Firsthand Report: Timberline, Dec. 11, 2005 7
Author thumbnail By John Sherwood, DCSki Columnist
Photo provided by John Sherwood.

Timberline’s opening weekend turned out to be one of the best in many years. Cold weather, improved snowmaking capacity, and ample natural snow (36 inches so far) allowed the resort to open a surprising amount of terrain.

I arrived late on Saturday, picked up my season pass just as the business office was closing at 4 p.m., and went to bed dreaming of what awaited me the next day. I was not disappointed. Natural snow fell from the sky as I skied from my condo down to Thunderdraft triple to take my first lift ride of the season.

Not having checked the snow report, I had no idea that Salamander was open until I arrived on the summit. This 2.5 mile-long trail is the region’s best beginner trail and numerous skiers took advantage of its gentle grade to get their ski legs back in order. Not me. I headed straight for White Lightning - a trail defined as black by Timberline but in truth, more of a blue cruiser than a black diamond. I had White Lightning to myself for my first run of the season, not unusual for the early season Timberline skier. Conditions were ideal - a combination of machine groomed and natural snow. There’s nothing like starting out the season on “hero” snow.

It wouldn’t be a ski trip unless someone forgot something, and true to this adage, I forgot to pack my wife’s goggles. Rather than see her tortured by wind-blown snow, I decided to buy her a pair at the Timberline ski shop. The shop was well-stocked with Uvex models ranging in price from $35 to $45. Blowing money and skiing go hand in hand, so it’s good luck for me to waste some money on my first ski day.

With her new specs, Darina felt ready to ski Salamander, typically the windiest and coldest trail on the mountain. As we made our way down the trail, we noticed a distinct absence of ropes at the entrance to Off the Wall (OTW). “I’m skiing this and I’ll meet you at the bottom,” I yelled, but she followed anyway like a trooper. The conditions on OTW were very good - mostly powder and just a little ice here and there. A third of the width of the trail on the skier’s right was groomed. Snow whales, made from machine blown snow, dominated the rest of the trail. In short, OTW skied very similar to the way it did last season.

The terrain features create a lot of challenge, even for advanced skiers, and also a lot of possibilities. Before attempting air, be sure to scout your route beforehand and make sure the trail is clear below you. Some of the whales look like they could be good kickers but the landing zones are pretty sketchy, so caution is advised. Last year, I advised Timberline to groom the whales at least once and allow moguls to form naturally. This year, however, I don’t know. The whales can be a lot of fun and do create challenge - something often lacking in this region. I love natural moguls like the ones you find at Stowe, Vermont, but fake can be fine too.

Photo provided by John Sherwood.

After taking a couple of falls on OTW in the afternoon, I decided to downshift and return to easier terrain. Off and on snow showers improved conditions as the day progressed. As I file this report from the Timberline lodge’s new free WiFi system, the snow is coming down in heaping portions (5 inches overnight and 3 in the morning). I’m on a flex day tomorrow, so freshies will be the order of my day tomorrow. Life could be worse…

Photo provided 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

December 11, 2005
I got in on friday night and on Saturday you couldn't ask for a clearer bluebird day. The windmills were easily visible from the summit and conditions we abnormally calm. No wind anywhere. Also, I recommend the All-you-can-eat ribs. I think they do it every saturday night. I didn't bave to eat today (sunday) after eat three racks of ribs. Good stuff. I'm hoping tline will be 100% by christmas!
kim w
December 12, 2005
Your report was 100% accurate. I enjoyed the day Saturday when the skies were crystal clear and the winds were nil. OTW was my mainstay for the day with the soft powder and whales. My quads paid for it on Sunday, though... I must do a better job preparing for the season.
DCSki Reader
December 12, 2005
"A third of the width on the right was groomed" describing off the wall. Great article but that qoute is incorrect. No part of Off the wall was groomed, but it was a heck of a lot of fun!!!
John Sherwood
December 12, 2005
From a skier's perspective, it looks like a 3d of the width of the trail on the skier's right was groomed, but the right side is all whales top to bottom. Gotta love those whales.

I skied it again today and there were still untracked lines at 10 am. AMAZING.
John Sherwood
December 12, 2005

Should read: "but the LEFT side..."
December 12, 2005
A change of heart? Hopefully things will still be great at the beginning of March. Glad you had a great first day. Me, I was in Florida, wearing shorts....
Ed D
December 20, 2005
Well the opening day looked so good on the report that I headed up Thursday night and had just about the entire mountain to myself on Friday. It was bitter cold but Sat was just amazing conditions... And those Whales on OTW..well they keep me coming back for day I will look like this one guy in a yellow coat that just makes it look so simple.

Ski and Tell

Snowcat got your tongue?

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