Mountain TravelingMom first rode an alpine slide in Breckenridge, Colorado in the mid-2000s. Since then she’s had the opportunity to ride the alpine coaster at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park on several occasions and then was one of the first to ride the Forest Flyer at the Vail Epic Discovery ribbon cutting in 2016. She and her family (kids ages five and eight) are big fans of speeding down the mountain on an alpine coaster and think that if you haven’t tried it you should!
What the heck is an Alpine Coaster?
Inform yourself now as 2018 is sure to be the year of the Alpine Coaster! Prior to 2005, no Alpine coasters existed in the United States. That is until Steve Beckley, the owner of the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, flew to Germany. He went to convince the owner of Wiegand Sports to let him build one in the U.S.
Since then Alpine coasters have popped up in ski resorts across the country. Five of the seven Alpine coasters in Colorado have been built in the last two years. There’s no sign of this trend changing, and we should all be glad for it.
An alpine coaster is similar to a roller coaster. But this thrill ride is set atop a mountain where riders can breathe fresh air. Riders take in spectacular natural views as you speed down the mountain.
What is the difference between an Alpine Slide and Alpine Coaster?
The alpine slide has been around since the 1970s. However, the alpine mountain coaster was first developed in 1997 by a German company, Wiegland.
Alpine coasters are designed to take advantage of the natural mountain elevation and topography. Gravity drives individual cars attached to a fixed track down the natural contours of a mountain. Riders control their speed with a brake lever. On a closed loop track, the car gets hauled up the hill at the end of the ride by a pulley system. Then there are systems where the rider takes a chairlift up the mountain and rides down the track. The alpine coaster is different from the original alpine slide. It is attached to rails and winds through the mountain topography most commonly on a 360 degree closed track.
The alpine slide originating in the 1970s is an unattached wheeled cart that slides down a concrete chute built on a slope. These go faster than the alpine coaster. There is less control. And they start at the top of the hill and end at the bottom.
Why should you ride an alpine coaster this year?
Mountain Alpine Coasters are Fun!
An alpine mountain coaster is similar to a roller coaster. It is a fast thrill ride that gives riders an adrenaline rush.
But the beauty of an alpine roller coaster is that it exists in a spectacular natural mountain environment. No concrete jungle surrounds these thrill rides. Your car may wind, dip and make hairpin turns through a lush green forest. Or it may soar over an expansive ski slope with majestic mountains and blue skies as the backdrop. Riders breathe in fresh mountain air as they let out joyous screams while feeling the thrill.
No lessons or equipment required on Alpine Coasters.
Unlike skiing, the most common way of speeding down a ski slope, an alpine slide does not require any kind of lessons. Nor does it require special equipment. The closest you will come to needing special equipment is that some alpine mountain coasters require close-toed shoes.
Kids as young as three and at least 38” tall can ride with their parents or another adult. They can hop on and enjoy the thrill without expensive ski lessons.
Where Are Mountain Alpine Coasters Found?
The Colorado Rocky Mountains are now home to seven alpine coasters. In 2005, the first alpine coaster was built, the second in 2010 and five more have opened in the past two years. Wikipedia credits Switzerland with having the highest alpine coaster in the world starting elevation of 9,747 feet. However, three of Colorado’s seven coasters start above 10,000 feet.
The Alpine coaster at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park was the first in the U.S., built in 2005. Goldrunner Alpine coaster at Breckenridge was the first built at a Colorado Resort in 2010. Then came the Forest Flyer at Vail’s Epic Discovery in 2016, the Breathtaker Coaster at Snowmass, the Outlaw Mountain Coaster at Steamboat and the Rocky Mountain Coaster at Copper Mountain in 2017. And, the Inferno Mountain Coaster at Purgatory in Durango opens summer 2018.
Most of Colorado alpine coasters are open seasonally for summer and winter. But the original alpine coaster at Glenwood Caverns is actually open year-round, weather permitting. And most Colorado alpine coasters are also open only during the day with Glenwood having the longest hours. But there are occasional opportunities for night time rides on the Rocky Mountain Coaster at Copper Mountain.
In addition to alpine slides, Colorado’s resorts have been adding fun summer activities en masse. Vail’s Epic Discovery boasts zip lines, ropes courses, summer tubing and bungee in addition to the alpine coaster. Alpine coasters will only enhance your family’s mountain summer vacation!
Have you ridden an alpine coaster? What did you think? Which alpine coaster is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below!