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February 29, 2012
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G forces to increase at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park this summer

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - There are all sorts of records when it comes to amusement park roller coasters. A quick Internet search turned up records for the tallest, steepest, longest and fastest, all found at ultimaterollercoaster.com.

But Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park might just prompt a new category when it debuts its newly acquired "Cliffhanger" roller coaster later this spring - highest-elevation roller coaster.

The new coaster is modest by steel roller coaster standards. The Cliffhanger tops out at about 54 feet, compared to the tallest roller coaster in the world, the Kingda Ka, at 456 feet, located at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey.

However, the Cliffhanger will be situated high on Iron Mountain at an elevation of 7,160 feet above sea level.

"It's a good coaster with some good drops," said Glenwood Caverns co-owner Steve Beckley, adding the thrills will be heightened by the cliff-side curves and mountaintop views.

The coaster will be situated on the hillside above the existing attractions, and is one of three new attractions coming this year. The park is also installing a smaller, kid-friendly "Wild West Express Coaster" and a new mining-themed Ferris wheel.

Beckley, who owns the park with his wife, Jeanne, said he hopes to have the new rides open by Memorial Day.

"We were real conscious about getting a coaster that fit the family market but wasn't too extreme," he said of the larger coaster. "The [existing] alpine coaster has been our second most popular attraction since we added it in 2005, and the new rides will add to our appeal to roller coaster fans, and to everyone who enjoys thrill rides."

The Cliffhanger coaster was recently purchased from Celebration City in Branson, Mo., where it had been in operation for about a dozen years, Beckley said.

"They're really hard to come by, unless you buy one new," Beckley said. "The opportunity came up to buy this one, and we got in first."

Beckley said they hadn't planned to install the large coaster until next year. Since there was some competing interest in the Celebration City coaster, they decided to acquire it now.

The coaster would cost about $2 million new. The Beckleys were able to purchase the used one for about $800,000, including all the equipment.

"It will take 11 semi trucks to get it here," Beckley said.

The new attractions are part of Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park's five-year expansion plan, which was approved last week by the Garfield County commissioners.

The Cliffhanger will feature two trains, each comprising three cars that carry four riders apiece for an 80-second ride.

A portion of the coaster will be visible from parts of Glenwood Springs extending above the pinon-juniper tree line, according to the master plan that was presented to the county last week. However, the steel framework is to be painted a dark color and should blend in with the hillside, according to the plan.

The smaller Wild West Express Coaster is geared toward younger children, and will feature bumps, curves and hills on a train-themed track. It will have five two-person cars.

The small coaster was purchased used as well from an indoor amusement park in Canada, as was the Ferris-wheel-style "Mine Wheel," Beckley said. The wheel will be 32 feet tall, and will be situated where the existing climbing wall has been. The climbing wall will be moved to a new location.

"The good thing about this is it will double our capacity, from 1,100 rides per hour to 2,600 rides per hour," he said. "That will significantly help with the line waits."

The new rides are to be included in the Adventure Park's day pass, which are scheduled to remain the same price as last year.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Feb 29, 2012 12:37AM Published Feb 29, 2012 12:35AM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.