Usually by this time of year, I’ve skied enough days to “pay off” my season pass. This year I’ve barely made first tracks. I spent my first two days of the season at Timberline this past weekend, and must admit that the quality and quantity of open terrain impressed me: two top-to-bottom trails and three trails down from the mid-station.
I made my first run of the season on The Drop more by accident than design. White Lightning was closed for grooming at 8:15 a.m. on Saturday when I reached the top of Hertz Mountain so I instead went down The Drop. There were no moguls but icy conditions and thin cover made it difficult. My wife announced after the run that she was ready for easier skiing, and to be truthful, so was I. The freshly groomed White Lightning (WL) proved a perfect next run. We made five runs on WL that day and had no complaints. Coverage was excellent and the trail skied much bigger now that it is wider.
After six runs at Timberline, we decided to give our ski legs a break to go hiking at the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge’s Beall Tract (just off Cortland Road). There, we observed most of the common wintering birds in the Canaan Valley: the Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, etc. We even spotted an elusive Brown Creeper. During the warmer months, the refuge contains one of the largest number of American Woodcocks in the Eastern United States. It is also home to a small flock of America’s most endangered grassland sparrow: the Henslow’s Sparrow.
The refuge and its volunteers (the Friends of the 500th) spend a lot of effort maintaining the trails so one rarely gets muddy there. On Saturday, 50 degree temperatures even made jackets optional. One of the great strengths of the Canaan Valley is the diversity of activities available to visitors. In addition to skiing, people can enjoy fly fishing, jogging, hiking, and even mountain biking in the winter. When there’s snow on the ground, the White Grass Nordic Center on Freeland Road offers world-class Nordic skiing.
Sunday was even warmer than Saturday and White Lighting began to bump up after a few runs. It proved challenging even for experts but fun because it tested your skills. Under less than perfect conditions, Timberline skis bigger than its 1,000 feet of vertical, so big in fact that I opted not to ski The Drop that day. Beginners, however, should not be deterred from traveling to the resort because as I mentioned earlier, there are three relatively easy routes down from the mid-Station, including one of my favorites, Lower Almost Heaven.
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.