Building on the success of its aerial lift and zipline tours, which traverse the forested hills overlooking the Mississippi and Illinois rivers in Grafton, Aerie’s Resort has started construction of an alpine coaster — the first of its kind in Illinois.
“We are so excited to bring a world-class attraction to Illinois and Grafton,” said Sandy Lorton, co-owner of Aerie’s Resort. “The alpine coaster has been something we’ve wanted to build at Aerie’s for several years, and now that dream is a reality.”
Riders will board a two-person coaster sled and descend the hillside on 3,000 feet of stainless-steel rail, cruising through foliage, skimming past limestone outcroppings, and twisting around natural formations in the landscape at speeds up to 25 mph.
“The alpine coaster is definitely going to have an impact on tourism in the Great Rivers & Routes region,” said Cory Jobe, president/CEO of the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau. “This means thousands of new visitors will flock to southwest Illinois to explore all Aerie’s — and the region — has to offer. The owners of Aerie’s do a great job of thinking outside the box when it comes to planning new additions to their already strong slate of attractions.”
Aerie’s is partnering with Wiegand Sports USA, the North American division of Wiegand Sports GmbH Germany, to design and build the coaster. With more than 270 installations worldwide, Wiegand is the market leader in the mountain coaster industry, and theirs is the only coaster that complies with the latest applicable DIN, ISO, ASTM, CSA, and CA-OSHA standards.
“Our topography really lends itself to having a very cool course,” said JD Lorton, director of operations at Aerie’s Resort. “A lot of alpine coasters are on long, narrow pieces of property. What we’re designing is unique. It’s going to follow the contour of our property, with different elevations, undulations, and turns.”
The alpine coaster is expected to open in September. Aerie’s Resort still has plans to add a mountain bike park to its property in the future, says JD, though he could not provide a specific timeline for that project.