Spot Report: Timberline on New Year’s Day 19
Author thumbnail By John Sherwood, DCSki Columnist

Despite the warm weather in Washington, New Year’s Day at Timberline proved to be a decent ski day. Nearly every trail on the mountain was open and no major bare spots could be found on the main trails. For me the biggest surprise was seeing no ropes on The Drop, one of my favorite trails on the mountain. New fixed guns on the upper portions of the trail allowed the resort to put down a decent base. Furthermore, unlike Off the Wall, Timberline groomed the trail, making it no more difficult to ski than Thunderstruck or White Lightning. During the course of the season, however, I expect that Timberline will allow moguls to grow naturally so that by spring it will truly earn its double black rating.

Minimal crowds, especially at the Silver Queen chair, allowed me to get 15 runs in during the five hours I skied at the resort. What is more, there were no serious lift stoppages on the Queen. The groomed loose granular snow that prevailed in the morning hours gradually got skied off by the middle of the afternoon, making things pretty icy, but still skiable. Blue skies, sunshine, and temperatures in the high thirties made for a pleasant sixth ski day of the season.

Lift Bird of the Day: Black Capped Chickadee.

Whales in their natural habitat at Timberline. Photo provided by John Sherwood.

 

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

VT skier
January 3, 2006
Thanks for the report JOhn. Timberline should hire you to work on there web site, because I can't tell anything about the skiing from reading there web site. Your picture of Off the Wall speaks volumes and your description of the skiing is informative.

I took my first trip there last week. I usually frequent wisp, snowshoe, liberty, and occasionally massanutten and wintergreen.

I liked the little terrain park timberline had but it bored me after about three trips down. Why didn't they have the other park listed on there trail map open? It seems weird to me that with that much snow blown on the mountain they only had that little terrain park open, especially during christmas week. That little one was to crowded and they need to have some bigger jumps and rails. How about some boxes, some tunes, and a rope tow. They are going to have to make terrain parks a little more of a priority if they want to compete with other mountains for my business.

I also kept track of my runs last week at timberline. I averaged about three runs an hour over six hours. During one of my long lift rides I calculated that over six hours of skiing I spent four and half hours riding the lift and only one and a half hour skiing. I have to admit they are probably the slowest lifts I've been on ever! Anywhere else I could get twice the vertical in in about the same time.

I also did some night skiing and I couldn't believe they can legally allow people to ski at night there. There is only one trail lit from the top and you can only see half the trail and the lights flicker on and off. I'm surprised there aren't accidents left and right. That little terrain park isn't even open at night. It would only take a few lights to open that up. Every one I rode the lift with at night was complaining that they closed that little terrain park for nigth skiing.

All in all I give timberline 2 out of 5 stars(night skiing gets half a star). They have good terrain but the infrastructure is poor. I won't make timberline a weekend getaway until they replace the old lifts with some faster ones, open up some more terrain parks(light one at night), and have more terrain at night. A half decent website where you could find out about the skiing would be nice to. Atleast, That is this skiers opinion.

Hey could you guys report more on terrain parks. I definitely like to know what mountain's terrain parks are like and it is really difficult to find out. The mountains don't have pictures of there parks on there sites and and just searching this site today I can't find much on terrain parks that will help me to decide where to go. thanks
John Sherwood
January 3, 2006
Almost everyone who comes to Timberline for the first time complains about the slow lifts, but interestingly enough, few people complain about slow lifts at places like Smuggler's Notch in Vermont, Mad River Glen, Wisp, or even Seven Springs. Currently, there aren't enough skiers using Timberline to justify a high-speed. I only waited in line once during New Years Day (a huge ski day in WV). I can usually do 4 runs in an hour under normal conditions. That suits me fine, although I'd certainly rather spend more time skiing and less time on the darn lift.

On the other hand, maybe if they build it, people will come. The lift issue certainly has become the Achilles heal of the resort. I won't argue you with you there. People in this area are discriminating customers who demand the best in snow, terrain, and lifts. Timberline has the snow and terrain in spades; it just needs better uphill transportation and an improved terrain park.

