“Owww-owwwwwwwwww!” The man howled as he soared through the air, hurtling over the treetops at 50 mph.
“What is this lunatic doing?” I wondered. “He’s hundreds of feet off the ground, flying at an alarming rate of speed with nothing but a couple of metal clips, cables, and a woven harness keeping him from an untimely demise. He’s crazy! How on earth is he having so much FUN?”
Oh wait, that lunatic was me.
I was halfway down the Skyline span of the new Hidden Valley ZipTour and loving every second. It turns out I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie, unable to help myself when it comes to anything combining the words “zip” and “line”. Thus, when Terrain publisher Brad Kovach asked if I wanted to join him on a preview of the ski resort’s new four-season feature, it didn’t take long for me to respond that I was in.
Hidden Valley debuted its new ZipTour attraction on Saturday, June 29, but Brad and I were fortunate to get an invite for a sneak-peek prior to the Grand Opening. We arrived at the lodge in Eureka on a sunny Thursday morning, excited to see what the new attraction entailed.
After a quick introduction from our guides, Hannah and Nolan, we stepped into our state-of-the-art harnesses, which allowed each of us to sit beneath the zip line. They’re sturdy, secure, and pretty comfortable — at least as far as a harness can be considered “comfortable”.
After taking us through a safety briefing, our guides led us onto the grounds and over to our first span, aptly named Greenhorn. It’s a short, introductory span for those new to the art of zipping. The mechanisms employed on the Hidden Valley ZipTour are unique in that they have a braking system, allowing you to control your rate of descent. We successfully demonstrated that we were capable of operating the brakes, and then it was off to the ski lift.
Yep, you read that right: the Gateway Chairlift carries zip liners uphill to the launch platform of the second span in the tour. In the sun, heat, and humidity of June, it was difficult to imagine the green hillsides covered in snow, spotted with winter-clad skiers and snowboarders. I guess I’ll have to come back in January.
At the top of the lift, it’s a short jaunt to the second span: a 1,631-foot zip line named Gloria. While it will be forever linked with the Blues’ Stanley Cup run, Gloria also provides perhaps the best view of the entire tour; at the midpoint of the span, you find yourself suspended 200+ feet above the ground, the valleys and rolling hills of Wildwood and Eureka opening up to the right. It’s an incredible view, one worth pulling on the brake and slowing down to admire. That said, be sure to carry your momentum through the second half of the span all the way to the landing platform or you might end up just short and have to be “rescued” by your guide. (Ask Brad for tips on that.)
After completing Gloria, there’s a short, steep uphill hike through the woods to the third span, called Expedition because 1) it passes over the Lewis & Clark ski run and 2) at 2,806 feet — just over half a mile — it’s quite a trip. This span also provides great panoramas of the surrounding area, opening up to a beautiful view over a pond towards the bottom.
After unclipping from Expedition, it was another short hike back to the Gateway Chairlift, then up again to the launch platform for the final span on the tour, the aforementioned Skyline. On a clear day, you can see the profile of downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch from the launch platform. This span has the steepest decent, allowing riders to attain speeds of 50 mph and above; it’s an adrenaline-packed whirlwind from top to bottom, a perfect way to wrap up an awesome experience on the Hidden Valley ZipTour.
Let go of the brake, let the adrenaline flow, and let loose a howl: “Owww-owwwwwwwwwww!” You’ll be glad you did!
Author: Nick Tilley is a regular contributor to Terrain Magazine