Snow King Mountain Resort Unveils New Zipline | Open spaces

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Evan Robinson-Johnson Jackson Hole News&Guide Via Wyoming News Exchange

Carabiners cut and fear somewhat assuaged, the world begins to crumble as you plummet to the valley floor.

In the distance, the Tetons slip behind the veil of East Gros Ventre Butte, and the roar of the wire hanging from you rises to a higher pitch. Pulling back on the handlebars, you pass the rider next to you, legs twirling slightly in the rising breeze.

After nearly a decade of negotiations and a year of construction, Snow King Mountain Resort finally opened its newest attraction — a multi-pitch zipline dubbed the steepest in the United States — to a small crowd of brave citizen testers on May 27. .

A larger grand opening on May 28 was canceled due to weather conditions and there were no rides on May 29 due to rain.

The 60mph descent of the steep Snow King begins with a safety video at the base. During the five-minute briefing, which appears to be shot in Colorado or perhaps some corner of the Swiss Alps, a cheerful narrator pretty much explains the basic operating technique of the zip line, boasting: “The ZipTour’s most unique aspect is that you can control your own speed.

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Snow King has brought a series of major renovations to the mountain, transforming a once-familiar town into a competitive resort with roller coasters and a ropes course in the trees. More recently, he replaced the weathered chairs on his Summit Lift with a high-speed gondola and added a new chairlift to the back of the King. A nearly 3,000 foot zipline from the top is just the icing on the cake.

On Friday, a couple from Las Vegas showed up as the first two visitors to take the $110 step. Paul Agrodny and his wife April Gasper were celebrating their third wedding anniversary with a maiden trip to Jackson, and they were full of anticipation. As they rode the gondola with one of Snow King’s newest members of staff – who walked the lines several times during a two-week training course – she joked: ‘I do maybe nine times out of 10.”

The couple laugh, looking slightly uncomfortable.

At the top, their training began with two descents on a short practice line. The staff again explained the basic controls: once they’ve been given the “boot,” riders must pull a handlebar completely above their head to descend. Release the handle and you start braking. Fully raise the bar to stop.

The technique is a bit counterintuitive and proved difficult for Gasper, who stopped halfway through the practice line because she inadvertently released on the bar. The mistake didn’t seem to raise any eyebrows, even from the zipline installers, who stuck around to make sure the first few rides went off without a hitch.

Terra Nova has installed its ZipTour infrastructure across the country and around the world, from Russia to Mexico. One of its biggest selling points is the patented “trolley” device that customers carry in a backpack before employees attach it to the drop cable.

As Terra Nova notes on its website, the “dynamically controllable” devices allow customers to adjust their descent speed to customize the riding experience. When used effectively, carts allow you to play tag with your partner as you both race down the mountain.

Carts also mean that it is the driver’s responsibility to control speed and maintain momentum.

“Are you all ready for the big chungus?” asked a Snow King staff member after the two practice rides.

“You bet,” Agrodny replied.

“I feel fantastic,” he told News&Guide in a pre-flight interview. “I think everything is going to be fine. And we’ll meet again down the hill.

As they descended the Snow King main line, a 2,820 foot descent silhouetted by the Teton Range, Agrodny and Gasper took off in spectacular fashion. But after 30 seconds of pulling the bar, Gasper’s arms were ‘gassed’.

It came to a stop long before the landing platform and staff had to throw a rope to hoist it up.

Signs posted at the start of the ride warn customers that “The ZipTour requires a moderate to high degree of physical strength and endurance.” The rides are not recommended for people with a history of back, neck or bone injuries, recent surgery or “any other current physical or mental illness”.

After the first major descent, Snow King’s zipline tour concludes with a shorter stretch on his alpine roller coaster. Paul Agrodny rode the line with ease, but again his wife got stuck, this time at the top of the descent.

The only employee at the top platform helped her out of the safety net and, suspecting a problem with the cart, swapped it for what they both hoped would be a unit with less friction.

As Agrodny waited nearly 20 minutes at the base for his wife to get off, he remained optimistic.

“We are the first to try it,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll make it dial.”

As for the $110 price he and his wife paid, Agrodny said it was comparable to a lesser-quality zipline in Vegas.

When Gasper finally started the line, however, she only made it halfway before stopping. As she swayed above the cruising Alpine Riders, the two young base personnel prepared to perform a mid-range rescue. It was something they had practiced during staff training, but not while other customers were passing.

They tried to radio the operator of the alpine roller coaster to stop sending passengers, but they didn’t seem to reach anyone on the other end. Ten minutes passed, and still Gasper was suspended.

Then, mustering enough strength to lower the bar and swing forward, she managed to slide the cart. Seconds later, she was on the platform, visibly frustrated.

Snow King ended up refunding Gasper’s ticket after a few back and forths. General Manager Ryan Stanley said ZipTour installers make changes based on his experience.

“They use several different styles of brake pads, and they had the grippiest and most secure type. So it looks like there’s a potential need to dial that back a bit,” Stanley said. “They’ll test that as soon as the weather clears up.”

Stanley said about 25 customers tried the lines on Friday. The majority were “super happy”, but a few got stuck like Gasper.

Through conversations with Terra Nova, Stanley said he realized they had had similar issues with launches in other locations.

“I probably should have asked a few more questions about how many people from the general public to ask before a grand opening,” he said.

In the end, the decade-long dream of a zipline on the Snow King slopes is still coming true. If he has to delay the grand opening a little longer to get everything dialed in, Stanley said it’s worth the wait a little longer.

“We want to make sure it’s safe and a good experience for everyone,” Stanley said. “So we will do whatever we need to do to make sure that’s the case.”

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