Why to not ski Timberline
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gatkinso
December 28, 2003
Member since 01/25/2002
316 posts
Steer well clear of Timberline until the *totally* replace their lifts.

I was stranded yesterday on Silver Queen for about 40 minutes when BOTH lifts broke down (Gobblers Gulch was still working).

One can moan about conditions and service all day long and get into a lively debate... but if ALL of a resort's lifts go belly up then you no longer have a viable ski resort. Game over.

Now, someone from Timberline is bound to post that they offloaded the lift in less time than that, but I had gotten into a lively discussion with my buddy from New Hampshire who was visiting about the lift speeds and I timed that particular ride. Time from bottom to top (line excluded) was 52 minutes.

Needless to say, my friend was NOT impressed. And even less so when they refused to refund tickets or issue rain checks. Chalk one up for WV skiing! They got SQ working again after about an hour, but you'd have to be crazy to get back on - which we did since there were no refunds. It broke down again for about 5 minutes, but then worked smoothly but slower than usual for the rest of the night.

Which brings me to another point: they were running Silver Queen for night skiing - never mind that it doesn't serve lighted trails - and Upper Thuderstruck was closed so you had to hump over to Dew Drop from Silver Queen.... and again hump it back up to Silver Queen once you reached bottom since the quad was broken (well you could attempt to connect to Easy Does It via Fire Road to get there but no go you'd end up walking).

To make matters worse they were still happily selling people tickets and not informing them of the lift status - once people found out the deal they refused to issue refunds, even if they immediately asked for their money back before they even left the window!

I am told you could eventually get a refund by seeing "Marsha" in the Business Office - I stood in that line for about 40 minutes before bailing (the rumor was they would only refund your $7 difference for the night skiing but who knows if that is accurate.

So... in the time I was stranded on lifts and wating in refund lines I could have been in Snowshoe with better conditions... and take my word for it I will do so in the future.

I vote with my feet and wallet and my vote says dump Timberline and go to Snowshoe.

Andy is right on - if they build Almost Heaven (regardless of where Porte Crayon, Old Tory, or somewhere else) that will be the place to go. Timberline is for the birds.

The way the staff at Timberline was acting, they are sure to refute this tale - but since I saw them lie to customers faces in order to get them to hand over their credit cards and then flat out refuse to give them refunds, take what they post on the net or say on the phone with a grain of salt.

Or maybe a boulder of salt.

(Anonymous)
December 28, 2003
Great mtn ,BUT sad state of affairs. I had a friend who worked there & he used to tell me of the pilfering of funds from the top on down.He also worked at CV & quit because of the lame way they ran things. This is the highest vly east of the rockies with snow & wildlife & nature everything going for it except proper mang.Timberline needs to be bought by someone who will do the place right.The current mang. might have good intentions but there is to much catching up to do.You reading this Mr. Bill Bright?
bawalker
December 28, 2003
Member since 12/1/2003
1,547 posts
I gotta say Timberline is one of the best mountains I've ever been on... ok it's only 1 of about 5 but still mountain wise it's gorgeous. I do agree that things from the rental shop all the way upto skipatrol being active is a mess.

If I had the money I'd would buy Timberline out. Can't you imagine me a small computer consultant business owner investing in a ski resort? Either way though if I honestly had the financial backers to do it, I would use my business skills to clean out Timberline from top to bottom. Anyone care to be a VP?

canaanman
December 29, 2003
Member since 03/5/2004
358 posts
You should be more upset... you didn't get a "Seat Ride from Hell". At first it seems scary, and the fact that you're trusting Timberline with your life is the scariest part, but once you're coming down its kind of fun.

Generally they don't issue refunds unless you were EVACUATED from the lift. Then again, its hard to get a refund with a Seasons Pass.

Last year the stop gate at the top of SQ fell off and they couldn't reattach it... I was about 5 feet away from the unloading ramp so I just lept into the powder below... but it was a good 20 minute wait for others. And the solution: duct tape.

