Mountain Coasters Give Resorts a Year-Round Revenue Ride

Five resorts — Breckenridge, Copper, Snowmass, Steamboat and Vail — are now home to raised-track alpine slides

Colorado ski resorts appear to have found the X factor to turn winter slopes into summer playgrounds: mountain coasters. Five resorts — Breckenridge, Copper, Snowmass, Steamboat and Vail — are now home to raised-track alpine slides. Purgatory, near Durango, will debut one this summer.

Snowmass is already selling out of its Breathtaker Alpine Coaster rides, where passengers buy $49 passes for unlimited coaster and tubing sessions in a two-hour window. “(We) have had nothing but positive reviews,” says Liz Rovira, public relations manager for Aspen Skiing Co. “Some people say it’s more fun than skiing!”

Colorado tracks top out at 6,280 linear feet and 10 minutes of ride time at Steamboat’s Outlaw Mountain Coaster. Alpine coasters hit about 25 miles per hour and feature single- and double-ride options, hand brakes and automatic decelerating controls in the event that cars come too close. In both winter, which requires manual snow-clearing efforts, and summer, coasters provide another way to experience the mountain.

Breckenridge’s Gold Runner Alpine Coaster, which is significantly shorter at just 2,500 feet, offers cheaper pricing to match: Children start at just $12 per ride or $27 for unlimited rides in a single day.

Most mountain coasters have dips, banking corners and 360-degree turns, but they vary in exposure. Copper Mountain’s brand-new Rocky Mountain Coaster, for example, is easily accessible from a terminal near popular base-area lift American Flyer, but quickly tucks riders into trees on an elevated forest excursion.

“We wanted to make sure it wasn’t an eyesore from the guest’s point of view,” says Taylor Prather, public relations manager at Copper Mountain Resort. “It follows the natural curvature of the terrain and really gets you quickly into nature. We were also able to construct the coaster without taking away any skiable acreage.”

Prather says a surprising number of people have reported coming up just to ride the rails, which at Copper was built as part of a $20 million capital investment in the resort. Whether it’s just the initial novelty of the amusement or a sustaining revenue stream remains to be seen, but at Copper’s $25 per adult ride, or two for $35, the alpine asset may pay off faster than expected.

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