Ski Resorts Diversify Activities With Mountain Coaster Rides
Mountain coasters — those rollicking alpine slides on rails — are popping up all around you. This type of attraction has become a popular activity diversifier as ski resorts evolve in the way they cater to non-skiing guests all year long. Mountain travelers who opt out of skiing for any number of reasons will no longer be relegated to the tubing hill, the shopping strip or all-day après snow fun.
“While we did see a fair number of guests coming just for the coaster, in general, even skiers and riders are looking for more activities to do at ski resorts other than skiing and riding,” Copper Mountain’s Public Relations Manager, Taylor Prather says of the resort’s first winter operating the Rocky Mountain Coaster. “There were plenty of Coaster riders going up and down in their ski boots, all hours of the day, so many are simply taking a break from the slopes for a little fun in between runs.”
For those destination/overnight visitors who don’t ski or don’t want to ski every day, Copper’s coaster is a great activity to complement their vacations, Prather adds. Similarly, Steamboat is seeing “a combination of use,” according to the mountain’s Sr. Communications Manager, Loryn Kasten.
“Many skiers and snowboarders ride the mountain coaster when they’re not sliding on the slopes (a day off, during the evening hours, etc). Steamboat guests who like the snow but don’t ski or snowboard love the mountain coaster because it allows them to be on the mountain in another way.”
Snowmass’ alpine coaster debuted in December of 2017 “as part of our Lost Forest project to provide multi-season, non-ski activities for guests,” reports Public Relations Manager, Tucker Vest Burton, who mentions accessibility—for all ages, athletic abilities and families—as a key draw.
While similar in usage, speed and scenery, mountain coasters across different ski resorts appear to differ in their course elements and through one other fundamental feature: braking. “The Breathtaker Alpine Coaster is a user-operated ride,” says Vest Burton. “Drivers are responsible for controlling their speed, maintaining a safe distance between sleds and stopping at the finish.”
At Copper, however, an automatic braking system manages the distance between coaster carts, but riders can also control speed with manual hand brakes. Steamboat emphasizes safety with a hands-on braking system: “Guests engage the sled by pushing the side levers down. When they want to brake, they raise the levers, allowing them to control their own speed. If a guest takes their hands off the levers, the sled stops,” Kasten says. “Controlling one’s speed during the ride is the key to a fun, safe ride.”
It all began when Stig Albertson came to the U.S. from Sweden in 1954 and rose to become the manager of Bromley Mountain in Southern Vermont, a perennial family favorite. He introduced the first triple-tracked Alpine Slide in 1976. Albertson helped develop many of the safety innovations that made modern day Mountain Coasters commercially viable.
The original alpine slide from the 1970s is attached to rails and wends it way along the slope, usually on a closed 360 degree closed track. Later on, with the advent of the “mountain coaster,” riders didn’t have to be quite so careful because of guard rails and better braking. The coaster, sometimes called a summer toboggan, is actually a roller coaster and cannot leave the tracks.
A few resorts have what are called “pipe coasters.” This is essentially a single metal track rolling down the slopes. Riders jump into a go-kart-like contraption, and gravity takes care of the rest of the ride. You brake with something similar to a joy stick. A safety factor is a limitation of speed.
Wisp Mountain in Maryland takes it to a different level with a gravitational hybrid alpine slide and mountain coaster experience. ‘Coaster carts’ hold up to two riders. Speed is regulated with handbrakes on the side of the cart.
Finally, there is a coaster at Branson, Mo., not a ski area but popular tourist Mecca. Here, your cart attaches to an uphill pulley cable. You’re pleased from the cable at the top of the hill and you are on your own from there.
So, there are a few different varieties, but they’re all fun and exciting. Give them a try.
Ski Resort Mountain Coasters in the U.S. & Canada
Here are some of the alpine coasters across North America. Many of which are set up to thrill year-round, come snow or shine. See also the resort-provided videos below to get a feel for what some of these mountain coaster experiences are like straight from the tracks.
Editors’ Note: Prices continually change, so it’s best to check directly with the resort. Generally, they range in the mid-teens (about $15, as low as $10)) for kids to the mid-twenties (about $25, some as low as $15) for adults. Some have different prices for the driver and the passenger, as well. Remember, new coasters are added most years, so follow your favorites resort.
Mountain Coasters in Colorado
• Ride Length: 6,280 linear feet, descending 400 vertical feet
• Location: Near Christie Peak Express
• Fun Facts: The longest coaster in North America, which takes about 10 minutes, The Outlaw Mountain Coaster rises up to 40 feet above the ground and cruises at speeds up to 27 mph.
• Location: Next to the American Flyer Lift
• Fun Facts: Average grade for the Rocky Mountain Coaster at Copper is 10.9 percent.
• Location: Adjacent to Elk Camp Restaurant
• Fun Facts: Operates at night during Ullr Nights festivities and special holidays
• Location: Near the Eolus building and Twilight Lift 4
• Fun Facts: The ride features nine switchbacks and one 360 degree loop
• Ride Length: 2,500 feet
• Location: Base of Peak 8 between Rip’s Ride chairlift and Kids Castle
• Fun Facts: Breck was the first Colorado ski resort to build an alpine coaster (opened in the winter 2010/2011 season). Start your ride at an elevation of 10,230 feet, before racing down the mountain, hitting speeds of up to 25mph on 2,500 feet of elevated roller coaster track as you enjoy a thrilling journey around and through the forest.
