Sugarloaf zip lines a huge hit

Posted Sept. 01, 2010, at 6:31 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:26 p.m.

Three weeks after opening its new zip line course, officials at Sugarloaf are pleased with public reaction … and busily planning more ambitious lines for people to ride.

Ethan Austin, Sugarloaf’s communications manager, said the zip lines have been so popular, staffers have tinkered with the original schedule in order to accommodate more riders.

“If [zip line tours] haven’t been sold out [every weekend day], it’s been within one or two [riders],” Austin said. “It’s been really, really, phenomenally good.”

Zip lines are cables hooked to two stationary points. Riders wear climbing harnesses and attach a metal trolley to the line. That allows them to slide — or, more accurately, roll — down the line to a platform at the other end. Riders can be 20 to 25 feet above the ground and speeds can approach 25 mph.

The original schedule called for zip line rides only on the weekends. Sugarloaf added rides on Fridays to meet the increased demand, and will also be open for rides on Labor Day.

“We had so many calls for reservations and people were making reservations weeks and weeks in advance, so we added another day to try to provide a little bit more inventory so people could take advantage,” Austin said.

A quick warning: If you want to ride the zip lines, call first to find out if the resort is sold out on the day you want to visit. Austin said some people are already reserving spots in October.

John Diller, Sugarloaf’s general manager, said that the resort is already making plans for even more impressive zip lines.

The longest of the six lines in operation is about 250 feet long. Coming soon … maybe: A monster line.

“The next move, and we’re hoping to get it in this fall, is a big zip line that would be about 1,000 feet long,” Diller said. “[It] will start up on The Landing and take you right over the bottom of the Superquad [lift line] and you’d land a little further over, on the west side of the base area.”

That proposed zip line would be within view of the base lodge and riders would slide over one of the busiest parts of the resort.

“So you’re actually going to be able to zip right over all those folks waiting to get on [the Superquad chair lift], which I think is huge,” Diller said.

Perhaps the best part: You won’t be riding alone.

“It’s going to be a double line, so you can race each other,” Diller said. “[Resort owner] Boyne has found — they’ve done this in Michigan — it’s just a huge, huge thing.”

The zip lines are a Boyne initiative, and the resort company has had success with the activity at other venues.

Zip lines have helped revitalize Sugarloaf during a typically slow season, but mountain officials haven’t stopped there.

In addition to the zip lines, Sugarloaf has been offering scenic chair lift rides up the mountain on weekends. Diller said the response to those rides has also been positive.

“On lift rides, we’ve done as many, I think, as 900 on a Saturday. So they’ve been fantastic,” Diller said.

While Sugarloaf has promoted the lift rides on its website and newspapers have informed readers about the program, Diller said a simple promotional tool has paid huge dividends.

“We’re finding … that by putting a sandwich board just down on [Route] 27 on the weekends we’re getting a lot of north and south Canadian business that really surprised me,” Diller said.

Coming up …

During a Tuesday press conference Sugarloaf’s Diller and Boyne East President Stephen Kircher unveiled plans to expand the resort and make it the largest ski area east of the Rocky Mountains.

They also talked about the resort’s 10-year-plan, called Sugarloaf 2020, that calls for a number of pretty ambitious projects.

On Saturday I’ll tell you more about Sugarloaf 2020, and let you know what you can expect from the resort in the years ahead.

Stay tuned.

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