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14:02 Page 48


Ride Profile www.parkworld-online.com


Mountain Coaster capital of the world


Because of their thrills and scenic locations, combined with modest cost and relative ease of construction, mountain coasters have proliferated worldwide. North American editor, Paul Ruben reports


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ecause of their thrills and scenic locations, combined with modest cost and relative ease of construction, mountain coasters have


proliferated worldwide. They are found on mountainsides, often at ski resorts. While several theme parks claim to be the Roller Coaster Capital of the World, or of their region, for those who cherish a ride on a mountain coaster there’s only one place to go, the Mountain Coaster Capital of the World.


Rider Controlled Brakes For the densest concentration of mountain coasters, aficionados head for the adjoining vacation resort towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg in Sevier County, Tennessee, which is nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains. Often called the Smokies, these mountains rise along the Tennessee–North Carolina border in the southeastern United States. Pigeon Forge is perhaps best known as the home of Dollywood, which boasts nine non-mountain roller coasters. But Mountain Coaster Capital? Yes, indeed. Where most mountains may boast a single mountain coaster, Sevier County has eight, with two more scheduled to open soon!


Evolving from alpine slides, the predecessor of the


mountain coaster first appeared in 1975 when Josef Wiegand installed the first stainless steel tracks for the alpine slide in 1975 rather than the customary fiberglass or concrete tracks. His company, named for himself, later developed the first mountain coasters in 1997 when he imagined a roller coaster-type ride for ski resorts that would take advantage of the topography of the land, rather than building the structure to create the elevation changes that traditional roller coasters require. He called it an Alpine Coaster. Since then a variety of safety features, speed,


tracks, and layouts have been introduced by others. Leading makers of mountain coasters include ADG, Wiegand, Brandauer, Alpine Products, and Techfun (previously Erbschloe Fun Construct). There are currently 283 mountain coasters operating worldwide, including 191 in Europe, 47 in Asia, 41 in North America, two in South America, and two in Africa. Mountain coasters, or alpine coasters, are a type


of roller coaster with bobsled-like cars on tracks installed on a mountain. They follow the terrain downhill. They are similar to alpine slides where a low-wheeled sled is used to navigate the track, but instead of running over smooth concave tracks like the alpine slide, alpine coasters run on rails with up- stop wheels just like traditional roller coasters. Tracks are usually tubular rails, like those on steel coasters, while some have monorail-type tracks. Unlike a traditional roller coaster, the rider has the capability to control the car’s speed with its rider-controlled brake system. Alpine coasters can also operate year- round, even through light rain and snow.


Best Ride in Town In the Mountain Coaster Capital of the World of Sevier County, eight mountain coasters come in all shapes and sizes with two more on their way. Here’s what visitors can choose from. There are three in Pigeon Forge, the Smoky


Mountain Alpine Coaster, Rocky Top Mountain Coaster, and The Coaster at Goats on the Roof. Five in Gatlinburg include the Rowdy Bear Mountain Coaster, Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster, Ski Mountain


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Coaster at Ober Gatlinburg, and Rail Runner at Anakeesta Village. Rowdy Bear is also home to the Mountain Glider, a suspended coaster, while Smoky Mountain is building a second mountain coaster to open by year’s end and Rowdy Bear is adding a second in 2020. Here are some details. Built by Wiegand Sports,


the Smoky Mountain


Alpine Coaster in Pigeon Forge opened in 2013. At 5,325 feet (1,623 m) including 1,385 feet (422 m) uphill and 3,940 feet (1,201 m) down, it claims to have the longest downhill track in the U.S. The elevation drop is 363 feet, taking riders at speeds reaching 27 mph (43 kph). Like most mountain coasters it operates year-round, snow, rain, or shine, and is fully illuminated for night rides. The attraction goes smoothly through 70 acres (28 hectares) of wooded mountain land and two bridges crossing the creek. Riders have a great view of the city of Pigeon Forge all the way up to Sevierville. According to manager Rick Christie, “Guests say this is the best ride in town.” They plan to introduce a second mountain coaster by the end of 2019 that will cross over the existing ride.


Collision Avoidance Unlike other mountain coasters, the Rocky Top Mountain Coaster in Pigeon Forge includes four lift hills and four drops. There are four tunnels each 40 feet (12 m) long, or a total of 160 feet (49 m) of tunnels. It is themed, going past many black bears, some as long as nine feet. The four uplifts make for a very entertaining ride. There are four 360º spirals and numerous S-curves that are part of the four downhills, each more intense than the previous. Built by Wiegand and opened in November 2018, the layout starts from a low point of 1040 feet (317 m) above sea level and rises to a highest point of 1,181 feet (360 m) offering a maximum drop in a single segment


AUGUST 2019


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