Courtesy of Holiday Valley
Standing atop the central platform at Holiday Valley’s new Sky High Adventure Park, I looked out at the treetop courses surrounding me. Each one—from the easiest to the expert-level “Commando”—consists of a series of platforms with obstacles that bridge the gaps between them.
Some obstacles I faced were simple, such as a rope ladder, an unsteady bridge, and a series of logs on suspended cables. Others, however, were considerably more difficult and tested my stamina and balance. On the tightrope, for example, I shook uncontrollably and kept a death grip on the rope hanging in front of me until I reached the platform on the other side.
At times, it’s up to the participants to figure out for themselves how to complete a bridge. One that I traversed consisted of two cables, with wooden beams blocking the path on both. I decided to shift between cables to avoid the obstructions as I crossed.
The reward on each course—besides, of course, the satisfaction of completing it—is the zip line. Soaring through the trees on one of these, feet dangling below you, is a complete adrenaline rush. Each course ends with a line that carries participants to the ground, and many include at least one during the course itself as well.
The adventure park, located near Tannebaum Lodge, had its grand opening May 21. Manager Brian Halloran describes it as a way to expand Holiday Valley’s summer amenities, which also include a golf course and swimming pool.
Halloran says the park is also a popular choice for business conferences or wedding parties, because it brings groups together in an entirely new way. “The team building comes naturally as people get up there,” he notes. “Groups start encouraging each other, telling each other how to get across the elements, and working with each other closely.”
Designed and constructed by Outdoor Ventures, the $2.5 million aerial park took three months to create and had to meet safety standards set by the Association of Challenge Course Technology. Its designers, who have also built parks in Maryland and Catamount, New York, worked to make sure it was not only safe for visitors, but environmentally friendly as well. Platforms are not bolted into trees, and any cables that are wrapped around trees are checked constantly so they’re not cutting into the bark.
When visitors arrive at Sky High, they are fitted with a harness and shown how to use the carabiners before going up to the courses. As part of the safety system, one carabiner always remains locked so participants cannot unclip until they reach the ground at the end of a course.
Beginners start on a yellow or green course like I did, while more advanced climbers can jump ahead to a more difficult one requiring greater agility, balance, and strength. Each course gets increasingly higher in the trees, with the highest standing more than 60 feet off the ground.
Children must be seven years old to participate and at least 36 inches tall, and those under fifteen must be supervised on advanced courses. Otherwise, the park is open to all ages—Halloran notes one of his employees is seventy-five and can complete the courses daily.
For Halloran, the best part of Sky High is figuring out how to negotiate an obstacle and testing one’s personal limits. “It’s a self-guided tour, and it’s challenging,” he says. “It’s kind of like skiing, where you’re trying to build up to that top level, that ‘Commando’ course.”
The Sky High Adventure Park is open daily through September 5, and on weekends through October 9. A three-hour session costs $42 per person, with discounts for larger groups. For more information, visit www.holidayvalley.com or call 699-2345.
Frequent Spree contributor Matthew Biddle swears he was not scared at all during the research for this story. Honestly.