A Private Water Ski Paradise located in Central Virginia


Timberlake Water Ski Club is a private ski club located near Sparta Virginia, less than two hours south of Washington, DC. Timberlake promotes traditional three event water skiing, and typically hosts two or three Premier and/or Grass Roots tournaments every season. The lake features a Slalom course and Jump that adjusts from 4' for beginners to 6' for Open jumpers. In addition to tournaments, the club hosts skier and officials clinics. Timberlake is affiliated with the American Water Ski Association and it's parent organization, USA Water Ski.

by Roger Hammel

Flying back from a hectic business trip to Denver, I look down at the earth from 35000 feet, and everything seems serene and peaceful in this early spring evening in 1998. Contrast the serenity of this moment with Timberlake's "birth" about 9 years ago, from the turmoil of an eviction. Yes, we thought we had found ski heaven at Garland's Millpond. However, the Millpounder's Ski club was thrown out of Garlands Millpond, lost the lease, and evicted with no appeal in the fall of 1988 after 6 years of operation. I remember the physical sickness I felt when I opened the registered letter of eviction. No place to ski, to go and relax, work, build and enjoy the camaraderie of other skiers striving toward similar goals. We had searched and searched over Virginia for a suitable ski site, and had found it in 1983 at Garland's, just as others had found "it" in Sparta at Lake Holly & Lohr's Lake, and other lakes & ponds like Burns Lake, Avon's the Pond, last year's Regionals site - Twin Lakes, and others throughout the Eastern Region. That elusive "it" when things come together and the lake happens, grows, and becomes the fertile ground & garden where skiing skills, hard work, friendships and personal growth are nurtured. From the turmoil at Garland's Millpond ending, Timberlake was started, when "it" was taken away at Garland's Millpond.

Once we were over the "stomach queasies" caused by the eviction, we mobilized to find another site. After all, we did it before, why not again ? Retrace the contacts of owners of the more than 50 lakes & millponds we made in 1982 & 83, before Garlands. Get turned down again and again. Learn that lakes had changed hands in the period from 83 to 88, when the search was renewed. And we missed the opportunity to buy them. So we expand our search, trying lakes that weren't quite big enough for skiing, but with some hard work could be made suitable. That's how we found Timberlake. Dave Christenson & I saw it one Saturday in the late fall of 1988 on a lake hunting visit to central Va. Too small to ski, narrow, beaver dam at the upper end, peninsulas & hills jutting into the area where the slalom course now is. Stumps, stumps and more stumps everywhere. (It would later take a full day of chainsaws & sawing by 8 folks, and probably a couple of dozen chains to cut the stumps off at the lake bottom and mud base when the lake was drained.)

So we contacted a real estate agent to see about acquiring the property. Feasibility studies, engineering preliminary plans, cost estimates and funding requirements were prepared, and I made cross contingent proposals to both the land owners and signed the contract. Then we made proposals to members of Garland's Millpond and others. Bill Sapp, Bob/Robby Ware, Jeff Caulkins & I from Garland's, and Dave Christenson from Occoquan formed the original group of 5, now known as the "A" partners.

The original A partners and a couple of other Garland's former members worked the spring, summer and fall of 1989 building Timberlake into a ski facility. The dam was augmented and made safer, emergency spillway established, the lake widened, and the upper end dug and increased in depth. And the stumps were cut down and bulldozed out. We built the boat ramp and laid in the slalom course on a dry lake bed with a transit, moving the anchors to achieve accuracy to within less than half an inch. We closed the valve to refill the lake over July 4 weekend in 1989, and were helped by the downpour on Sunday of Lake Holly's Tournament of Champions two weeks later. Helped in filling yes, except that the downpour washed out the road...

We skied that fall of 1989 on about 3/4 of the lake, since Timberlake was not yet completely full. One way slalom: run the course from the dam, a quick turnaround at the upper end and back to the dam outside the course and get ready for another pass. It was so good to have a ski lake again. Temporary campsite at the top of the hill, a single privy for 4 trailers and the rest of the partners. But we had our fertile garden of a lake, and were on our way.

We relocated the campsite to its present location in 1991, and installed water, septic and power in the next months. In came running water, and out went group wash-ins and the trained killer Bluegills by the boat ramp. Over the years we've added starting docks, boat house, tents for tournaments, and towers & meters, all guided by the considerable construction expertise of the members, and of course - the "aesthetics committee". Working to improve the site is an ongoing process for Timberlake that we hope is now nearing completion. Over the past couple of years, we have built a new starting dock, installed video jump, repainted and improved the jump floatation, built a movable trick judging trailer-tower-stand to meet record capability height tolerances, have improved the slalom towers and have cleared to improve parking.

Timberlake held its first tournament in 1990, the year after we started. It was an informal fun tournament for Sparta area skiers. The first class C tournament was held in 1991, a slalom only event. Over the years, first tricks and later jumping have been added. Jumping became a reality when the old Occoquan jump was brought down from Bill Mahan's side yard and rebuilt in 1993. You sort of get a sense of the width of the ramp when you see it span the country roads around Timberlake - going from shoulder to shoulder. We didn't force too many cars into the ditch when we transported the jump in to Timberlake. Our jump tournaments started in 1994, with a perfect triangle reading on the first jump. Ask Ed Nichols, John Thacher or Ralph Hall about the "X" - which marks "the spot"... Timberlake has hosted Regional’s, the Virginia State Championships and R tournaments, and survived without any fatalities. Timberlake typically holds two class C tournaments a season - plus a collegiate tournament in the spring or fall. The fall Tugoff tournament is a class C handicapped team slalom tournament that is really fun. Its scoring & format has been copied and exported to Florida.





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