Firsthand Report: Timberline (Jan. 17-20) 10
Author thumbnail By John Sherwood, DCSki Columnist
Over the course of the Martin Luther King weekend, Timberline received over 20 inches of snow, bringing the season total to 122 inches. All of this snow is making 2002-2003 a season to remember in the Canaan Valley. If you haven’t experienced the epic conditions in the valley yet, you have no excuses. GO! Timberline opened all of its trails this past weekend, including its venerable double black terrain. On Saturday and Sunday, I focused a lot of my energies on two of these double black trails: Off the Wall and the Drop. The Drop is just to your left as you exit the Silver Queen double. Timberline blows some snow on this trail and also grooms it occasionally. As a result, it is less challenging than its neighbor, Off The Wall, an ungroomed bump trail. The Drop reminds me a little of Lower Cupp at Snowshoe. It is fairly steep, but manageable for most advanced skiers. It does not require the expert mogul skills demanded by its neighbor Off The Wall or Lower Shay’s at Snowshoe. That being said, I enjoyed the trail immensely. It’s double black rating kept most of the intermediates away and that allowed me to relax and pick my own lines down a reasonably uncrowded slope. At one point, I tried to match a ski patroller’s descent turn for turn. I came close to mimicking his impressive performance, but unfortunately caught an edge near the end of the trail and went down. I guess that’s why he is on the patrol and not me. Off the Wall proved even more difficult than The Drop, but its thin cover in spots compelled my wife and I to abandon it after just a couple of runs to preserve our edges. Signs warned skiers of thin cover and those signs were accurate on Saturday and Sunday.
Monday was a different story. It snowed most of Sunday night and all day Monday, so I suspect Off the Wall had plenty of cover by then. However, we never made it to those trails on MLK day because the single blacks at Timberline bumped up so much, making them as challenging as the double black terrain just a day earlier. Monday was a Warren Miller experience. Snow everywhere and bumps, bumps, and more bumps! I noticed the Canaan-Timberline ski team coach, Mark Fiorini, using the bumps as make-shift gates. He would pick a tough line down a mogul field on the double black Silver Streak trail and compel some of his best racers to follow him turn for turn. As for me, I picked my own, less challenging line and had a blast. Even the blue Almost Heaven trail challenged me on Monday. It’s amazing how different a trail can ski when ungroomed and filled with powder. As is always the case with holiday weekends, the crowds were out in full on Saturday and Sunday, creating waits of almost 30 minutes at the Thunder Draft triple. Lines at the Silver Queen double, however, never got above the 15 minute mark except late Saturday afternoon, when the Thunder Draft went down for a couple of hours. No one ended up getting trapped on the lift, but the shutdown upset many skiers and created a bottleneck at the Silver Queen double. In defense of the resort, extreme cold weather often causes mechanical things to break down and the resort did make repairs in time for the Saturday night session.

On Monday, there were hardly any skiers at the mountain, so those frustrated with Saturday’s lines had an opportunity to make up for lost vertical. I certainly did. Thus far this season, I have skied 13 times on my Timberline season pass. I’m hoping to push that number well over 20 by the end of the season. With all the snow West Virginia is receiving this year, I may just meet this improbable goal.

Photos by John Sherwood.

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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

Jarrett
January 22, 2003
Now all we have to do is keep those dances up so we get a nice dump over spring break! I hope you can make it over to the 'Shoe!
MItchH
January 22, 2003
My experience is that lifts breaking down at Timberline is not unusual. I have personally seen it happen a few times although I don't go to Timberline all that often. Attributing it to cold weather suprises me - how do all those resorts up in Northern New England and Canada keep in business? I can only assume that Timberline is doing a terrible job of ensuring it has a decent lift system and maintaining it, and I think that these sort of incidents (its primary lift being out of operation on the afternoon of a holiday weekend) hurt it in the long run - I for one don't frequent Timberline as often as I otherwise would due to these problems, and getting a season's pass is out of the question. Did they offer discounts for the customers who suffered through the breakdown? Money back? I wish someone who is more competent at running a ski resort would buy Timberline.
MItchH
January 22, 2003
My experience is that lifts breaking down at Timberline is not unusual. I have personally seen it happen a few times although I don't go to Timberline all that often. Attributing it to cold weather suprises me - how do all those resorts up in Northern New England and Canada keep in business? I can only assume that Timberline is doing a terrible job of ensuring it has a decent lift system and maintaining it, and I think that these sort of incidents (its primary lift being out of operation on the afternoon of a holiday weekend) hurt it in the long run - I for one don't frequent Timberline as often as I otherwise would due to these problems, and getting a season's pass is out of the question. Did they offer discounts for the customers who suffered through the breakdown? Money back? I wish someone who is more competent at running a ski resort would buy Timberline.
boarddude
January 22, 2003
I have experienced lift break-downs in many resorts - East, West, New England - well managed or not. XXit happens - and I don't even get to ride as much as I would like to.

It happened to me at Snowshoe last year - Ballhooter went down on a long weekend - it looked like there was a rock concert down at the Grabhammer base.

I also have a bad memory of Whitetail Express going down for quite a while and all incompentent crazies ending up at the Expert Choice.

Got stuck at the bottom of Backside Express at Tahoe during the only time I went there. If you know that place, you understand what STUCK means.
John Sherwood
January 22, 2003
The issue with the Thunder Draft was caused by a part replacement. The part was replaced but the computer refused to recognize the new part. A technician drove all the way from Richmond to Timberline and stayed up all night on Saturday to resolve the issue. He then stayed at Timberline all day Sunday to make sure everything ran properly.

Day ticket holders on Saturday were given snow checks (free tickets good for future skiing).

Lift service on Saturday night was handled by the Silver Queen double. Additional lights were strung up at the upper station to guarantee safe night skiing for all.

John

PS I have experience lift shutdowns at Snowshoe, Whitetail, and Stowe. In short, these events can happen everywhere.
MitchH
January 22, 2003
Well, if they gave out free tickets for future skiing, then I am not so outraged. The fact that this was a computer/technical problem I guess means it really was not Timberline's fault, so my faith in Timberline is restored.

I always carry the skins for my telemark skis with me. I am ready for a lift breakdown - I just need to slap on the skins, ski up Salamander in about 30 minutes, and then I have the resort to myself.
John Sherwood
January 22, 2003
Mitch:

You are slowly convincing me to take up telemark. You and Chip from White Grass are a bad influence... :-)

John
MitchH
January 22, 2003
John, you are in luck. Timberline has an all day telemark clinic this Sunday. They divide people into groups by ability level and there is usually a very good instructor/student ratio. I was going to participate but with all the great natural snow out there I think I may stick to the backcountry and White Grass.
John
January 23, 2003
Mitch:

If I make it up, I'll check it out.
canaanman
January 24, 2003
Yeah. Monday's conditions at Timberline were the best that they have been all season long. We were riding down Off-The-Wall at 9am, and getting first tracks in knee-deep powder. There wasnt a single pair of tracks down the trail (which made finding the icy moguls underneath a fun task). Later we slipped into Cherry Bowl, and despite what I've heard, it wasnt horrenduous, I'm sure the Ski Patrol would rather you not go in there, but it was easily ridable. It did get annoying when Thunderdraft shut-down on Saturday, forcing me to end my day about 3 runs pre-mature. Oh well, went back to the house, and took some pow runs through the yard (and the rocks, which I somehow managed to avoid the whole weekend). Overall, the best weekend I've had at Timberline in quite a while.

Ski and Tell

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