New ziplines offer thrilling ride through forestThe whoops and hollers are hard to mistake as you make your way to Washington’s newest zipline operation – the people up there in the trees are checking one more item off their bucket list as they fly through the forest canopy in an adventure that is part Superman, part Tarzan and 100 percent fun.
Open just since August, Leavenworth Ziplines is the newest edition to Mountain Springs Lodge Resort, a popular getaway in Plain, about a 20-minute drive out of the Bavarian Village of Leavenworth. Since its startup in 1990, the lodge has grown to a total capacity of about 140 guests, counting cabins both on and off the 122-acre property.
The zipline took a year to build and get all the permits to operate and it came about due to the fickle winters in North Central Washington. One year we get a massive snow depth, the next there are two big dumps and it’s already spring. Snowmobilers are good customers of the Mountain Springs Lodge, but they don’t come when snow conditions aren’t good. It was time to find an additional source of revenue.
Owner Bill Newell did his research and found that zip lines were proving popular tourist attractions in many areas of the country. After visiting various zip lines, he could see that the pristine, forested hillsides just behind his lodgings were ideal for building what would become one of the Northwest’s highest zip lines – about 200 feet in the air at some points. It’s not the longest, but there are a total of eight lines, with the longest being 650 feet. If that doesn’t make your knuckles white enough, they threw in two suspension bridges just for good measure.
But before you write this off an experience only for thrill-seekers, consider that everyone from kids to 70-year-old grandparents have been signing up to ride the new ziplines. With some simple instruction, a zip line is as easy as putting on a harness – your main responsibility is just to make sure your feet are in position for your landing. “It’s so simple,” says co-owner Jaimi Krenz, “you hardly have to know anything.”
The age range of zipline customers was something of a surprise, Krenz said. The owners knew young people would come but customers are all across the spectrum. That all-ages appeal works well for parties, conferences, retreats and even weddings where it’s fun to encourage everyone to try a new experience together.
A typical experience at Leavenworth Ziplines takes two to three hours altogether, depending on the number of people in your group (which can be up to eight people). You make advance reservations to go in one of two groups each day during weekdays, and up to six different groups on weekends. Each group has two experienced and well-trained guides – one that sends, one that receives the riders.
The eight lines start out with lines that are not as high – in fact, there is a separate line that is close to the ground that you can try just to get the feel of how your harness attaches to the line and experience what it’s like to “zip” along the line. You do have to be within a certain weight range – between 70 and 270 pounds – and kids must be at least seven years old. By the way, the scale mercifully is color-coded without numbers so no one is really going to see your weight.
The vast majority of customers are exhilarated but, just in case, there are several off-ramps along the way where you can exit before completing all eight zip lines. But that doesn’t happen often, and the whoops and hollers would seem to indicate people are pleased they took the plunge.
For more information, please visit www.leavenworthziplines.com or phone 800-858-2276. Prices are $75 for adults, $65 for children (7 to 15). The lines will be open through October and then open again in May.
RECOMMENDED LODGING: Leavenworth lodging
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