Free Falling

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Head Rush recently debuted its first Adventure Tower at Castle Rock Zip Lines in Colorado. The product, a single vertical structure where guests line up on stairs and platforms, was built with freefall in mind, as well as to showcase other Head Rush products. At Castle Rock the Adventure Tower includes a climbing wall, four rappelling stations, and, of course, a 70-foot FlightLine.

Other manufacturers are joining in, too. Maryland-based RISE Design, an engineering design firm that develops products for aerial parks, debuted its Gravity Tower in 2014. The towers, which range in height from 12 to 84 feet, include a 20-foot diameter footprint and a central staircase. Like Head Rush’s Adventure Tower, Gravity Towers do not require a continuous belay.

Jerad Wells, VP of business development at RISE, says freefalls were top of mind when the towers were introduced. One reason: throughput on freefalls is good. Wells estimates 120 to 150 users per hour, assuming jumpers don’t dawdle on the platform.

Another plus is that freefalls make a good spectator sport. “Freefall is drawing people,” says Wells. “Other elements at parks don’t get the viewers that free-fall does. Tall towers with people flying off them have turned into pretty good audience participation.”

Currently 12 Gravity Towers and four QUICKJumps are being used at two Hawaiian Falls Adventure Parks near Austin and Fort Worth, Texas. Evan Barnett, general manager at the Austin facility, says that the parks’ side-by-side freefalls are popular because they allow people to jump at the same time.

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RISE Design’s Gravity Towers, which range in height from 12 to 84 feet, include a 20-foot diameter footprint and a central staircase. Like Head Rush’s Adventure Tower, Gravity Towers do not require a continuous belay.

Operating the equipment, Barnett says, is a simple process that requires staff to clip users in instead of using a belay, which has allowed the park to reduce staff.

Barnett estimates that the Gravity Towers see 60 people per hour, while 30 to 40 jump off the optional freefalls per day. “It’s one of those attractions that you’ve got to have some guts to do, so it doesn’t get as much use as other things,” Barnett says. “It’s aspirational, like wanting the most expensive car, but buying the mid-level car instead. It’s cool to have it there. People can’t wait to accomplish it.”

To play up the challenge, Hawaiian Falls created commemorative rubber wristbands that park visitors earn when they complete a freefall.

“It’s definitely been a good addition that brings in a level of extreme that validates the ‘adventure’ portion of the adventure park,” says Barnett. “Freefall is a new element in the industry that’s been a huge help to us.”

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About Author

April Darrow is a Denver-based editor and writer. She was communications director for the National Ski Patrol, where she captained Ski Patrol Magazine and other publications, and is a former editor of the NSAA Journal. Most recently, she served as copy editor for Heinrich Marketing, where her clients included Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Humana and Kroger.

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