by Mike Sites
Most do not know that Timberline Mountain Ski Area's construction had its humble beginning 40 years ago in 1981. Out of a little barn (pictured) that sits next to former owner David Down's house at the corner of Timberline Road Sand Run Road inside Timberline Development.
David Downs originated the Timberline development with land belonging to the family of his first wife, Patty Townsend (daughter of Petersburg doctor Milford Townsend - she is now Patty Wolfe, widow of Keith Wolfe). David had married Patty, came to Petersburg, and operated Allegheny Properties Realty in downtown Petersburg.
I was fresh out of undergraduate school at West Virginia University when I began working for Timberline construction manager Fred Soltow that year. Every morning we would assemble in this barn at 6 am and prepare to head over to the site where we were clearing the trails with skidders and assembling the T-Bar lift that took you up to what is now the halfway point up the mountain.
We began construction of the original one-story post and beam base lodge in the Fall of 1981. I remember personally digging out the concrete footers for the big posts. The original lodge has been added to a few times since, but it is still there. By Thanksgiving, the posts were up, and a roof had been constructed (walls came later). As I recall, we nailed on the shingles just before leaving for Thanksgiving. We came back the day after Thanksgiving break, during which there had been a horrific windstorm, and fully expected to find the thing laying in a heaping pile. But the rickety structure stood the test, and we finished construction before snowfall. Timberline opened to the first skiers that winter - halfway up the slope to where the old Borvig Lift mid-station was (the top of the T-bar). As I recall, Wayne Huffman was the groomer, Fred Soltow, Bobbie and Annie Snyder did the ski instructing.
David Downs and Fred Soltow operated the original Timberline for 5 seasons until it was purchased by Doc Raichle, his sister Rosemary Herz, and her son Fred Herz in the summer of 1986. *Mike Sites is originally from Petersburg, West Virginia. Mike is a gifted musician, ski and snowboard instructor. He worked at both Canaan Valley Resort and Timberline Four Seasons Resort.