First things first, I wholeheartedly give my highest recommendations to anyone interested in skiing at Timberline. I had the great pleasure of skiing there this past holiday weekend along with a few thousand others, yes it was crowded. I had expected that given the holiday weekend and I wasn’t disappointed, I was there with my son’s Boy Scout troop and I would guess that there were over 1000 other Boy Scouts there along with quite a few church groups and the usual long weekend vacationers.
I had heard before hand that Timberline’s lifts were very slow; I did not necessarily find this to be the case. No they don’t have the high speed quad lifts of some other areas but their lifts are no slower than most other areas fixed grip chairs. Afternoon lift lines were in the 10-15 minute range which given the number of people was quite acceptable.
Once on the slopes the crowds were dispersed, even though all of their trails were not open there was more than enough terrain to handle a massive holiday crowd. As expected, the most people could be found on the beginner and low intermediate terrain but Timberline has plenty of both to handle the people. In a departure from my usual, I spent a lot of time skiing on easy runs with my son and his friends. It seemed the favorite run was Salamander; a 2 mile trail that meanders along one side of the mountain. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Salamander was not your usual access road covered with snow that most beginner "longest runs" are, it stayed on one side of the mountain and was only met with 3 merging trails but did not cross any of those trails. It was also at least twice as wide as the same type of runs at that other big corporate resort in West Virginia.
On the other side of the mountain there is a similarly styled blue run named Twister that was almost as long but slightly steeper. The general lay of the mountain is that the easier runs are on either end with an increasing degree of steepness as you go to the middle of the mountain. And it was the middle of the mountain that most impressed me, with a real vertical drop of 1000′ Timberline has THE BEST advanced skiing in the Southeast. The Thunderstruck and White Lightning (single black diamond) runs were both steeper than any NC run other than Whoopdedoo and both were approximately 50 yards wide making it possible to make some great fast GS turns and still comfortably avoid anyone else on the run. Off The Wall and The Drop (double black diamond) runs were by far the steepest runs in the Southeast and were much longer than their double diamond counterparts in the Southeast; both of these runs had a bit of pucker factor to them.
Since there was no natural snow while I was there everything was groomed impeccably each morning and even though the temperatures were very mild the snow quality was exceptional throughout the day. Timberline has made a significant investment in snowmaking and it shows. Even though the weather had been mild and rainy the week before I went the 24 slopes that were open had very good coverage, even the slopes that had recently been closed had better coverage than I have often seen on open runs at some NC areas. (Don’t think that I am knocking the NC areas on this one, I really appreciate the runs being open if there is the tiniest continuous strip of snow to ski on.) The trail count was down to 24 from 32 the previous week.
I really enjoyed the homey atmosphere as well. My package included 3 meals a day in the cafeteria and at least 2 meals a day were served by Fred (Doc) Reichle, a very talkative and pleasant older man who I later learned is the resorts president as well as being a well known cardiologist. It doesn’t happen at too many resorts that the president asks you daily how the skiing is and if you are having a good time, but that’s the kind of place Timberline is. I also spent a good half hour chatting with Fred Herz, Timberline’s Executive VP; and heard about other capital improvements that are in the plans for the coming years on the lodging, infrastructure, and skiing areas. More importantly, he was also very interested in what my opinions were on Timberline, what they were doing well and not so well, and what I as a customer wanted to see in a ski resort. It is that kind of open mindedness and inquisitiveness that will lead Timberline into a very successful future. He was very excited about the future of the resort and I look forward to seeing his plans come to fruition.
Don’t get me wrong, Timberline isn’t perfect for everyone. They lack the glitz and glam, their lodging and dining options are limited, and they don’t have a Starbucks. Timberline is a lot more about the skiing than the resort, but for my money (and a heck of a lot less of it I might add) if I am going to West Virginia to ski I will keep driving another hour past that other big corporate resort and onto Timberline.