Friday, July 15, 2011

Zip Tahoe - Ziplining Fun!

This is me ziplining in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It was a fabulous course of 13 lines zig zagging across the jungled canyon above a river. After that experience, the thought of doing single lines did absolutely nothing to even stir an interest in me. Yes, there are single lines nearby, most notably at Heavenly (discontinued) and Moaning Caverns. Why would I want to pay $30-$50 for a single ride down a single zipline? BORING!

Then last winter I received a half off deal for Zip Tahoe at Kirkwood. Turns out that they have 8 lines currently built with more on the way. Another bonus, they are open year round. Personally, I have little interest in ziplining in ski pants and a parka in the cold. That's why I waited for the warm sun, up to the deadline of my coupon running out.

My experience with Kirkwood goes back to my marriage. Kirkwood is my ex's favorite ski resort and he would work as a ski tech in the rental shop in order to get a season pass. I had never skied before. We ended up working the weekends and I became a rental cashier. This got us our season passes and allowed me free rental equipment to learn how to ski.  If you look at your GPS it will tell you that it is about two hours to get from Sacramento to Kirkwood. Luckily I knew a shortcut from my skiing days to avoid some of the highway traffic.

Zip Tahoe is not a part of Kirkwood resort, they just lease the zipline area - more specifically, the trees. The course was built and is run by EBL, a company with a proven track record of installing safe, quality zip courses throughout the United States and other countries. The Zip Tahoe (ZT) course is the first one in Northern California.

Currently the ZT tour is offered at $125 per person which includes a course of six lines and two suspension bridges. There are two other lines and another suspension bridge to the north of the main course. During the winter, only the six line course is available. The plan is to offer the two line course as a cheaper alternative for those not wanting to pay the higher $125 price. Other lines are in the planning stages, so in the future there could be different price points with different levels/numbers of lines and thrill factor.

You start at the office at the south end of the resort. After gearing up in harnesses and helmet, you are driven by ATVs to the bottom of lift 7 to catch a Snowcat to the top of lift 7. Once the snow melts, the ATV is able to make it all the way to the top. Since winter was so wet and long this year, with Fourth of July skiing the week before, there was still enough snow that we got to go by Snowcat. The first thing to run through my head when I think of Snowcats - The Shining. LOL.

When I did my tour in Mexico the zipline course zig zagged through a canyon with platforms sometimes on trees and sometimes from the hill/cliffside. At ZT all of the lines start from tree platforms. This means that from the time you climb up to the first platform to the time you finish the course you are hooked in at all times. And not just one connection, but two. Each harness has two clips so that while one clip is being moved from point to point your other clip is still hooked up. You are NEVER unhooked from some safety hold at ANY time.
Our course guides were Meagan and Justin. One would always be at the end of the line to catch people and one always secured you and got you off the launch at the start of the line.

None of the lines are super long as I had in Mexico, but that should change as they continue to build lines. The longest line was about 400 feet long. The higher platforms were up about 100 feet on the tree, so when you looked down, it was quite a long way down.  When you zip you are not allowed to go upside down, but you can go with just one hand holding the line. I like to tuck into a ball and go one-handed. Tucking up tight makes you go a bit faster.

Between some trees are the suspension bridges. Once again you are always securely hooked up to an overhead cable. This seems to give the guides license to shake the bridges as much as they want. Be prepared for a harrowing crossing. The bridges are not tight planked either. Some of them are single planks (think of a child's swing) that you have to swing back and forth on and reach out to the next plank. The bridges are scarier than the lines!

Most groups are about 10 people, but our group was small with only 6 people. They say the course takes 2-2.5 hours. That's because the entire group finishes a line before they start the next line. Since we were a smaller group, we got done early and so they gave us a bonus of the two northern lines. That was great because line 8 is the longest line of all and takes you from a 100 foot platform down to the ground at the other end.

Oh, the minimum weight to go is 75 pounds. So if your child meets the weight requirement, they can go.

Personally I'm all for the most lines possible. But since we are in the States, the prices are definitely more than a foreign country. But then, the safety standard is higher as well. Either way, more lines equals more value for your money. I look forward to the course getting even larger in the future.

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