GLENWOOD SPRINGS - Big plans for the Glenwood Canyon Resort near Glenwood Springs are expected to finally come to fruition this year and next, according to one of the owners of this resort.
A "zipline" adventure ride spanning the Colorado River is expected to be open for business by Memorial Day, and ground was recently broken for the long-planned No Name Grill. The plans are part of a move to attract tourists to exit Interstate 70 just east of Glenwood Springs on the river and check out the local offerings.
The grill, originally planned for an opening last year, was delayed, but is now expected to be open for business in the spring of 2011. In addition to the restaurant/grill and a large deck overlooking the Colorado River, the building will have employee housing in the basement and a couple of apartments on top, according to one of the resort's owners.
The zipline, however, is nearly finished, and part-owner Jeff Hale said he hopes to begin testing, and perhaps offer special deals for locals who want to give it a try, some time in May.
"We are in the process of placing 50-foot-tall poles in the ground - that's the height equivalent of a three-story-tall building - which will enable us to build the jumping platforms for the ziplines," said Kevin Schneider, owner of Glenwood Canyon Resort, in a press release issued recently.
Schneider was out of the country last week, so Hale took a reporter on a tour of the new facility.
The zipline facility consists of four towers in total, two on each bank of the river, at the tops of which thrill-seeking adventurers are harnessed to a pair of cables with a stout, double-wheeled pulley arrangement, outfitted with a helmet and gloves, and sent speeding along a 350-foot ride some 30 feet above the river.
Launching from the western bank of the river, the zipline delivers its riders at the top of a nearly identical tower on the eastern side. A rider can either clamber over to the other tower on the east bank for a quick return to the western bank, or take advantage of some of the other amenities incorporated into the towers on both sides.
In addition to the zipline itself, two of the towers boast climbing walls - one on each bank of the river - as well as a "High Adventure Ropes Course" and several plank bridges to test one's mettle.
There also is "what we call a trapeze jump" on one of the eastern towers, Hale said - a trapeze bar suspended about 7 feet from the tower, about chest high.
For this thrill, a customer, still harnessed to safety cables, stands at the edge of the tower platform and leaps outward to grab the trapeze bar - or, if unsuccessful, to be dangled on a belaying rope and lowered to the ground.
"It tests your comfort level," Hale said of the amenity. "You have to believe in the equipment and the belayer."
Each tower sports three ziplines, so that three riders can cross at one time.
Hale said he was not certain how fast the riders will be going, noting that speed is a function of weight in this case, so heavier riders are likely to move faster, unless they activate the hand brake that is available to slow them down.
But the rides from either direction are "real close in speed" to each other, he said.
Hale stressed that safety is the chief concern of the builders and the operators, noting that, "Really, from the moment when you're no longer in that stairwell [leading to the launch platform] you will be clipped in" and attached to safety cables at all times.
He said the cables will be inspected annually by the builder, and daily by the employees operating the ride, using standards established by the Association for Challenge Course Technology, an industry self-monitoring organization headquartered in Texas.
"We expect this to be pretty popular," he said, noting that the 35-year-old Rock Gardens Rafting company, also owned by Schneider, serves between 12,000 and 14,000 clients a year on the average, and many of the rafting public are likely to want to try the other attractions.
Plus, he said, all the other rafting companies that operate in Glenwood Canyon will float beneath the zipline as they pass No Name, providing invaluable free marketing.
"These have become really popular," Hale said of zipline rides, noting that they often are built in conjunction with summer camps or facilities that offer team-building activities to corporate personnel.
He said the resort plans to begin marketing to corporate clients, Boy Scout troops and other organizations this summer, once the staff has settled into the operation.
As for future expansions, Hale said, "We should be set for a while. I think we want to just wrap our hands around this, get it running comfortably," before embarking on anything new.
He said the resort expects to have a staff of perhaps 80 or so, or roughly a third more workers than Schneider estimated were needed to run the resort in 2007.