This resort guide is maintained by EpicSki Ambassador: JohnL
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Timberline has two main fixed-grip triple chairlifts which reach the summit (or very nearly the summit.) The primary lift is looker's right, the Thunderdraft lift (with funky retro orange plastic seats.) Think Howard Johnson's (Ho Jo) if you dig NRBQ. The Thunderdraft (or Thunder) lift is open the entire week. It has a mid-station, which is often used by beginners to access exclusively low-angle trails. No worries if you are a beginner and exit at the mid station.
To looker's left is the Silver Queen lift. It is a very tight triple with a leg rest that swings low when turned down or up. Watch yer head. The Silver Queen lift is the "advanced" lift (a bit tougher for kids to board.) It starts higher than the Thunder lift, and finishes slightly below it. At the top, with some skating you can access all but some top sections of Salamander, at the bottom some trails (such as Pearly Glades) exit too low to access the Silver Queen lift. The Silver Queen lift is generally not open on non-holiday weekdays, and closes early on Sunday when the "crowds" leave.
There is also a fixed-grip double chair, for beginner's terrain only, right above the main lodge. During some years, one of the terrain parks has a rope tow set up in it.
Beware. Timberline lifts are the sloooooooooooooowest lifts known to man. Trip times to the top of the mountain are about 12-13 minutes (for only 1000 feet of vertical), even during midweek. If it is a busy weekend, expect longer transit times due to frequent lift stoppages. Bring a book or a Kindle/iPad. Or share a good conversation with your chair mates. When it is cold (especially during January), dress warm with face protection. During the Spring, catch a sun tan.
Mid-week (non Holiday), Timberline is a ghost town. Enjoy your elbow room in the lodge, on the slopes, and in the lift line (if it even exists.) Holiday weekends can get pretty crowded, but Timberline is one of the best bets for avoiding crowds in the Mid Atlantic. Even on a three day holiday weekend, crowds leave by Monday afternoon (if not sooner), so stay later if you can. Same for Sunday afternoons on a busy weekend.
Beginner (Green) Terrain
There is a dedicated beginner's lift and trail right above Timberline's base lodge. In addition, there is a small non-lift served teaching area (used by ski school staff to instruct newcomers to the sport) near the base of the Silver Queen lift.
Once newcomers to the sport advance past those lifts, they will often ride up the Thunderdraft lift (lowest lift, orange bucket seats) at the mid station. By traversing far to the left or right from the mid station, low angle beginner terrain can be accessed. Be careful when the traverse crosses a trail; look out for skiers coming down the hill.
Once beginners feel comfortable with the previous trails, they often ride the Thunderdraft lift to the top off the mountain to access Salamander. Sally (as she is called), is one of Timberline's best assets and is a unique trail in the Mid Atlantic. Sally is a two mile long trail that meanders looker's left down the mountain. It is one of the first trails Timberline opens from the summit during a ski season (along with White Lightning.) At the top Sally borders National Nordic Wilderness area, at the bottom, pretty impressive ski-in/ski-out houses with awesome decks. Sally is low angle for it's entire length, but has some wide swooping turns. It can get busy at times (and some more advanced skiers can be too aggressive on it), but it is a scenic jewel of a trail. Pay careful attention at the "S" turn, where Off The Wall merges into Salamander. This is one of the highest traffic areas at Timberline, and Ski Patrol often has a visible presence there.
Group hot dogging on Upper Sally. What's going on in the far right?
Intermediate (Blue) Terrain
The intermediate runs at Timberline tend to have the highest skier traffic, so they can get skied off by late afternoon (a rarity for generally low traffic Timberline.) So hit them early, but don't fret if you don't. At their worst, they still have better trail conditions than found at higher-traffic areas such as Whitetail.
The most interesting intermediate run at Timberline is Twister. The trail, as it's name implies, twists down the looker's right side of the mountain. It has the most twists (and it's moderately steep sections) at the top of the run. The middle to bottom sections of the run are fairly low angle, and go through two tunnels under access roads. The tunnels should be approached with a bit of caution, but fortunately there is not much skier traffic at them. One section of the upper part of Twister faces due west, so it can lose snow quickly in the Spring or lose snow due to winter winds. Twister is a nice long, interesting and generally quiet trail. The upper section is a nice location for spring corn.