With that being said, the resort has made some pretty big strides since 2000, when I first started skiing there. Snowmaking has improved 200 percent. In the past, the resort struggled to get two trails top to bottom open by Christmas. This year they had most of the mountain open. My compliments to the Snowmaking Team and General Manager Tom Blanzy's emphasis on snowmaking. Its really making a big difference. Also, the staff at the mountain tends to return year after yearanother sign of good management. Chuck has worked the Queen since 2001 and Pete has been a stalwart at Thunderdraft. Seeing the same lift attendants year in, and year out is good.
tgd
January 3, 2006
John: good report. Sorry I missed you over the weekend. I thought I saw you once from the lift skiing Thunderstruck, but didn't see you again the rest of the day. We also skied New Years Day and had a great time. I thought conditions were very good even with the ice. Nice to have so much terrain open - almost made me forget how poor Christmas week skiing usually is around here (the heavy rain on Monday brought back those fine memories of Christmas weeks past). Agree, the Drop was the treat of the week, with almost zero skier traffic and no moguls. I made some nice high-speed runs down it. I also thought Thunderstruck was in the best shape of all the black terrain. Twister is a great addition to the mountain - parts of it seem to be steeper than Tline's other blues; however, I don't like that it leaves you no choice but riding the Thunderdraft lift back up. What I did noitce is that Twister seems to have pulled a ton of skier traffic off Dew Drop. That trail was in great shape and the least crowded I remember ever seeing it.

The terrain park did seem a little lame, but considering Tline did no even open a park until mid Feb last year, it has to be a big improvement.

Overall, I thought Tline offered an excellent product this past holiday week considering the marginal weather. 60" of early snow and much improved snowmaking has really opened up the mountain. There appeared to be plenty of base on all the snowmaking trails to keep them open over the current warm spell. I can't wait to get back up there in a couple weeks.

Tom
John Sherwood
January 3, 2006
I looked for you and your wife each time I was at Silver Queen, but the lack of lines meant that was not there for very long. Hope to see you one of these weekends. All the best, John
Andy/fishnski
January 3, 2006
Skied Timberline mid Dec...same experience, Great conditions,terrain,no lift lines & SLOOOOOOOW lifts..I cannot see myself skiing there with any lift lines.It would be to painfull.These no lift line days must mean that the people are heading elsewhere...Is there any hope?
Andy/fishnski
January 3, 2006
Skied Timberline mid Dec...same experience, Great conditions,terrain,no lift lines & SLOOOOOOOW lifts..I cannot see myself skiing there with any lift lines.It would be to painfull.These no lift line days must mean that the people are heading elsewhere...Is there any hope?
brent
January 9, 2006
you clowns, a high-speed lift at timberline would be overkill. it would put everyone on the hill at the same time. go to snowshoe and get that "infrastructure" while we ski the goods here in the valley.
jimmy
January 10, 2006
Brent, I skied the single line Sunday, did a little survey, no one i talked with thought a high speed was a must do. I do think a fixed grip quad that runs a bit faster than their triple would be the ticket.
andy
January 10, 2006
Twister will help spread em out.Rather have more on the slopes than to be sitting on the lifts all day.A high speed will tire a lot of folks out & that would lighten the load.People are starting to tire of the long rides,high rental rates & ancient lifts & infrastructure.Remember John..Mrg & smugglers both have Sugarbush & Stowe next door.Put a Modern large ski area in the area & all of a sudden Timberline is that "Special place" Timberline would be the Mrg of the south!
andy
January 10, 2006
Good thought Jimmi...How much faster would a fixed grip be?
canaan valley local
January 10, 2006
A high speed lift is the way to go. I'v heard lots of people make the argument that a high speed lift would make the slopes to crowded, but I just don't buy it.

I just got back from an afternoon of skiing and there wasn't more than a 100 people skiing the mountain-and that is busy for a week day at timberline. I was only able to get nine runs from the top in a little over three hours-in this day and age that is just absurd. Heck there aren't even really that many people there on the weekends-except for major holidays... and who wants to ski with all those goons around anyways.