I got stuck on the triple there last year for a good 40 minutes. They tried to start it up again, and it stalled quickly, sending a giant wave down the cables... we were right between two towers, and I can honestly say that if it weren't for the safety bar I wouldn't be typing this right now... I've never seen the top of a lift tower until then.

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Kahuna613
December 29, 2003
Member since 11/20/2003
56 posts
Thats really scary....it sounds like good skiing but all I have heard on these boards is problems with their lifts, even evacuations....wonder if theyll ever take a hint and get new ones.
gatkinso
December 29, 2003
Member since 01/25/2002
316 posts
Seems to me of you are paying for a ride to the top of the hill, and don't get that ride, then you should get atleast SOME of your money back.

And that they shouldn't continue to sell tickets.

CM, that is wild about that wave - I heard of that happening. That is nuts!

Well, that is it as far as Timberline goes for me. The mountain itself is OK, but like I said I could have left immediately and been at Snowshoe before they got a lift running again - and I will still visit Canaan.

Lietmotiv
December 29, 2003
Member since 12/31/2001
113 posts
Gat:

The lift issue at timberline is nothing new to anyone who frequents these boards. However, I was stuck on the triple lift last year for about 30 minutes then they got it started at 1/2 speed (manaul mode). The SQ was still running though and they actuall left Salamander open until it started getting dark instead of closing at 4:30. They also gave me a free lift ticket voucher that I could use for up to a year.

I am not going to argue about someone elses experience but I know a lot of people at timberline and they cannot be characterized in the manner that you have.

gatkinso
December 29, 2003
Member since 01/25/2002
316 posts
I have known of and experienced the lift problems at Timberline for a couple of years now.... but never have I seen both lifts go down at once.

Maybe you know and like people who work there, but that doesn't change the fact that I watched and listened to Timberline employees telling people bald faced lies in order to sell them a ticket to inoperative and unreliable lifts (that actually sound somewhat dangerous).

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
December 29, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Gat:

I can't argue with you on the employee point but I will second Lietmotiv's point on lifts. Getting stuck on a lift is a right of passage for any skier. Like being caught in a bad thunder storm for a sailor, it happens. It's not fun, but it happens and it's one of the things that separates this sport from others. Skiing is an adventure sport after all. Right? Isn't that one of the things we love about the sport: challenge and adventure on not always hospitable mountains.

Timberline's lifts, btw, are checked every day by the Ski Patrol. This 3d party system insures our safety on those contraptions.

gatkinso
December 29, 2003
Member since 01/25/2002
316 posts
Getting caught on a lift isn't the issue... being at the bottom of the hill with no operating lift is.

You pay for a "lift ticket", not a "stand around with your thumb stuck somewhere nasty" ticket.

Well, enough said - my point is that a day a Timberline is taking a gamble that you will get to pay for the honor of standing around waiting for some guys to fix an already slow and crumbling lift.

(Anonymous)
December 29, 2003
My wife, kids and I are contemplating a mid-week trip (early or late Feb) to Timberline. We have skied Canaan Valley, but never at TImberline - we want to try Timberline mainly because of the availability of slope-side lodging (the kids are ages 8 and 11, and the logistics of being tied to a vehicle while skiing can be tough). After seeing all of these posts about lift problems, I'm wondering if the extra $$ for slope-side lodging is worth it.....?
tromano
December 29, 2003
Member since 12/19/2002
998 posts
If you buy a nonrefundable airline ticket and the flight is canceled, they don't say well sorry your ticket is nonrefundable and the plane isnt flying, you are SOL. any service provider is required to provide the service that you paid for. Non-refundable means that you cannot cancel after buying, however, if they cannot or do not provide the service, you are within your rights to ask for your money back. If you rent a resort hotel room, prepay, and are locked in. If then, the week before your trip the place burns down, you are not "locked in" any more, no matter what you signed. There are a number of interesting guides to gettign refunds for things online, specifly how to negitate with CSRs. I would write a very polite buisness letter to T-Line and explain your situation clearly and ask (be specific) for a refund / voucher / coupon toward your next trip. Most buisnesses will go out of their way to keep a good customer.
tromano
December 29, 2003
Member since 12/19/2002
998 posts
After re-reading your post it I wanted to add that bargaining for a refund is more complicated when they provide partial service. For example if you paid for and 8 hour lift ticket and they shut down for 1 hour of that, it might be reasonable to ask for 1/8 your purchase price back, not a full 8 hour lift ticket. In general arguements about resembleing: "I could have gone to(insert cometitors name here) and gotten (insert better service level) service for (insert dollar ammount more / less) money." will generally not get you much in the way of compensation.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
December 29, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
My advice to jeffb714 is to stay at Timberline. Why? More vertical, better snowmaking, and more acres of skiing. This lift issue is a tempest in a tea pot. I've owned a condo (which I is not in a rental program) since 2001 and I've only been stuck on a lift once. I ski Timberline 12+ days a year, and almost always travel on the Silver Queen. This year, I've already skied 5 days. I've purchased season passes for two years now.