Upper part of Twister (very late season.) Davis husband and wife. Ain't that special? Her turns are better.
The most popular intermediate trails are Dew Drop and Almost Heaven. They are fun trails, with enough of a meander to keep them interesting. But catch them early.
For less challenge, intermediates often ski two mile long Salamander or some of the lower angle trails from the mid-station of the Thunderdraft lift. For more challenge, White Lightning and Thunderstruck, though listed as black diamonds, are skiable by most intermediates.
Expert (Black Diamond) Terrain
The groomed black diamond trails at Timberline are skiable by intermediates. That said, they are fun for arcing high speed turns, especially first thing in the morning or on a weekday. The trails at Timberline are generally less crowded than those at other Mid Atlantic areas, so GS turns are less hazardous.
The most obvious groomer (and trail) at Timberline is White Lightning. It is smack dab in the middle of the mountain; the Silver Queen lift runs up looker's left side. To the consternation of us lovers of tight runs, White Lightning was widened several years ago (trees were cut down between it and Silver Steak; it is now one wide slope but Timberline still lists them as separate trails.) White Lightning is the widest slope at Timberline; races are often held on it. It pretty much runs straight down the fall line, with two options to choose once it flattens out at the bottom. It often serves as The Main Street of Timberline; many "conversations" occur between the riders of the Silver Queen lift and the sliders below on White Lightning. It is the best people watching spot at Timberline.
The most interesting black diamond groomed run at Timberline is Upper Thunderstruck. While many trails in the Mid Atlantic are cut straight down the hill (such as White Lightning), Upper Thunderstruck loops away and back toward the lift. Character it has. It is my favorite trail for arcing high speed turns early in the day. Upper Thunderstruck merges into (duh!) Lower Thunderstruck, where the Nastar and race team courses are often held. When race courses are set up on Lower Thunder, the entire trail is closed, so hit it early or late in the day.
Speaking of how trails were cut at Timberline, rumor has it a bowling ball was used. I'm sure some moonshine was also involved.
Bill with an audience on White Lightning.
The snow making team at Timberline generally leaves large snow making whales on Off The Wall and The Drop. Sometimes the whales are left for the entire season, generally they are groomed down at some point to preserve trail base. (There is a certain amount of randomness that you need to tolerate when skiing Timberline.) These snow making whales are somewhat controversial, people either love them or hate them. I personally love them (look at my avatar), since they approximate some of the terrain variation you find up in Vermont or even approximate a terrain park. They add challenge to a smaller mountain. However, when the snow melts and refreezes, the whales can be virtually unskiable depending upon their shape. And there was one year where a string of infamous Ta Ta's were made at the bottom of The Drop....
Whales or not, a classic bump line is generally allowed to form skier's right on Off The Wall. The middle section of The Drop is usually a nice mogul section (it is typically the location for Mogul Contest of The Snowy Luau.) Upper Thunderdraft can have nice natural snow bumps (no snow making on the trail so watch for rocks.) Sometimes a bit of a mogul section forms skier's right on White Lightning, where the snow making base tapers off into the woods. This can be a bit of a double fall line and it is right under the Silver Queen lift, so better make some nice turns!
The short section of Upper Silver Streak (under the top of the Silver Queen lift) can be a bit of a powder stash and have some bumps on it. It's right under the lift, so no state secrets were leaked. As can a section of middle Thunderdraft, adjacent to Glade Runner.
In years past, there have been no "starter bump" sections on the intermediate trails. However, in a departure from past operations, this year (2012-13) Timberline opened a large section of terrain with only natural snow base during the Christmas/New Year's holiday period (after two significant snowfalls.) One of those natural snow trails was the intermediate Almost Heaven. Mini moguls have formed on Almost Heaven, making it an ideal bump skiing practice area. Hopefully Timberline management will leave sections of an intermediate trail periodically ungroomed once snow making begins on some of the intermediate terrain.
