What is it about the concept of leaving solid ground behind and playing in the trees that touches a nerve in so many people? Like you, when we were kids most of us here at EasternSlopes.com loved climbing trees and jungle gyms, balancing on tight ropes, fence rails and fallen trees over brooks, and swinging on anything handy. Fast forward to adulthood. The desire to climb and swing on things is probably still there. But suddenly, your mind automatically thinks about falling or, more depressingly, the consequences of falling. So most adults don’t climb things very much.
Of course every person is a little different. Some people just shudder and automatically shake their heads “no” when you even suggest such a thing. Others grin in a way that can only be interpreted as “Let’s GO!”
Want to know a secret? It’s the people in the first category, the ones who feel that initial shudder of fear shoot up their spines, are the ones who have the most fun on a treetop adventure course—if they can bring themselves to take that first step off the ground. Don’t believe us? Well, read what “incurable acrophobe ” Marti Mayne thought about her First Zipline Adventure at Sunday River.
“I spent a long time talking with our guides while we awaited the rest of the group’s arrival. Steve Lutterman, the zip “pilot”, assured me that there’s never been a zipline accident anywhere in the United States, and there wouldn’t be one at Sunday River today. Justin Leavitt, who served as the “wing man”, told me to trust the equipment. I learned that the harnesses are capable of holding 5,000 pounds, and the 3/8” steel zipline is the same line used to tow airplanes, so I didn’t have to worry that it would hold me (along with the rest of my friends and family!). Kim Han suggested that I not look down, but Justin advised me that looking down simply adds to the excitement.”
Excitement it was as, later in the adventure, Marti tells us “By now, I could really enjoy the absolute sense of flying, and was truly jubilant when I finished, knowing that I’d conquered my fear of heights, and lived to tell about it! I went from hugging a tree, fearful to even step onto the platform to the pure elation of zipping over frozen waterfalls.”
So don’t try to tell us that you are too afraid of heights to try a treetop adventure . . .
Treetop adventures, aerial adventures, canopy tours, zipline adventures, treetop obstacle courses, or whatever you choose to call them, used to be rare but are now sprouting up all over the landscape here in the northeast. Many ski areas have found them the ideal way to increase their spring, summer, and fall traffic. This means there’s at least one nearby for you to try. And, believe us, it’s worth trying.
As far as we can determine, the first aerial adventures here in the northeast anyone on the EasternSlopes.com team ever tried was a “team building” high ropes course at Bolton Valley in Bolton, Vermont which Tim Jones, our Executive Editor, tried in 2004. This was designed for corporate and school events, but was occasionally open to the general public. Sadly, this opportunity seems to have faded away, but maybe it will return with the current Renaissance of aerial adventures.
Still, that first taste of high adventure was enough to send Tim looking for other opportunities and, in 2006 he and correspondent Marilyn Donnelly jumped on the chance to try a real treetop aerial adventure course at Aventure Lafleche in the Outaouais Region of western Quebec, north of Ottawa. Tim tells us “I love heights, so I was eager; Marilyn was nervous (to say the least!) at first, but she tried it anyway. I imagine that her delighted shriek when she stepped off that first zipline platform is still echoing around the hills up there, these many years later!” We were both immediately hooked.
Since then, Tim and Marilyn have done two other courses in Quebec, both in the Eastern Townships just over the border from Vermont. The first was Arbre Aventure in Eastman (their website is only in French but they gave instructions in English). The second, which we did last September, was Arbre Sutton in Sutton, Quebec, just a couple of miles from the Vermont border. According to Tim and Marilyn, both of these adventures were “Fun, fun, fun . . . ” and they say they’d go back in a heartbeat. “As far as I’m concerned,” says Tim, “the Quebec courses are still the crème de la crème among the aerial adventures I’ve done. Here in the States, most of these operations have a guide with you every step of the way. But liability laws are considerably more relaxed (More sane? Personal responsibility, what a concept!) in Quebec, so they don’t have to babysit you every second. Instead, they teach you how to keep yourself safe, then turn you loose on the course. Personally, I like that, but other people might prefer the added security of closer supervision.”
Of the experience at Arbre Sutton, Marilyn says “Although this was my second zipline experience, I was terrified before I started. It gave me a HUGE sense of accomplishment and left me shaking from the adrenaline. It was even better than skiing down a black diamond trail. I was really proud of myself for overcoming my fear and doing as much as I did. If you’ve never done an aerial adventure course, you owe it to yourself to accept the challenge and try it. You don’t have to do it all or love every minute of it, but not trying at all would be sad.”