Don't listen to these naysayers. It's a good mountain with solid lift system, no crowds (except for the MLK and President's Day weekends), and excellent conditions. I love it and so do most people who ski there. I'm heading back up there in two days for four more days of skiing. You can ski this mountain 20 times in a year and still not get bored. The mountain has it all: steeps, trees, bumps, cruisers, long beginner runs. There are few places that will serve up a better menu of terrain in the area than Timberline.

[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 12-29-2003).]

(Anonymous)
December 29, 2003
Thanks Johnfmh. Based on your description, I'm sold (again). I think we're going to stay in either the Herzwood condos, or the Northwoods townhones. And we're going mid-week (non-holiday) so I expect it'll be fairly empty.
tromano
December 29, 2003
Member since 12/19/2002
998 posts
I have never skiied T-line, and I was planing to tryit out for aweekend this winter. I have hard many of good things about T-Line from Johnfmh here and other people I ski with. Are breakdowns such as this a serious problem at T-line, like weekly occurance, or is it just a more intermitant occurance, once a month etc... Just curious.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
December 29, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Like I said, I've been skiing Timberline 12+ days a year for the past 3 years and have only been stuck ONCE (that was last weekend for 20 minutes). That's it. Based on the numbers, we are talking about an anomoly and not a trend.
gatkinso
December 29, 2003
Member since 01/25/2002
316 posts
With decent lifts (I'd settle for mediocre) and proper management Timberline would be great.

Even when the things are working at full speed you are looking at a 12 minute ride to the top. It is high time for some capital improvements.

The mountain itself is great - no crowds, excellent terrain.

If you go and the lifts work you will have a great time, but if they aren't....

I say come on Bill Bright - I am sold on the idea of Almost Heaven - thanks to Timberline's shoddy service.

gatkinso
December 29, 2003
Member since 01/25/2002
316 posts
And that 20 mintue number is a bunch of horse steammings in the pureset ray scerene.

The triple went down at 3:00pm, never to return, and it took me almost an hour to get off of Silver Queen, which did restart until well after I got to the bottom.

Jim
December 29, 2003
Member since 11/22/1999
317 posts
Hmmm... regardless of who's right on the debate regarding the duration of time between lift breakdown and repair, it appears that there ARE problems with the lift system at Timberline. Breakdowns are not supposed to be a regular (or even yearly) occurrence. It is most certainly NOT part of the "adventure" of skiing. I also wouldn't take too much assurance that the "Ski Patrol" is checking out the lifts. Remember, Ski Patrols are (typically) a crew of volunteers trained in mountain rescue and emergency medical response - NOT mechanics. Most of the Ski Patrollers I know wouldn't even know where to find the emergency stop switch on a lift, let alone the mechanics of operation. Sounds like Timberline needs to spend some $$ on lift engineers and perhaps upgrading existing lifts. Until then, it sounds like a dangerous place to ride what should be the safest part of the skiing day.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
December 30, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
I've investigated the issue of lift safety at Timberline for DCSki in the past.

1. With regard to lift inspection, part of NSP's mission is to inspect lifts every day at every ski resort in the country.

