laid back, abundance of slopeside homes, good terrain
For the past four years, a group of about 12 of us now ranging in age from mid-late 20's have been renting a slopeside home. In my opinion this is the way to go. Whether it is the handful of houses on Salamander or the growing number on Winterset, you will not be disappointed. Other than the obvious luxuries of ski in/out and a hot tub, the house enables you to bring and store your own provisions. This is something that we learned quickly after our first year. Davis is a small town, and has little in the way of groceries or dining. There are some restaurants in town, but it is mainly mediocrity. Plan on long waits if it is a Friday or Saturday night in season. There is supposedly a great restaurant that is popular with the telemarkers, but I have not been. The food at the lodge is "okay" and nothing about it is upscale. If you are in to nice food, eat dinner and lunch in your house and then go to the lodge after dinner for drinks. I have seen the lodge get rowdy on Fri/Sat after 9-10 PM, and have watched families get rightfully irritated if they are not done with dinner by then. They have tried to separate the bar from the dining area, but it does not always seem to work well. The fact that the lodge is not upscale also makes it incredibly fun. The laid back, very inexpensive bar has colorful and sometimes talented local musicians on the weekend, and the crowd can be a lot of fun. Don't expect pampering, class, or anything resembling the village at Snowshoe. Unlike their Intrawest neighbor to the south, Timberline does not try to gouge you or try to be something they are not. Let's be honest, with the exception of Ember, the food at Snowshoe is nothing special either.
A friend and I skied the main part of Snowshoe early/Dec and were averaging about six runs an hour. This is not going to happen at Timberline. Go there knowing and expecting that. The lifts are slow and obsolete. Ten minute lift ride on weekdays, and about 14-15 min on the weekends. Obviously, such a lack of uphill capacity can become a problem on busy weekends. I would argue however that the number of people on the mountain on a Saturday is not that high, the lifts just simply cannot handle the volume. Despite waiting in line, the more difficult trails never seem to overly crowded. Maybe I have just been lucky? We always arrive late Wednesday night and enjoy the mountain to ourselves on Thursday and Friday. Deal with it on Saturday and leave Sunday morning. We have found this to be perfect. I would not let the slow lifts deter you, it's a great hill. I think you can stand in line on the main section of Snowshoe for just as long on a busy day. With the exception of Cupp and Shay's, I would still rather ski Timberline. Unlike the main section of Snowshoe, Timberline has not tried to over pack their terrain with slopes in order to boost their trail count. I feel like they have made a conscious effort to make their trails continuous for as long as possible without greenies converging from everywhere once you make it halfway down. This is not to say that this is totally not the case, but not nearly as bad as what you will find at Snowshoe. The right side of the mountain has three nice blue cruisers that are fine for a weak intermediate, but have the ability to keep a stronger skier entertained as well. "Almost Heaven" and "Dew Drop" will keep you occupied, and each have a few enjoyable steeps. The newest slope "Twister" is fun at the top, but turns into a painfully slow green at the bottom. The blacks and doubles are all fun, and all offer some challenging spots. "White Lightning," the widest trail on the mountain, is fairly steep at the top and can be a great run if you are fortunate enough to get good conditions.
This is not to put down Snowshoe. Who doesn't enjoy skiing Snowshoe? Who doesn't think Cupp Run is the best trail, in the area? These are simply two different worlds. I am confident a good trip to T-Line will keep you going back year after year like we do.
Round up enough people to rent a slopeside home, know what to expect, bring your own provisions, go to the lodge Fri/Sat after dinner, and enjoy what many refer to as a best kept secret.