Starter bumps on Almost Heaven 2013.
Yours truly at Snowy Luau on The Drop (late season.) Ta Ta's melting in the background.
Spring Bumps skied by Scott.
Keith towards the steepish section of Off The Wall. Late season.
David on Off The Wall.
No ski runs in the Mid Atlantic can be considered steep by Northeastern or Western standards. That said, the bottom portion of Off The Wall has been measured by a friend to be in the somewhat respectable 30-35 degree range (for about 200-300 feet of vertical.) When large snowmaking whales or moguls are allowed to form, that section provides respectable challenge. Furthermore, Off The Wall is north facing and sheltered by trees; as a result, it retains it's snow quality and base quite well.
The middle section of The Drop is the next steepest section of the mountain. The trees adjacent to both trails have comparable pitch to the trails, as would be expected. This adds to the challenge factor.
Views of the bottom of Off The Wall. (Need to choose one.)
Timberline averages 180+ inches of snow a year, so trees can be skiied nearly every year (with the exception of a few years where rain storms kill the base just as it builds up to respectable levels. This is the Mid Atlantic, after all.) The tree sections are not cleared too well (especially compared to adjacent Whitegrass), so care should be taken when skiing them. Rock skis not always needed, but YMMV. My personal rule of thumb is when Dave Lester (or Chip at Whitegrass) report about 10 inches or so of base, it's time to start poking around the trees. Some tree runs may be skiable sooner due to blow-in from snow making on adjacent trails.
There are two official glade runs on Timberline's trail map, Glade Runner and Pearly Glades. However, there are skiable tree lines across the entire portion of the mountain, between virtually every trail. These lines are generally quite obvious near the Intermediate runs; some of these sections have been over thinned by some of the locals. Exposed some of my stashes!
Glade Runner is mid-mountain, between the two primary lifts. The trees are fairly widely spaced. There are a few large rocks and stumps in it, so care must be taken when the base is low. When the base is good, launch off 'em! Glade Runner is fairly low angle. You can continue skiing the trees past the mid-station lift traverse (not on the map but very obvious.) This is an even lower-angle section, but has a small gulley or two that are fun to play in. If a race course is set up on Lower Thunderstruck, you can't exit this lower section of trees to skier's left. The very bottom section of the trees (provided you haven't exited to Thunder or WL) is steeper and not thinned out much; you are skiing hiking/biking trails. There is some challenge there and quick turns are needed to scrub speed.
Pearly Glades are at one of the lowest sections of the mountain, just above the bottom of the Thunderdraft lift. They are very low angle, and a good starter tree run for inexperienced tree skiers. Because they are low on the mountain and somewhat exposed, Pearly Glades can have poor snow conditions. But when the snow is good, they are some what like a moped: tons of fun until your friends see you riding it.
Marcus in Pearly Glades. (In a horrible snow year, 2011-12. Doesn't look too bad, does it?)
Timberline Ski Patrol seems to be tolerant (as long as you don't poach their lines) of skiing in the unmarked trees. Just know what you are doing and where you are going and have the skills. (Some areas in the Mid Atlantic explicitly forbid tree skiing, so this is one reason why this is my home base.)
There are obvious cleared tree sections around Almost Heaven and Dew Drop, along with some mountain biking trails.
The entrances to the tree runs near the blacks and double blacks are not as obvious, but can be found with minimal hunting. You should be able to ski the adjacent trails with ease before attempting these trees. The tightness and pitch of these lines varies greatly; some are mother-nature tight and require punching the trees away; some sections are pretty much an open ski trail in the trees (as in some sections of Cherry Bowl, which used to be on the trail map.)
Scott in the very wide-open section of Cherry Bowl. Other sections are very, very tight and much steeper. (Just below the horizon.)
Bill in Cherry Bowl.
One of the entrances to Cherry Bowl.
Tree line looking up Old Dominion.
Bill skiing down Glade Runner, aka Pump House Glades.
Given the abundance of tree lines at Timberline, you can ski nearly the entire 1000 feet of vertical in the trees when the conditions are right. Not bad for these parts.