My 19-year-old, Henry, is pretty set on being as “manly” as possible at all times. Yet even he looked a bit askance at the sight before him.
“You mean I’m going to just be hanging on that little cable over that mess of a river?” he whispered to me.
That “mess” of a river was the Colorado, and the water was the highest it had been in 11 years, looking somewhat akin to a washing machine on the rinse cycle. I told him not to worry. After all, there were people much heavier than he “zipping” across, and the steel cables were guaranteed up to 5,000 pounds.
Suddenly, it seems, everyone is zip lining — on beaches, in the mountains and, in Colorado, over a raging Colorado River. Zip lining, also known as a “flying fox” zip wire and aerial runway, enables thrill-seekers to travel from the top of an incline-mounted cable to its bottom, propelled by gravity, and using a pulley suspended on the cable. The passenger holds on to a cable or is attached by a harness, which is clipped to the cable onto the freely-moving pulley and then races through the air, Tarzanesque, at speeds up to 60 mph, while heights can be up to 200 feet or so off the ground.
Costa Rica was the first to cash in on the sport and to popularize it some 12 years ago, but in the past few years, zip lining operations have grown immensely throughout the world, and Colorado’s high country has caught the bug. Some zip line outfits have just one course, taking less than an hour, while others have more than 20, requiring several hours to go through them all.
Late in June, we had spent the night at the Glenwood Canyon Resort, just east of Glenwood Springs by the NoName exit off Interstate 70. A delightful gathering of wooden cabins, tent campground and RV park, the resort caters to everyone’s tastes from rustic to comfort, and best of all, it has its own zip line and rafting outfitters. And this year’s raging river makes it more thrilling than ever.
Henry and his sister, who had tried zip lining in Mexico’s Riviera Maya once before (“but that was when I was just in middle school, and then I wasn’t scared of anything,” she whimpered,) joined the mandatory safety class with a dozen or so others. Glenwood Canyon has a practice zip line low to the ground, and is thorough about explaining procedures and checking attachment cables and harnesses. Typically, zip line companies require participants to weigh between 70 and 270 pounds, wear closed-toe shoes, and to keep hair and clothing secured. Make sure your company takes safety seriously. There is inherent danger in zip lining, and it should not be considered an amusement park ride.
So, how did it go with my own teenagers? Amanda, 17, confirmed that zip lining is much scarier at 17 than at 14. “Scary, very scary, but fun,” she reported. And the 19-year-old? “Cool,” he said, hiding well the fear he must have felt just minutes earlier. Flushed and smiling, he answered, “Sure,” when asked if he’d do it again. “When?”
If You Go
You can try ziplining in various places in Colorado, but here’s the short list.
Breckenridge White Water Rafting
AVA’s Colorado Rafting & Adventure
Soaring Tree Top Adventures
Glenwood Canyon Resort
Royal Gorge Zip Line Tours
Captain Zip Line Adventure Tours