BIG SKY — Look! Up in the sky! It’s, it’s ... well, it could be you flying over the base area of Big Sky Resort, tiny skiers and snowboarders craning their necks upward as you whir along overhead, hooting with excitement.
That’s because the state’s biggest ski area has added a twin zipline to its arsenal of fun things to do on the mountain this season. For $19, visitors can speed at about 15 mph twice across 1,650 feet of cable while dangling up to 80 to 90 feet off the ground. Because there are two lines, the 45-second ride can be done side-by-side with a friend, doubling the laughter and hooting quotient.
Ziplining is easy. Riders climb into a harness that loops around each leg and over the shoulders. In the middle of the front of the harness, two heavy leads are attached. One of the leads is hooked onto the pulley that allows the zipper to glide. The other is hooked into a large carabiner that acts as a safety strap. Riders also wear climbing helmets to protect their noggin.
From a small platform next to the anchoring pole that supports the uphill end of the cables, Big Sky’s guides attach each rider to the zipline, counting through eight safety checks.
Zippers then step down from the platform and walk off into Big Sky’s thin air to experience 45 seconds of wind-in-the-face fun. The ride stretches from just above the inner-tubing area, a hill called Chet’s Knob, across the base area to a platform above the bottom of Ramcharger lift. Along the way there are expansive views of the surrounding mountains and spine-tingling glimpses of resort life below — skiers swarming and swimmers soaking in the Summit pool. All too soon it’s over as riders ease into the landing area, smiling widely and as giddy as schoolchildren.
“This is more of a family-friendly experience,” said Nick Efta, one of the zipline guides, in comparing the Twin Zipline to the resort’s wooded Zipline Tour.
The Zipline Tour is three separate routes that Big Sky installed in 2009 that have proven extremely popular. The tour is also more of a time commitment, taking about an hour and 15 minutes, compared to the Twin Zipline’s 30- to 45-minute experience, most of which entails walking between rides.
“It has the potential to do more trips because you don’t need a reservation,” Efta said.
Other ski resorts, including Whitefish Mountain, have installed the rides as a way to expand entertainment offerings for guests. The nice thing is the ziplines are usable in the summer and winter.
The Twin Zipline is open to the public Thursdays through Sundays from 2 to 8 p.m. Rides take off from Big Sky’s Basecamp, a building at the base. The ride does involve some walking between the
takeoff and landing zones, so dress appropriately. Before the Magic Carpet lifts are shut down, though, riders can chug uphill on the large green conveyor belts part of the way.
Contact Brett French, Gazette Outdoors editor, at email@example.com or at 657-1387.