Mine Drop ride being installed this week at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park | VailDaily.com

Mine Drop ride being installed this week at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

John Stroud
jstroud@postindependent.com

The latest "coming soon" attraction at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park has created a lot of buzz in the amusement park world. Thrill-seekers are as on edge in anticipation as they expect to be when the ride actually opens this summer.

A sure sign that it's only a matter of time came this week, as the drop mechanism for the new Haunted Mine Drop arrived and is being installed high atop Iron Mountain.

"We have crews working literally around the clock to try to get things ready by July 4 weekend. That's our goal," said Nancy Heard, the park's general manager.

"This thing has generated a lot of interest, for sure," she said of press extending far and wide from national, state and local media to amusement park trade publications.

"I'm a little shocked myself about the number of people who know that the ride is coming," Heard said, noting that the Mine Drop also gained mention in a recent International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions feature release.

"To be mentioned alongside places like Universal Studios and Hersheypark is kind of flattering," she said.

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Building a thrill ride on the side of a mountain does have its challenges, Heard added.

The several-million-dollar investment included a major excavation. Workers began last fall to dig the 120-foot deep shaft that will hold the new ride. Add to that the winter and spring weather challenges, getting 40-foot-long rigs up the steep mountain road to the park and the accompanying logistical hurdles, and the ride installation has been an adventure itself.

Renowned thrill ride designer Stan Checketts, who worked with Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park owner Steve Beckley to develop the Haunted Mine Drop concept, was on site last week overseeing the construction.

The attraction will be similar to other drop-style rides, such as Disney's famed Tower of Terror. The Mine Drop is different, and uniquely Colorado, in that it will resemble an actual mine shaft with a historical theme involving ghosts of miners lost to underground tragedy.

"This is our first ever try at theming a ride at the Caverns," Beckley said in a January interview. "It's a real exciting thing to take a ride like this and put a whole story and theme around it."

That meant pulling some actual mining history together and building a ghost story around it, said Beckley, himself a geologist.

Meanwhile, Glenwood Caverns is gearing up for the official launch to the summer season this weekend, which is Memorial Day.

In addition to the new ride that's just around the corner, the park has been making several on-site improvements including new picnic and shaded sitting areas. There's a new tram entryway and exit, a covered porch and new western-themed facade to the main building.

The tent that used to cover the concession-stand seating has been moved to the former maze area, which is now called "The Fort." That's where a new melodrama performance and other entertainment will be staged starting this weekend.

The park has also been busy breaking in the new 35-passenger open-air vehicles that provide alternative access up the mountain in addition to a tram.