess. There is an unbelievable amount of tree tops and branches and such in there. The ski patrol did some work to try to clear it up some but barely made a dent. The Tucker County Trails Commission did some work over in Pearly two weeks ago though. Think they tried to clear out some more of the bottom of that run. Haven't checked it out myself to see how much they got done though. I think you are right about the debts. Timberline is trying to turn things around. People just can't expect it to happen overnight. Btw, when I left for work this morning there was about 2-2.5 inches on the ground in the valley. Started snowing at about 10 or 11 on Sunday.
John Sherwood
November 19, 2002
Darren:

Thanks for the update on Cherry Glades. I'd gladly volunteer to help work on the trail in the future. Perhaps the ski patrol will advertise their next volunteer work party on DCSki, and we can get some more hardy volunteers working the trail...

JDS
Darren
November 19, 2002
John,
If the patrol decides to give it a go again I'll try to remember to post it here in advance. Obviously it would have to be next summer though.
Dean
December 9, 2002
I live 4 hours from the valley. My family, (along with several more families) make an annual 4 day trip to Timberline, and have for the last 11 years. I agree that it is a great mountain, although its sad to have seen it fall into such disrepair. The lifts look unsafe, the lodge looks bad and the roof leaks often. They obviously need to spend money on the infrastructure even more that a new lift (which would be nice). However, I would not want to see what has happened to Snowshoe happen to Timberline. If you cant stay at least 2 nights and drop a thousand dollars they dont want you. However, changes need to be made at Timberline. We skied 3 days last year on 3 slopes, mostly on ice. Its getting harder to justify our trip with those kinds of conditions. Better snowmaking is good start. Make sure the lifts are safe and repair the lodge and well continue to come back. The valley, the area, and even Davis are like no other place Ive been. I love it. P.S. Thanks for all the other comments, I learned a lot.
Doug
January 13, 2003
I know this is a little late to the conversation but...

I just got back from skiing 90% of the resorts in Utah. Took a week and 1/2 to do it. Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, Brighton, Park City, Canyons and Deer Valley. My first skiing experience was Timberline 4 years ago. It's my "home resort". Of all the places I enjoyed most I found Alta to be the best. Any of you who have ever been to Alta will know that they have a very casual non-corporate feel to them. The lifts are slow, Even the hi-speed lift doesn't operate full speed. They like it this way. The low uphill capacity limits the amount of skiers on any one slope. Alta reminded me of a lot of Timberline. Granted, Alta and T-line are not in the same league, the little things that make Alta charming and relaxed are the same things that Timberline has, unfortunately, going for them. Sure the lift is slow but the slopes are never packed like the bigger resorts. The food is getting better (sigh..), plenty of alcohol and jerky at the exxon and there seems to be an abundance of rental homes with hot tubs. I don't see a problem here ;)
canaanman
January 20, 2003
Darren... you are right about Cherry Bowl, it certainly is a mess. With Off-The-Wall open this weekend and the prevalant powder conditions today, we took a little poaching run down through it. Logs all over the place, tree-tops scattered to and fro, flat roads cut in and out of there (I assume to move the cherry trees out a few years ago), lots of cliff-ish drops that can be foriegn to less-experienced skiers and snowboarders. I do think that it would not take too much to get it re-opened, just the trimming of some shrubbery and removal of some rather large logs and fallen trees. I fear it will remain closed forever because it is a HUGE liability to the resort, but this could be resolved (I have a plan). All Cherry Bowl really needs is some work and some snow and its good to go.
Ryan
May 5, 2003
A hypothetical situation here. If a large corporation bought Timberline, how much land is there available for development? I have not been in ten odd years, but would like to know. More trails and lifts offering the same great vertical, possible, impossible? Room to put in a golf course? Perhaps a decent lodge with a conference center? Just curious...

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