Half mile zipline, alpine coaster near completion on Vail Mountain
VAIL’S NEW ATTRACTIONS
• 10,800 feet in total
• 3,385 feet of downhill coasting
• Travels through trees west of Pride Express
• Seven ziplines
• Incorporates a ride on Game Creek Express
• Highest zip will be 300 feet off the ground
• Longest zip will be more than 2,700 feet in total
VAIL — A 10,800-foot mountain coaster and a zipline that’s so high it will require aircraft warning lights will headline Vail Mountain’s new attractions for 2016. Those rides will combine with a series of “learn through play” concepts and join the resort’s existing summer activities under an umbrella called Epic Discovery, which will launch next summer, Hans Vollrath told a group of reporters Friday.
Vollrath is Vail Resorts’ new senior director of activities. He joined the company in late 2014, a few weeks after the Epic Discovery proposal received the green light from the U.S. Forest Service, and had to hit the ground running for next summer’s launch. But with 20 years experience at Disney, he was ready for the challenge.
“They created this position and so here I am to take all of these — what I call the Wild West of these little towns of summer businesses within our resorts that have been popping up over the years — and formalize them into a business that functions together rather than separately,” Vollrath said Friday. “It’s really a brand that describes the guest experience that will occur over the next couple of years.”
Epic Discovery is set to launch in the summer of 2016. Its marquee features — a 10,800-foot alpine coaster dubbed the Forest Flyer and a series of ziplines and sky bridges through Game Creek bowl — will both begin at Eagle’s Nest before taking visitors to places on the mountain that were not accessible to regular guests before Epic Discovery. Vollrath expects it to create a whole new summer experience which people will want to enjoy year after year.
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The Forest Flyer is located on the western side of Vail Mountain, just west of the Pride Express Lift (No. 26), and will feature a 3,385-foot long downhill portion. Guests will start and end at the top terminal located west of the Pride lift and will wind down through the forest, ending approximately half of the way down the length of the Pride lift, in between the Bwana and upper Simba trails. At the bottom, the guest’s cart will be pulled back to the top via a straight uphill track, roughly 1,700 feet in length. The zipline tour will include seven different ziplines, spanning more than 10,000 feet. The longest single zipline will be more than 2,700 feet; the highest zip line will be approximately 300 feet above the ground. There will be one aerial bridge, located between the fourth and fifth ziplines on the Game Creek canopy tour. It is a suspended bridge made of rope and wood planks that spans from one tower to another, and it is approximately 90 feet in length and 25-35 feet off the ground.
“(The zipline tour will be) a two-and-a-half-hour experience, very nature based and integrated with the mountain,” he said. “The guides that will be leading the guests on the tour will be talking about the animals and the mountain, the weather, the topography, the plants, all that stuff as the guests traverse from Eagle’s Nest down to the bottom of Game Creek Bowl, take the chairlift back up, take a series of zips and sky bridges back to Eagle’s Nest.”
LEARN THROUGH PLAY
Vollrath is most excited about a concept he calls “learn through play,” which will engage guests in an active way. In that area, Vail Resorts has enlisted in the help of one of their longtime partners, the Walking Mountains Science Center, which currently staffs the Nature Discovery Center at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola.
Markian Feduschak with Walking Mountains says as Vail Mountain sees more summer guests, so does the Nature Discovery Center.
“If you were to come and visit one of our programs, you would see that kids are learning a lot and they’re also having a lot of fun,” Feduschak said. “So that same concept is what Vail is looking to do through their various activities, so it’s not just about an alpine coaster and the climbing wall and the bungee jumping that they currently have, it’s about highlighting the natural environment and our public lands.”
Feduschak says in addition to what’s currently available at the Nature Discovery Center, Walking Mountains sees a lot more opportunities for education atop Vail Mountain.
“(Vail is) not just trying to expand summer activities, they’re trying to do it in what I think is a more meaningful way,” he said. “Folks can go up there and have fun, but they can also learn a lot too and hopefully come away more connected to nature.”
Vollrath said contrary to his experience at Disney, Vail is not trying to create a theme park.
“But if you take that emotional connection guests have when they go to a Disney theme park, they know the stories and … they’re kind of connected to what Disney is,” he said. “A lot of people get up to (Eagle’s Nest) and how can you not be awe inspired by seeing these views of the mountains? That’s what we want to connect with our guests as well. It’s totally different than a theme park, but that connection you get with it is very much the same.”