Wolcott zip line allows humans to fly | AspenTimes.com

Wolcott zip line allows humans to fly

Ian Cropp
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
A zip liner soars across a canyon in Wolcott. Zip Adventures offers several daily tours, and may include some evening and moonlight tours later this summer. (Mallory Olenius/Vail Daily)

WOLCOTT, Colo. ” Nearly every kid has the same dream: To be able to fly.

Well for those kids, and former kids who are now adults and even grandpar­ents, there’s an easy way to get that bird’s-eye view: zip lines.

And the good news for Eagle Valley and Roaring Fork Valley residents is that they don’t have to travel far to fly.

Zip Adventures, which started giving tours late last summer, is back this year, offering tours out of Wolcott. And as its name suggests, the zips aren’t just a straight shot from point-to-point.

Even before you arrive at the first line, you get a feel for the terrain ” in a six­wheel 1976 Austrian Army vehicle. After the tour leaves from 4 Eagle Ranch, where you get geared up, the guides drive you down U.S. Highway 131 then up and around Jeep trails as you sit in the back, ready to deploy.

As you take an easy hike up to the first zip, the guides point out the lay of the land. All six of the zips move you across the canyon and rushing river below. The opening zip is a bit of an introduction. First- timers get a feel of what it’s like to ride on a zip line, while experienced zippers can relax and enjoy the view. Before you take off, you get an idea of just how safe the whole operation is.

“It’s over- engineered,” said company manager Sheldon Kuhns. “The industry standards in the United States are so strict, and for good reason, but this is very safe.”

The zip line could hold a few chairs like a ski lift, and there are a pair of cara­biners attached from your harness to the line. Not only do the safety measures provide some comfort, they also allow you to sit back (or lean forward) and not have to worry too much about the land­ing.

Once you’re clipped in, you walk off the platform and let gravity do the work. The first zip takes you 250 feet at about 8 mph, with the canyon floor 75 feet below. If for some reason you get spun around while making your way across, there’s a guide at the end to make sure you’ll be landing on two feet. After the second zip ” a bit faster, longer and higher ” you take a hike up to the next platform.

The idea for Zip Adventures popped up back in 2005 when Tom Backus, the owner of 4 Eagle Ranch, told Kuhns and Zip Adventures owner Charlie Alexan­der about an ideal canyon.

“We went out there to look … and we fell in love with it,” Kuhns said. “It’s a great spot and it also was easy with the ranch having control of the land.”

After getting the proper permitting, Zip Adventures had to figure out where to put the zip lines. The process wasn’t terribly hard; the land and previous zip line dictated where the next zip line needed to go. And Kuhns said they wanted to have the zip- lines increase in length, height and speed. They decided on six zips, as it would make the tour last from two to two and a half hours.

The third zip is a prime opportunity to take in the 360-degree view. At 400-feet, there is plenty of time to watch the waters rush through the canyon, the mountains to the north and south and the giant tree on your left. As you’re heading by the tree (“Old Abe” ” the father of all the other trees) try to grab a pinecone. If you don’t get one, at least you’ll know what it feels like to let loose and allow the zip to do all the work.

Really, you don’t need to have a death grip on the rope connected to the line.

“People think of a zip line as an extreme and scary activity. It is a thrill of a ride and fun to do, but not like jump­ing out of an airplane. It’s mellow,” Kuhns said. “Last year we had just two people decided they didn’t want to go once they got there. But we had a grand­father do it for his 72nd birthday, along with his daughter and grandson, who was 8. All three did it together. It’s for any age.”

At 20 mph, the fourth zip really gets you moving. On the fifth, you’re 200 feet above the canyon for a 620- foot ride. If there are wind gusts, which isn’t out of the ordinary for that area, you may have the fortune of not making it all the way from one end to the other. Being suspended above a canyon for a few seconds isn’t the worst place in the world to hang out.

On the final zip ” the Leap of Faith ” you ride the length of the canyon at about 30 mph, an IMAX- like experience, except unlike in the movies, you really are flying.

Tours run seven days a week at 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. through Nov. 30, weather permitting. Later in the summer, Zip Adventures plans to host evening and moonlight tours.