by Paul Ruben
At a height of 6,288ft, Mount Washington in northern New Hampshire is the tallest mountain in the eastern United States. Its motto, “home of the world’s worst weather,” seems apt. On the balmy summer day I was there the temperature at the top was just above freezing with gusty winds. During the winter it is in a deep freeze with frequent blinding hurricane force snow storms.
Just across the highway from Mount Washington is Wildcat Mountain, one of America’s prominent ski resorts. I visited because they had just added a ZipRider, a new high-tech version of the classic gravity-powered zip lines. Consisting of a pulley suspended on an inclined cable, riders travel from top to bottom wearing a harness fastened to a removable trolley.
Although zip lines can be dangerous, the ZipRider has an unblemished safety record. Unlike a zip line ride, no waiver signing is required. Because it seemed like a rollercoaster I had to ride it, not that I’m compulsive.
Once strapped into the seat, suspended from the overhead cable, I could look across to Mount Washington with its peak in the clouds. Then I looked down. It was a long way down. The cable stretched almost half a mile and dropped over 500ft. As instructed, I placed my feet against the trap door in front of me, grabbed the straps from which I dangled, and the door sprang open. Off I flew down the mountainside, and I quickly spread my wings.
What a gorgeous view! The valley was spread out below, the ski lodge in the distance, and the people looked like ants. Smooth and swift, I raced down the inclined cable line exhilarated by the warm breeze and the view below. After nearly a minute I reached the bottom, braked to a stop, and hopped off.
Exhilarating? Yes. Thrilling? Not quite. With no undulating coaster hills and no twists and turns there was no adrenaline rush. No, this wasn’t a rollercoaster after all, but it is an experience not-to-be-missed and could be a wonderful addition to an amusement park or action park. It’s a low capacity ride, so an up-charge is appropriate.
Unlike a hillside Alpine Slide in which the rider is expected to control the speed with hand brakes, ZipRider controls the speed. Good thing. I’ve always thought that if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space. That is, I like to go fast, but the last time I rode an Alpine Slide I eschewed the hand brakes with predictable results. It was very thrilling but quickly became a burn-your-butt ride. I flew off as my sled left the pathway and I continued down the concrete slide on the seat of my pants. My pants died that day; I survived.