If you’re wondering if you can fly without wings, you can. You absolutely can. And the new Adventure Park at Mount Sunapee in Newbury, NH is a great place to prove that. It’s the latest in a whole series of ziplines and treetop adventures now open across the northeast. Spending a couple of hours flying fearlessly through the treetops on their brand new zipline course is every bit as fun as it sounds, especially if you are lucky enough to be at least apprehensive, if not downright scared of heights.
My sweetheart Marilyn and I have zipped a number of times before. This time, we wanted to share the experience with people who had never had done it. Ziplining makes a great family-and-friends outing. Hopefully, one of them would be at least nervous . . . so she and I assembled our own little group. A number of our friends (you know who you are!) had initially signed on, then waffled and finally wussed out. One stayed home and cleaned her house. Sad, very sad . . .
We ended up with a group of six: us, Marilyn’s godchildren Ryan and Erin, one of my sons, Justin, and his girlfriend Louisa, who is, it turns out, scared of heights. Zippers travel in packs of eight so we were joined by Tammy and Denise, two locals who, much to my delight, were were both seriously “concerned” about the elevation of this adventure, very vocal about their misgivings, and totally into trying it; they were great fun to have along!
Like all zipline adventures. Mount Sunapee’s starts with signing your life away on a lengthy legal release form (which seems silly since the most dangerous part of the adventure was driving to get there). Then you are outfitted with a harness and a helmet. Your guides obsessively check you every step of the way as you gear up. The harnesses at Sunapee are the most elaborate I’ve ever seen, with shoulder straps to keep you from falling out in the (very unlikely—almost unimaginable) event you ever ended up upside down (not that you could fall out of a properly-worn waist harness). The harnesses are equipped with a heavy-duty roller block attached by a stout strap (the kind used to hoist heavy cargo), and TWO heavy duty safety lines with locking carabiners. Serious overkill–I think this setup would hold a grand piano. You also wear a helmet. On some zipline setups you need gloves, but not on Sunapee’s—this is a very genteel zipline.
Then it’s out to the chairlift for a pleasant ride up South Peak (Sunapee’s learning area in the winter). At the top, you walk a hundred yards to the start of the first zipline. At Sunapee, you travel the zipline course with two guides. One guide clips you onto the lines, double-checks everything for you. You aren’t allowed to even TOUCH any of the safety gear yourself lest you do something foolish. The other guide is there at the end of the zip to catch you, help you onto the platform and make sure one of your safety lines is clipped at all times (That’s why you have TWO safety lines–so one always stays clipped while the other is being transferred). Some of the other ziplines and aerial adventures I’ve been on, especially in Canada, require you to take much more responsibility for your personal safety. Sunapee’s setup is better for beginners. Especially nervous beginners.
For our first zipline, one guide waited at the bottom as we climbed one at a time up a cargo net to reach the first platform (about 10 feet up). There, the second guide waited to clip (and clip) us onto the safety lines. Again, you aren’t even allowed to touch your safety carabiners–they do it all for you. When everyone was safely on the platform, one of the guides zipped away nonchalantly to show us how it’s done—or just to show off her fearlessness. Then the remaining guide clipped (and clipped . . . and clipped!) the first zipper on to the line with the roller block and both safety lines. Once you were clipped (and clipped . . .and clipped), the guide gave you the OK. From there it’s all downhill (and really fun) on seven different ziplines, two suspension bridges and two rappels (where they lower you from one platform to another by rope).
The first line is the toughest, especially for anyone who is feeling nervous. Everyone was pumped up on adrenaline for that first zip. The guide clips you on, then it’s up to you to launch yourself. Taking that first leap off the platform is an act of will. In our group, Tammy, Denise, and Louisa all were clearly having some second thoughts, maybe a little apprehension (OK, they were scared silly), not knowing what to expect. They had a bigger hurdle to get their feet off that first platform than the rest of us, but the smiles at the end said it was worth it. Some of the shrieks were pretty loud. So was the laughter from the on-lookers still safely roped to the trees. Even some of us who had zipped before, done rock climbing or aerial tricks on skis and were comfortable with heights shrieked a little. Though your rational brain tells you it’s perfectly safe, your more primitive synapses still feel that thrill . . .
Sunapee’s ziplines have these really nifty automatic brakes which slow you down before you reach the end platform, so you glide in for a gentle landing. All you do is go along for the ride and enjoy every second of it. Remember, at the end of the zip, the guide catches you, helps you stand on your feet, and clips you to the safety lines so you couldn’t fall if you tried. By the second zip, everyone’s still pumped up, but the nervous grimaces have given way to huge grins. And so it goes, down the mountain . . . Gradually you learn to trust the guides and the equipment, so the fear disappears but the fun doesn’t. By the end, it’s the people who were most scared who are having the most fun.
In addition to the seven ziplines, you also have two suspension bridges to cross, one wide and stable, one very narrow and bouncy. Don’t worry, you are still clipped to safety lines. And there are two rappels, where the guide clips you to a rope and lowers you to a platform below. It’s all fun, but the ziplines provide the most adrenaline.
The last zipline, the longest at 1000 feet, is a double where you can race someone. (Hint if you are the competitive sort: get a running start, tuck into a cannonball to present less surface area to the wind and choose the right-hand zipline if you can. On this day, at least, it appeared to me the right hand line was a tiny bit faster than the left). This double zipline is also available as a stand-alone ride if you don’t want to do the whole course. But resist the temptation. One zipline isn’t enough to really let you let go and enjoy the ride.
The Sunapee Adventure Park is brand new this summer. They launched in late June with the zipline course and Segway rides. Since we zipped, they’ve added a Disc Golf Course and the first segment of what will be a treetop adventure challenge course. OK, we’re going again. . .how about you?