• Ride Length: 3,400 feet
• Location: Epic Discovery
• Fun Facts: The Forest Flyer Mountain Coaster follows the natural contours of the landscape as it winds down the mountain.
Mountain coaster in Idaho
• Ride Length: 4,330 feet
• Location: Simplot Lodge Base Area
• Fun Facts: Idaho’s only mountain coaster
Mountain coasters in Utah
• Ride Length: Nearly 4,000 feet
• Location: Part of the Park City Mountain Adventure Park located in the Park City Mountain Village
• Ride Length: 3,120 feet
• Location: Near the base of the Peruvian Express chairlift outside of the Snowbird Center
Mountain coaster in Wyoming
• Ride Length: 3,295 feet, descending 456 vertical feet
• Location: Base area
• Fun Facts: The track gets as high as 43 feet off the ground and features four circles and six bridges.
Mountain coasters in Vermont
• Ride Length: 2/3 of a mile.
• Location: On Bromley’s famous south-facing slope.
• Fun Facts: This is the so-called “grandaddy of them all” and is the first triple-tracked alpine slide in the world. It remains one of the most popular and longest anywhere after all those years…built in 1976.
• Ride Length: 3,100 feet, 375 vertical descent
• Location: Jackson Gore base area, near the bottom of the Coleman Brook Express lift
• Fun Facts: The coaster’s 3,100 feet of the track follows the contours of the mountain with added waves, camelbacks, banking loops and a twister section. At optimal efficiency, the mountain coaster will accommodate nearly 500 riders per hour and operate year-round in most weather conditions.
Mountain coasters in New York
• Ride Length: 2,940 feet
• Location: Near the Tannenbaum Lodge
• Fun Facts: The ride features 15 curves of varying length, 12 waves, one jump, plus a huge circle/spiral, descending a max grade of 23.6 percent.
• Ride Length: 4,300 feet
• Location: Adventure Center Base Lodge
Mountain coasters in New Hampshire
• Ride Length: 2,880 feet
• Location: Base of the mountain
• Ride Length: 2,390 feet
• Location: Cranmore Mountain Adventure Park
• Fun Facts: Thousands of feet of twisting, turning fun flying through the woods. You control the speed for a leisurely ride or a screaming fast run through to the end.
• Ride Length: Nearly 4,100 feet
• Location: Discover Zone
• Fun Facts: The downhill track is designed with swooping turns, banked corners, rolling drops and 360° turns.
Mountain coaster in Pennsylvania
• Ride Length: 4,500 feet
• Cost: $12 per rider, $20 for rider and driver
• Fun Facts: An automatic Coaster Cam snaps your photo midway through the Appalachian Express adventure, the only ride of its kind in the state.
Mountain coasters in Massachusetts
• Ride Length: 3,870 feet
• Location: Base of the mountain
• Fun Facts: The Thunderbolt Mountain Coaster is powered by wind turbines and an array of solar panels and features a computer-assisted safety system that stops the coaster if the seat belt is disengaged.
• Ride Length: 3,600 feet
• Location: Mountain Adventure Park
• Fun Facts: Jiminy’s Mountain Coaster was one of the first alpine coasters in the United States.
Mountain coaster in Maryland
• Ride Length: 3,500 feet downhill over 350 vertical feet
• Location: Eastern side of Wisp Mountain
• Fun Facts: This is a hybrid of an alpine slide and mountain coaster. At the end of the ride, an automated camera captures the coaster experience.
Mountain Coasters in Canada
• Ride Length: 1.5 km (3,281 feet)
• Cost: $12.99
• Fun Facts: An investment of $ 2.5 million, Viking took its first voyage in 2009 and was designed by the German company Wiegand.
• Ride Length: 1.4 km (4,593 feet)
• Location: Revelation Lodge
• Cost: $25 for a rider, $10 for a passenger
• Fun Facts: Riders travel across ski runs, between glades and through a tunnel (“pipe”) up to 42km/hour (26 mph).
• Cost: $17 for adults (13+) Monday-Friday and $19 weekends and holidays, $14 for youth Monday-Friday and $16 weekends and holidays.
Mountain Coasters in Lake Tahoe
• Ride Length: 3,400 feet over a 300-foot vertical drop
• Location: Epic Discovery
• Fun Facts: Coast through forest, natural rock formations and two lateral loops with panoramic views of Lake Tahoe.
Mountain Coasters in Minnesota
• Ride Length: 3,200 feet
• Location: Adventure Park
• Fun Facts: Speed through the Minnesota forest with views of the St. Louis River on the only ride of its kind in the region
Mountain coaster in Switzerland
- Ride length: 2,500 feet
- Operates during the summer
- Location: Atop the funicular and follow signs
- Fun facts: This is a single person toboggan ride on metal slide
- Ride length: 3,300 feet
- Location: High above the village of Les Diablerets
- Operates during the summer
- Speeds: Up to 45 mph
- Fun facts: This is billed as the highest coaster in the world
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