The story of how Timberline Mountain, located just a three-hour drive from Northern Virginia, became one of the area’s shiniest new snow sport destinations is rooted in a bit of drama.
It begins with a once-popular West Virginia ski resort neglected and reduced to a barely functioning version of its former self, followed by bankruptcy and an auction. It’s also a story that literally has a perfect ending, with a family from Indiana sweeping in to rescue and upgrade the ailing resort, making it bigger and better than ever.
“Most people don’t realize that Perfect is our family’s name,” says Paige Perfect, marketing manager of Timberline Mountain in West Virginia’s Canaan Valley. The ski area was known for decades under past ownership as Timberline Four Seasons Resort.
The Perfect family, which also owns the well-established Perfect North Slopes ski resort in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, purchased Timberline at auction in November 2019 with the intention of closing for a year to fully renovate, expand, and upgrade the facilities in time for a grand opening in December 2020.
Three years, one pandemic, and more than $15 million in capital improvements later, Timberline owners are looking forward to an outstanding 2022-2023 winter season.
“My dad always says that if owning a ski resort was easy, everyone would do it,” says Perfect, citing her father, Chip Perfect, CEO at Timberline and President of Perfect North Slopes. A member of the Indiana state senate since 2014, Chip Perfect is an avid ski resort enthusiast, having formerly served as chair of the National Ski Areas Association.
“My dad loves the ski industry — he can take one look at a ski area and instantly know what it would take to make it work,” says Perfect. “Our family had been coming to Timberline for years, so Dad had his eye on it prior to the auction. The terrain is spectacular, and he knew that with the proper investment, Timberline could be incredible,” she says.
“People have loved this mountain for decades, so it was heartbreaking to see it in decline,” says Perfect. Slow-moving lifts, long lines, short seasons, and poor snowmaking were the biggest complaints with the former resort before it finally folded in February 2019, just a few years after a highly publicized malfunction of its antiquated chairlift system.
A Perfect New Beginning
“There are fewer and fewer independently owned and operated ski areas left,” says Perfect, noting that corporations are quickly buying those that remain. “What we’ve done here, as an independent resort, is incredibly unique in the ski industry,” she says. “While other resorts have shuttered, to see one resurrected like this, in the middle of a pandemic, is truly unusual.”
“We brought more than 40 years of experience to Timberline,” says Perfect. “People hear this crazy story about a family from Indiana coming to West Virginia to bring a ski resort back from the dead, and they want to check it out,” she says. “When they get here, they see it’s not so crazy, and it’s actually working and pretty amazing.”
Timberline Mountain has a peak elevation of 4,268 feet, with more than a 1,000-foot vertical drop and more than 20 trails for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Its 2-mile Salamander Trail is the longest run in West Virginia. “Salamander is beginner-friendly and the most popular run at our resort,” says Perfect. “That a beginner can start at the summit and ski this trail all the way down is just incredible, and it should get the attention it deserves.”
“It’s incredible that there are three resorts right next to each other in this valley, but we don’t think of our neighbors as competitors,” says Perfect. “Instead, we complement each other, offering very different terrains, runs, and experiences. We each bring different amenities to the table, and visitors seem to enjoy going back and forth while here.”
Timberline currently operates a limited-capacity, 20-room ski-in, ski-out hotel. Visitors often stay at nearby Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center or at private local lodging in the valley or the towns of Davis and Thomas.
More Snow, Better Lifts, Improved Lodge
“For now we are laser focused on producing the best skiing and snowboarding experience in the mid-Atlantic,” says Perfect. Although Tucker County is famous for cold temperatures and heavy natural snow, significantly improving Timberline Mountain’s snow-making capabilities was a first priority for the new owners.
“One thing you can’t control when running a ski resort is the weather,” says Perfect. “The previous owners struggled with sourcing water. They didn’t have their system right and couldn’t sustain their snowmaking season long enough to keep operating.”
“We are good at this. Snowmaking is our specialty back in Indiana, so we already had that dialed in when we arrived here,” says Perfect. “We completely rebuilt Timberline’s system and greatly increased the pumping capacity. The second it gets cold, we can now hit the ground running and pump out a ton of snow really fast.”
Another critical change was replacing all the lifts, adding the first high-speed, six-person Doppelmayr detachable chairlift in West Virginia. “It’s a huge draw. The old lifts took 20 minutes or more to get to the top of the mountain, but now we can get you there in less than five minutes,” says Perfect. “This dramatically increases the amount of skiing someone can do on the mountain in a day.”
Other first-round improvements included a completely renovated and expanded lodge that makes it easier and faster for patrons to purchase tickets, arrange lessons, and get fitted with rental equipment. The lodge offers two dining options: a cafeteria with low-cost basics like pizza and sandwiches to refuel between runs, and the more up-scale Slippery Slope Bar and Grill, with more leisurely gourmet entrees that are generally priced below $20.
Preparing for a Perfect Season
Although Timberline Mountain was able to stay open during the pandemic, Perfect says they look forward to a new season with fewer restrictions. “We actually did very well during COVID. People wanted to get outside and were driving here rather than flying to resorts on airplanes,” says Perfect. “Our new larger lifts made it easy to follow social distancing requirements, and we had a deck set up with tables to dine outside.”
Night skiing on weekends will be an exciting new feature this season at Timberline Mountain. “We will set it up from mid-mountain to the lower half this season, with hopes of offering night skiing for the whole mountain in the future,” says Perfect. “This gives people more opportunity to get the most out of their visit, especially for those who arrive later in the day — it’s a huge plus.” 254 Four Seasons Dr., Davis, West Virginia
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