Don’t let the smile fool you, sports reporter Jeff Lajoie is anything but confident just seconds before heading down the Recoil Zip at Gunstock last week. Bill Quigley. (click for larger version)
August 06, 2012GILFORD – There's no better way to clear your mind than flying through the air at 60 miles per hour. I found that out firsthand last week.
The Gunstock Mountain Adventure Park is home to all sorts of exciting options, but the shining light of the bunch, so to speak, is the ZipTour Ziplines. Opened for its first summer of use, the ZipTour measures in with almost 9,000 feet of ziplines, making it the longest in the continental United States. That stands ups up internationally as well, with Gunstock's lines ranking fourth and sixth in the world. Needless to say, they've been popular since making their debut in Gilford.
I wasn't quite sure what I was getting myself into when I headed over to Gunstock on a Tuesday morning, but it wouldn't take long for me to figure out just how intense of an experience this ZipTour would present. The morning started at the Adventure Center at the base of the mountain, where I met up with Bill Quigley, Director of Marketing and Sales at Gunstock. A ZipTour pro at this point, Quigley was coming along with me for the ride, giving me the ins and outs of the various lines and what to expect as we made our way all over the mountain.
We were fitted for our harnesses to begin the morning, as I tightened everything a little bit extra just to make sure I wasn't going anywhere once we got onto the tour. We were both fitted with a helmet and a backpack, which held the physical cables that we would be clipping into the massive structures.
"Make it tight enough so when you lay back, you feel like you're in a hammock," Quigley says to me as I fasten in my harness.
"As long as I still have circulation in my body, I'm making it as tight as I can," I answer back.
After we're officially outfitted for the day, we head to the Demo Zip, located just outside the doors of the Adventure Center. It's the first stop of the day, measuring in at just 45 feet with a four-foot vertical drop. You're just 6-8 feet off the ground here, as you learn how to maneuver the zipline for the very first time. It's a pretty simple process, as once you're clipped into position, your only necessary control is a pull cord located just above your head. Pulling down on the cord gets you going, with the harder you pull, the faster you go. Easing up will slow you down, and you have the ability to completely stop as well if you ease up all the way.
We get through the demo zip painlessly, and head a little ways to the Base Zip, stop number two on the five-stop tour. This is where you get a little more experience, as this line measures in at 450 feet with a 40-foot vertical drop. You're up just a bit higher here, about 20-30 feet off the ground, with max speeds reaching 15 miles per hour or so. We make our way up to the platform, chatting with a family from Pennsylvania that is spending their week camping in the White Mountains but made the trek down to Gunstock for the day to experience the ZipTour.
After successfully completing the Base Zip, we next make our way across the mountain to the Panorama Summit Chair Lift. This is where things start to get real in a hurry, as Quigley and I grab a seat and begin the long journey to the summit of Gunstock where the big fun awaits.
Having gone through two small zips at full speed, my biggest problem at this point is my inability to keep my body facing forwards. The faster I go, the more my body begins rotating, and I'm often kicking my legs to try and regain some balance. The various guides set up throughout the course all have different pieces of advice for me, from leaning back in my harness more to steering with my legs. Needless to say, I'm not the most graceful zipliner they've ever seen.
After the long journey to the top, we arrive at the Summit Zip. This is our last "warm-up" zip before we get to the main course, with this one measuring 273 feet but a bit steeper at 43 feet of vertical drop. You're still about 20 feet off the ground, but speeds here get closer to 25 miles per hour and you've got a pretty nice view of the lakes and mountains below.
With the completion of the Summit Zip, Quigley and I head to the longest zip on the course, and the longest in the continental U.S. called Recoil. If we weren't high enough already, a tall spiral staircase takes you to the platform, where you've got incredible views below to distract you from the fact that you're about to be strapped in and dropped down the mountain at crazy speeds. This is where I start to get a little nervous for the first time, reminding myself that after the long trip up the chair lift, there's only one way to get back down.
"Awesome, isn't it?" Quigley asks me as a guide clips in my harness.
I mumble something incoherently, thinking in my head that I'll keep a nice steady pace and enjoy the scenery as I methodically make my way down to the bottom. That all changes when the doors open and I pull down on my cord, however. I decide to see how fast I can go, get the full experience of my first ziplining experience. Recoil measures in at a whopping 3,981 feet, with a vertical drop of 688 feet. We're off the ground some 100-140 feet throughout our trip, with speeds of over 65 miles per hour possible. It feels every bit of that speed as I fly down the mountain, not even thinking about the scenic views as I continue to pull down as hard as I can for maximum speed. I'm not halfway to the platform when I eye Quigley out of my peripheral, barreling past me on his line at even greater speeds. While I won't win this race, I continue down as we get low enough to travel at tree-line before ultimately coming to a stop at the platform.
At this point, I'm completely amped up. We've still got one more trip on Pistol Zip ahead of us, and the slight nerves I felt just minutes before are completely gone. I'm ready to keep going.
We make our way to the next platform and ready ourselves for the final time before heading down Pistol. This zip measures in just a tad under Recoil, with the length of 3,804 feet and a 584 foot vertical drop. You're a little closer to the ground (45-50 feet), but speeds of 60 miles per hour and up are possible as you head to the bottom. The best part about the final zip is you fly over the parking lot and pond, getting a view of everything that's happening on the ground before coming to a stop for the final time.
After taking off the harness and helmet and finally planting my feet back on solid ground, Quigley gives me a brief tour of another one of Gunstock's big summer activities, the Aerial Treetop Adventures. Another new addition to the mountain, the Treetop Adventures features 91 different challenges on eight different courses in nine acres of land. Things ranging from cargo nets to smaller ziplines and everything else in between, there are all sorts of challenging features to entertain both kids and adults. The scenery in the woods isn't too shabby either, and there are quite a few people taking to the course on this particular day.
We head back to the Adventure Center and the starting point of our journey, two hours or so after departing earlier in the morning. I thank Quigley for his guidance, and while it wasn't the prettiest thing ever seen at Gunstock, the trip was an absolute blast. My adrenaline still pumping, I force myself to get in my car and head back to the office after crossing yet another thing off my Lakes Region bucket list.
The ZipTour at Gunstock costs $69, and all participants must be at least 10 years of age or older. For information and to make reservations, visit the mountain's website at www.gunstock.com or call the Adventure Center at 737-4388.