When you’re tired of hitting the white in your snowshoes or skis, Blue Mountain Resort has just the thing to let you coast for a while.
The resort, which of course is best known for its Alpine skiing, is also in the heart of snowshoe country around southern Georgian Bay in Ontario. The resort features several hiking trails that pull double-duty in the winter as snowshoe tracks.
All of those trails have the added challenge – or curse, it depends on your perspective – of heading pretty much straight uphill to the crest of the Blue Mountains, one of the highest points along the venerable Niagara Escarpment.
Monday to Friday through most of the year, resort staff offer guided hiking and snowshoeing trips on the trails. However, they’re also keenly aware that they need to remind visitors that the resort is very much a four-season attraction. Working in increments, the resort has been building a framework of other attractions to appeal to tourists.
The latest is the resort’s mountain coaster – a roller coaster in an open car that rushes visitors up and down the slopes on an incredibly scenic (if occasionally gut-wrenching) rail trail.
Paul Pinchbeck is the Marketing Director for Blue Mountain Resort. He was on hand Friday for the official opening of the $2.8 million project which is intended to run year-round.
“We think it’s going to be worth every penny. Essentially it is a roller coaster on the mountain,” Pinchbeck said as the first eager “guinea pigs” swarmed to try the attraction. “We pull you up about a thousand metres straight up the hill. Then there’s a winding track of about 4,000 metres that goes through corkscrew turns, over bumps and hairpin turns. It’s great fun.”
The coaster is a gravity powered system, where the slope itself pulls you back down at top speeds of 42 kilometres an hour. At that speed, it takes about four minutes to make the descent, which left several people screaming into the wind.
“That’s plenty of speed when you’re out there,” Pinchbeck said.
Alternatively, the cars come equipped with hand brakes that can limit the speed to something more practical for sight-seeing.
“Just don’t come to a stop,” Pinchbeck said with a grin. “There will be other cars coming.”
“It’s a European ride,” he added. “This one comes from Germany. There’s a few around North America, but it’s a brand-new concept in using gravity to have some fun.”
Construction took about nine months and the ride has been rigorously tested before opening.
It’s not the first time the resort has dipped into the coaster business.
“This ride is really the successor to the Great Canadian Slide Ride that opened in late 1978 and operated until the early 2000s,” said Pinchbeck. “We were forced to take it away due to the development here, but everyone was looking for a way to bring that kind of attraction back.”
He said the resort is planning to run the ride most of the winter, weather permitting, and in the evenings as well.
“We have had a good reaction to the coaster so far,” he said.
Unfortunately, the ride is a closed loop. That means any snowshoers or hikers who are hoping to use it for a quick ride to the top of the escarpment or for a fast run down the slopes is out of luck.
It might, though, be the perfect capper to a day on the hills when you want to put your feet up. So long as you don’t mind the screaming, that is!
Timothy Giilck photo.
BLUE MOUNTAIN RESORT – Visitors to Blue Mountain in Ontario Friday were quick to snap up the chance to try out the resort’s new Mountain Coaster Ride.
For more information about Blue Mountain Resort, visithttp://www.bluemountain.ca.