The Federal Government's the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) 1991 defines the duties of Ski Patroller, occupation number 379.664-010 (Amusement and Recreation), as:

"Patrols ski trails and slope areas to provide assistance and protection to skiers and report condition of trails, ski lifts, and snow cover on slopes: Patrols assigned areas, using skis or snowshoes. Rescues injured skiers and renders first aid or transfers them to waiting n~hulance, using toboggan. Notifies medical personnel in case of serious injury where moving skier might prove dangerous. Ensures that no skiers remain on slopes or trails at end of day or during inclement weather. Inspects ski lifts, such as rope tows, T-bars, J-bars, and chair lifts to report safety hazards and evidence of damage or wear. May pack snow on slopes. May give ski instruction. May participate in skiing demonstrations for entertainment of resort guests. May assist demolition crew to blast for avalanche control."

This makes sense because it is the Ski Patrol who will have to evacuate a lift if it breaks down and cannot be re-started. Also, not all NSP members are unpaid. Most resorts have a small cadre of professional, paid patrolers who are augmented by volunteers.

2. INSURANCE COMPANY. Timberline's insurance company regularly sends out inspectors to make sure its lifts are safe and in good operational order.

3. FINALLY. Mountain operations inspects those lifts every day--sometimes several times a day.

Just because lifts are old does not mean that they are unsafe. The single chair at Mad River Glen is one of the oldest in the country and is perfectly safe. There are plenty of other resorts in the US and Europe that operate lifts over 50 years old.

Much depends on the state of the cable, rolling wheels, the engine, etc--elements that only a trained professional can evaluate--not a casual skier.

Accusing Timberline of running an unsafe operation could potentially scare customers away from the resort and damage Timberline's business.

[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 12-30-2003).]

tromano
December 30, 2003
Member since 12/19/2002
998 posts
As I understand it, lifts are inspected daily as per a variety of regulations, insurance, industry standards, etc... However what is standard for safty and good for service are probably different. Just because a lift passes its safety inspection, doesn't mean that its not going to be stopping all the time and be a major pain to ride. Look at the Wintergreen thread for a case in point.

I certainly don't expect long lift stopage (over 20 minutes) as a part of the normal "ski experience". But chair lifts, like the metro escalators, are mechanical devices that will break down now and then. This is to be expected, and planned for, by management not by us. If a vital part of the lift is wering out, cables, rollers, motor, chairs etc.. they need to be replaced or overhauled in a proactive way that doesnt affect service. However I can imagine a non-dangerous breakdown, that could be treated as a low priority. For example a sensor malfunction. This could still cause "lift problems" with out actually endagnering anyone.

IMO Gatsinko's problem is basicly a customer service issue, not a saftety issue, since no one was harmed (However if left unresolved it may turninto a safetly issue.) Having to wait on the lift is a pain and you should be compensated for your wasted time. Maybe some coupons or a voucher is a good way to settle this, on their part. I still plan on giving them a try in a few weeks. But I will be alert for any problems.

[This message has been edited by tromano (edited 12-30-2003).]

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
December 30, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Tromano:

I was not arguing with Gat on service. Service has not been job one at Timberline these days. My wife reminded me last night of several stoppages last year, including one that trapped us for twenty minutes so I suppose I have been stuck twice on a lift at Timberline for the past two years. This is unacceptable.

What I was arguing about was safety, but even there I am not on the most secure ground. Someone in the industry called me this morning and mentioned that a big lift services company will not do business with the resort b/c they feel the lifts are not properly maintained and do not want to held responsible in the event of an accident. In other words, Jim may be correct in his assertions. Without more solid information, we'll never know.

I don't want to be accused of trying to whitewash a situation that is clearly problematic. Timberline has some great terrain, but they need to sort out some of their problems or else continue to see declining numbers.

[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 12-30-2003).]

Roger Z
December 30, 2003
Member since 01/16/2004
2,181 posts
It could be worse.

My first job out of college was with a day ski area in New England. It was supposed to be a type of internship but didn't quite work out that way (of the various grunt jobs on a mountain, the snowmaking job and the crew is by far the best. If you ever have to work at a ski area that's the place to be).

