The Ultimate Alpine Playground | VailDaily.com

The Ultimate Alpine Playground

Vail Mountain’s new Epic Discovery program debuts this summer

Looking for something new, adventurous and educational to do this summer? Head for the top of Vail Mountain and check out Epic Discovery.

Connecting on-mountain experiences that immerse participants in activities that provide big-time thrills, this first-of-its-kind, on-mountain summer program features a variety of components, such as zip lines, canopy tours, alpine coasters, wildlife trail exploration, and interactive activities.

"Epic Discovery offers families the opportunity to learn through play together in the national forest," says Chris Jarnot, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Vail Mountain. "For kids, it will be the ultimate playground in an alpine setting."

Epic Discovery is designed to allow participants to challenge themselves physically, as well as guide them to explore — and better understand — their natural surroundings. Vail Resorts received final approval of the program from the U.S. Forest Service in 2014, and the resort began construction the following summer. Now it’s all in place and expected to open to the public on June 28.

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‘A thrilling experience’

The most dramatic activity, perhaps, is the Game Creek Aerial Adventure, a guided canopy tour that immerses guests in the forest habitat with an array of zip lines and aerial bridges for 2 miles of travel over 8 spans as high as 300 feet above the valley floor. Guests will learn about the mountain environment from interpretive guides along with way.

“With amazing views, varying zip lengths and heights, the new Game Creek Canopy is a thrilling experience. Zipping across Game Creek Bowl is amazing, and you don't realize how fast you are actually going on any of the zip lines until you are on one that was lower and closer to the trees — which put it all into perspective,” says Vail Mountain Spokeswoman Sally Gunter. “Guides at each of the platforms describe where you are at and help answer any questions about the surrounding environment. … (It) will definitely have you craving more."

Then there’s the Forest Flyer, a gravity-based alpine coaster that allows participants on individual sleds to descend 3,400 feet on a raised track through the forest while giving them full control of their speed; and an expanded trail system will include a wildlife exploration trail, featuring mountain flora and fauna and a series of installations that each resembles a different animal ability, such as vision, stride, agility and strength.

Vail's existing Adventure Ridge also has undergone enhancements with the addition of: two rope challenge courses; the Mountain Goat Climbing Tower; a bungee trampoline; the 550-foot-long Eagle’s Nest Tubing Hill; the four-line Golden Eagle Zipline for adults; a kids' challenge course; and a kids' zip line.

The Ultimate Adventure Pass, $89, offers guests 8 and older and 45 inches tall or taller, all-day access to Epic Discovery activities. For kids 7 and younger, there’s a similar Little Explorer Pass gor $49. Epic Pass holders, meanwhile, can ride the Eagle-Bahn Express Gondola for free and purchase discounted daily passes for Epic Discovery.

Mountain immersion

"Epic Discovery will provide an avenue for our summer guests to experience our alpine settings in a new, immersed way, similar to what our ski and snowboard guests experience in the winter," Jarnot says.

Vail Resorts is debuting a similar program at Breckenridge this summer, as well, with plans to expand it to Heavenly, in California, next summer. For more information about Epic Discovery, including tickets, visit http://www.vail.com.

— Vlm staff