Adventure of the Week: Steamboat Zipline offers fun and picturesque views
July 18, 2017
Deep breath, look out and leap.
Soaring above treetops, legs dangling nearly 200 feet above the ground, attached merely by my harness to the galvanized steel cable above.
There's something thrilling about the combination of adrenaline, caused by speed and height and the wind in your face as the picturesque views of Lake Catamount, the Flat Tops Mountains and the Yampa Valley unfold below. This is what you experience during a zip line tour at Steamboat Zipline Adventures.
Located near Rabbit Ears Pass, the course features six different lines of cable ranging in length from 700 to 1,200 feet and reaching up to 40 mph, with two quick-jump belay systems and short hikes on trails from line to line.
The first zip line is 900 feet and travels through cottonwood trees to an outcropping on a variety of dirt or raised wooden platforms. The second line, which is 700 feet long, dissects a glade of aspen trees, and the third — my favorite of the day — is a total of 1,200 feet long.
But, before we could step foot on that first wooden deck, staring down a rope line that disappeared into the treetops, we had to get geared up with a full-body harness with trolley attached — these connect to the cable with two points of contact with safety lines, carabineers and pulleys — and a helmet. Sidenote: Don't make a rookie mistake like me and wear Chacos. For a zip line tour, you're required to wear enclosed shoes.
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Prior to clipping in, our guides led us to the demonstration area, where they showed us the basic elements of zip line position, explained what the lines would entail and gave a list of what to do and not to do.
Steamboat Zipline Adventures, which opened last summer, is run by Association for Challenge Course Technology, with certified zip line guides who are also CPR/first aid certified. Zip line tours are offered daily every hour starting at 9 a.m., with the last tour at 5 p.m. Tours are offered May 5 to Oct. 30, weather permitting.
At this operation, guides work in pairs — one zips across to the landing platform while the other helps guests clip in at the start of the line, so there will always be a guide at both ends of the line. Our guides (shout out to Ben and Kurt — thanks for answering all of my pestering questions) said, several years ago, zip lining was conceived as a way for workers and residents to transport people and supplies across canyons, rivers and other impassable areas in remote regions using similar cables and pulleys threaded between two points that had a slight decent.
With experience in climbing and canyoneering, it baffled me that all I had to do on this zip lining tour was sit back and enjoy the ride.
Though the tours only last about two hours, I couldn't help but wish we could go back and run each line one more time in quick succession. There was something surreal about seeing the Yampa Valley peeking through the trees as I dangled on the suspended cable or attempted to do a few tricks and go upside down.
The thought of zipping at high speeds high above the ground never really daunted me; maybe it was the "Cowabunga" I yelled each time that kept my nerves calm. But it didn't stop my shaky legs pumping with adrenaline — the rush, the thrill — it was over before I knew it.
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