The only thing good about those slow lifts is that you have time to roll a big ol' hog leg with your buddies.

I'd like to see a high speed quad, but I'd settle for a fixed grip lift that got to the top under 10 minutes...but one thing is for sure and that is that the old orange thunderdraft triple is a piece of $%@. It's ridiculously slooooooow, the ramps are in the wrong place, and it's plastic seats hold ice until april or may. I can't even ski there on a semi-cold day..it is way to cold. One day I rode up with a patroller who was sitting on a mouse pad to keep his but from freezing!

Until they get a new lift the only skiers they are going to attract are locals, vacation homeowners, and skiers like john sherwood who enjoy the nostalgia and the bird watching as much as the skiing. And that is all good, but personally when I take a day off of work to go skiing I'd like to ski more and ride the lift less.
jimmy
January 10, 2006
andy i'm thinking of the one at canaan, runs a good bit faster than orange thunder.

CV local, i've always had a problem lighting a hog leg on high speed lift. what kind of lighter u using?
DCSki Reader
January 10, 2006
I love to ski Tline, but after skiing Tline a number of times last season, I couldn't take the lifts any longer. We were actually going to stay in the Valley last Springbreak, but we decided to go else where because of the Tline's slow lifts. Hopefully they'll replace the lift soon.

But there's nothing like a slow, well ventilated lift.
Andy/fishnski
January 11, 2006
Now that there's funny Jimmi I don't care who you are....Get-er Done!
whale surfer
January 12, 2006
Snowshoes putting in a new lift, maybe timberline could buy their old one. From what I here t-line bought the two they have 2nd hand. I think the silverqueen is even third hand.

If the line doesn't get a new lift then I can't see them building any new customer base, besides boyscouts, or selling any slopeside lots on twister for 300 grand. Especially when other mountains like wisp are adding new lifts and tons of new terrain and mountains like snowshoe are adding more high speed quads and new terrain.

They might be forced to put a new lift in just to compete and to sell lots, or they might just build more housing for boyscouts. I just don't know which is the best move for a resort to make? ;)
kim w
January 12, 2006
I know that t-line's lifts are slower than a watched clock, but we are in the southeast, we are dealing with owners who are trying to improve things, and the product they produce although not fluffy or frilly is one of the best experiences within a half day's drive. You want speed? You deal with crowds both on and off the hill. Over Christmas, I got first chair, bombed the hill hard, when lift lines formed, I became single and I skied 4 to 5 runs per hour for eight and a half hours (until my legs died). Don't tell me that I didn't get my money's worth. By the last hour, my legs thanked me for the slower chair ride. T-line will eventually upgrade those dinosaurs they call lifts, until then, ski the glades, bumps, senic routes down the hill, and enjoy the experience and views.
whale surfer
January 12, 2006
hey sorry if my comment ruffled your feathers or my complaining ruined your fluffy bunny moment but I was just making a critical statement as a consumer. Hopefully if the line is listening they will keep making efforts to improve their skiing experience..if they don't hear it then how will they know-are the owners going to get to realize that there lifts are old and slow when they are out skiing? I was just making a suggestion and an observation...sorry my two cents about my experience wasn't as cheerful as yours..I didn't see a suggestion box or comment box at timberline when I was there so I made it here.
John Sherwood
January 17, 2006
"Until they get a new lift the only skiers they are going to attract are locals, vacation homeowners, and skiers like john sherwood who enjoy the nostalgia and the bird watching as much as the skiing."

You got that right! I'm still hoping to spot a Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus). That would be worth 10 years of riding slow lifts.
Tom M
February 1, 2006
Nice Mountain with decent slopes for most levels. On the weekend of the 27th, the lift lines took 40 minutes and of course the slow lifts add about another 15 minutes to your trip back up. This equates to about 1 run per hour. Ridiculous! They will be uncompetitive if they dont expand the number of lifts and put at least 1 high speed in. The "Lysol" Lodge there needs to be torn down. What is up with Tory Mountain??? Bring it on.

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