The first canopy adventure tours in New England were at Tenney Mountain in Plymouth, N.H, and Alpine Adventures in Lincoln, N.H. Tenney Mountain is, sadly, once again now closed to skiing and canopy tours (we hope it comes back someday; Tenney was one of our favorite old-fashioned ski hills). But Alpine Adventures is still going strong. In fact, they’ve created the zipline/canopy tour opportunities at Hunter Mountain in New York and and Waterville Valley in New Hampshire. Unlike most of these course which use ski lifts to reach the starting point, the original Alpine Adventures takes you up the hill over a VERY rough road in a six-wheel-drive military transport (an adventure in itself). Then you zip down on a whole series of ziplines. They offer two options. One, the Treetop Tour” starts easily at ground level and takes you down the hill in stages, gradually ratcheting up the height and speed. The other, called the SkyRider, launches you at 60 feet in the air for an immediate adrenaline rush. We haven’t done that one … yet.
Assistant Editor Jonathan Gourlay and his family are rapidly becoming aerial tour addicts. They had so much fun checking out the huge Aerial Treetop Adventure at Gunstock Mountain in New Hampshire that they soon had to try the ArborTrek Canopy Adventure at Smugglers’ Notch in Jeffersonville, Vermont. Jonathan tells us that his whole crew had fun. His boys took to it instantly, and he found himself channeling his inner super hero. At the end of his second attempt to fly, Jonathan said “Clearly, this is one of those adventures that crosses a lot of boundaries between people “types.” In skiing, the adrenaline junkies may go for a bumped-up double diamond, but the more cautious types won’t go near it (nor should they, as it could be dangerous to a less-skilled skier). But here, if you have ANY sense of adventure, you can literally take that leap into the void, overcoming your natural fear. And, if you’re a confirmed nutcase like Becket, you can jump right in and have a ball. It’s a great way to build ties among family members; an exhilarating experience can be shared regardless of skill levels. Give it a try!”
SOOOO Many Options!
New ziplines and aerial adventure course are springing up everywhere these days. If you did two a week, you might have a chance to try all of them before the snow falls. They range from very basic single-ziplines that take a couple of minutes (think of them as amusement park rides) to real adventure courses which take several hours and will test muscle, nerve and stamina. You can surely find one that suits you.
Alpine Adventures in Lincoln, N.H. offers two entirely different zipline courses from the top of the same hill. One starts easy on a low zipline from ground level. The other launches you immediately from the top of a 60-foot-high platform. Your choice . . .
Aventure Lafleche in Val-des-Monts, Quebec (north of Ottawa, Ontario), which, improbably, offers both a treetop adventure course and a chance to explore a series of caves.
Bousquet Mountain in Pittsfield, Mass, opened their new Aerial Adventure Park last summer .
Bretton Woods has a big Aerial Adventure Tour which runs year ’round.
Catamount in Hillsdale, NY/South Egremont, MA has an Aerial Adventure Park, a primarily Self-Guided challenge park with 11 courses and 148 platforms in the trees plus two 2,000-foot zip lines which run parallel to each other.
Cranmore Mountain Resort in North Conway, NH opened its Aerial Adventure park last summer.
Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford, N.H. raised the bar last summer with a huge, self-guided aerial adventure course patterned after the ones in Canada. EasternSlopes.com’s associate editor Jonathan Gourlay took his family on a Zipline Adventure at Gunstock and everyone gave the experience a big thumbs up!
Hunter Mountain in Hunter, New York has a huge zipline course and Adventure Tower.
Loon Mountain has added a brand new “Aerial Forest Adventure Park” while keeping its zipline across the Pemigewasset River.
Smugglers Notch has a big canopy tour nearby which includes 8 ziplines, 2 suspension bridges and 2 rappels.
Sugarbush in Warren, Vermont has an 800-foot zipline at the Lincoln Peak base area.
Sunday River in Newry, Maine, has an elaborate zipline adventure.
Wildcat in Pinkham Notch, NH has a double zipline so you can race . . .
Zoar Outdoor in Charlemont, Mass. has a full aerial adventure course right next to Berkshire East which has two of the longest ziplines in the east (one almost half a mile long over a valley) For a story on what else to do while you are at Zoar, go here