It was a warm winter and the particular weekend in question was President's Day weekend. High was approaching 70 degrees with a strong cold front moving in, which of course means a LOT of unstable air. The lift attendants at the high speed quad saw a nasty looking black cloud come across the top of the mountain and radioed back to their supervisors to shut the lifts down, as it looked like T-storms were coming in. The president of the ski area refused to shut the lift down.

Guess what? A thunderstorm came in and power was knocked out. About 50 skiers got stranded on the high speed quad-- near the summit no less-- as lightning hit here and there. No one, thank God (literally), was hurt. But there were some EXTREMELY irate customers at the service desk that afternoon.

I share people's frustration with Timberline's service, which seems to be up and down at best. But bad service is probably more endemic in skiing than it ought to be... and that's probably helping to discourage people from skiing. I hope Timberline shapes up or some competition forces them to.

Jim
December 30, 2003
Member since 11/22/1999
317 posts
Johnfmh:

With all due respect, I believe you are confusing NSP and the Department of Labor's generic definition of "Ski Patrol." Keep in mind that the DOL definition is intended to be broad and cover any POTENTIAL duty of a Ski Patroller, including non-NSP members. The National Ski Patrol (NSP), however, does not include lift inspection or maintenance as part of its members' function description (see www.nsp.org). Since Timberline uses NSP affiliated patrollers, I highly doubt they have the training or capabilities to be lift safety inspectors. In addition, the ability to evacuate a stalled lift is not dependent upon knowledge of lift operations. All a patroller needs to know is that the lift is locked out and can not be restarted before starting the lift evacuation procedures.

[This message has been edited by Jim (edited 12-30-2003).]

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
December 30, 2003
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Jim:

I concede to your points. Having the ski patrol inspect lifts is not standard practice in the industry according to a well-informed source. Why Timberline relies on NSP for this function is a mystery to me.

(Anonymous)
December 30, 2003
While we are all discussing how Timberline checks their lifts -- I refuse to believe that they are leaving lift checking to the ski patrol only. I am sure the ski patrol visually inspects the lift (as best they can) but I have no doubts that someone from maintinence looks them over frequently.
(Anonymous)
December 31, 2003
Mtn operations ck the lift,Ski patrol has a plan for emergencies & might review it once a day.Timberline has no money.This is the best they can do.They screwd up & can't play catch up.the owner will hang on till his dying gasp. He has proven this from past offers that he has refused.They have no credit(i asume)If this keeps up sombody is going to get some deals on realestate as people start to bolt.I say good deal because eventually things will get better.
(Anonymous)
December 31, 2003
You would be correct in that the ski patrol is not the only group inspecting the lifts. They mostly do a visual inspection and report any obvious problems to the mountain manager. John, be careful in confusing the NSP with ski patrol in general. Not all patrollers are members of the NSP. Almost all at Timberline are, but that is not always the case. To my knowledge, the NSP provide no training involving lift inspection. The individual ski area may provide that or any other area specific training to their patrollers. Lift evacuation training tends to be a common thing taught to ski patrollers, maintainance workers, ski instructors, etc. and is usually practiced annually.
canaanman
January 3, 2004
Member since 03/5/2004
358 posts
I used to know a Courtesy Patroller who worked at Timberline... long story short he was up there every weekend of the season and said on average they had 4 lift evacuations per season.

I've experienced one there... its no walk in the park.. especially for the employees that have to climb and straddle the towers to place the emergency seat over the cable. Technically its in violation of OSHA policy to climb the towers, they're supposed to shoot the rope over with a 'gun' then attach the seat and raise it up.


Oh, and I don't believe that Ski Patrol inspects those lifts everyday... last season a dead tree that had fallen and was caught in some tree tops was hanging just above the cable on SQ between towers 11 and 12. It went unnoticed for 2 weeks until I said something about it... the next morning it was gone.

(Anonymous)
January 4, 2004
I don't know about climbing towers being an OSHA violation. I don't see how fully harnessed, fall protected, trained climbers would be a problem. At any rate, Timberline doesn't use climbers much anymore. They "shoot" the evac line over the cable with what is basically a big slingshot. Climbers only get used in special circumstances as I understand it.
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