Zipping it up

Allyn Harvey

Snowmass is the place to zip it up these days.Snowmass Ski Area’s latest nonskiing amenity is a zipline on Velvet Falls. OK, it’s a sort-of-skiing amenity, because it requires either skis or a snowboard to use.It starts in a hut just below the Lynn Britt Cabin, where a team of zipline specialists fit customers into a harness and show them how to use the pulleys to belay to the ground once the ride ends. After the specialists are confident that their customers know enough about what’s coming, the scene moves outside to a ramp placed atop a mildly steep section of Velvet Falls.Zippers then put on their skis or strap on their snowboard and proceed to the starting area, where the harness is attached to a cord. At this point, the zipline specialists are telling their charges to snowplow down the ramp with a shoulder up against the cord, which is attached to a cable running between a short tower at the top of the slope to a tall tower at the bottom.It’s really not that complicated. Zippers start snowplowing down the ramp, the cord running up to the cable begins to tighten, the zipper picks up speed and before she knows it she’s flying through the air toward that tall tower a couple hundred yards down the slope.It’s literally a zipline, like the kind you might imagine James Bond or Indiana Jones using to escape some evildoer, except you’re flying, or flailing, through the air with a board or two strapped to your feet.A big shock absorber makes for a easy stop. The belay down is a cool way to end the ride. The zip only lasts half a minute or so, but it’s a pretty cool experience. (Word has it that the ride may lengthen next season.)The idea for the zipline came from two guys from Pittsburgh, Ron and Tom. According to sources familiar with the situation at Snowmass, Ron and Tom proposed the idea about three years ago. This is the first season the idea has been a reality, however.”The experience is still evolving,” the source said. “Those guys are still experimenting.”Avalanche reportAvalanche conditions are moderate at and above treeline, and low below treeline.Use caution when traveling at higher elevations today and keep an eye out for wind-loaded and cross-loaded areas. This will be the most likely area for human-triggered avalanches and a good place to exercise safe travel techniques.Avalanche danger details provided by the Roaring Fork Avalanche Center. For more information, call 920-1664 or visit For conditions around the state, visit