Tired of waiting for serious snow to go skiing? I got my vertical fix without the snow last weekend. I felt the wind zip by me as I descended Gunstock Mountain, with stunning views of the White Mountains, and the sensation of flying downhill. Ziplining at Gunstock satisfies that craving to soar down the mountain, providing that multi sensory adrenaline rush rivaling any ski descent.
Gunstock's ZipTour opened this November (after six months of construction and a cost of over $1.5 million), quickly earning top accolades as the longest zip line tour on the Continental U.S. Gunstock's zip covers a 1.5 mile total span descending the full 1,404-foot vertical of the NH ski area. The ZipTour starts at Gunstock's highly scenic summit, connecting to Pistol Peak, then plummeting to the base in just three segments. Compare that to Bretton Woods canopy tour which descends the mountain in 10 separate zips.
Gunstock's zippy experience starts with signing your life away, suiting up in harness and backpack, and heading out to the bunny hill to ride the magic carpet and practice on two short segments where your Adventure Guide teaches you to use the trolley brake and accelerate system. Being able to control your own speed is one unique aspect of Gunstock's ZipTour. You can take a slow scenic ride if you wish, stopping along the way down the tandem zip lines with your friend beside, or you can make it a race, tuck your feet up cannonball style and pull the trolley brake open wide to fly as fast as you can (that was my approach, more on that and reaching speeds of 65mph, in a minute). After orientation, you are clear for lift off, riding the Panorama Quad chairlift to Gunstock's 2,300-foot summit, in your helmet (provided or bring your own), and hiking boots or sneakers - instead of ski boots and skis this time.
Standing at the top of the Summit Zip, you have unmatched views of Mount Washington and Lake Winnipesaukee. I should mention zip lining here is not for acrophobics, as the platforms, spiral stairs and the suspended cable are as much as 155 feethigh above terra firma. The first Summit Zip is short and sweet, 273 feet, transporting you in exciting descent to the big zipper. The Recoil Zip is a whopping 3,981 feet, the longest fastest segment as you fly over Recoil and Gunsmoke ski trails to Pistol Peak. The whir of the cable as you descend is like that of a pterodactyl in pursuit. I can imagine that when skiers are on Gunstock's slopes below the zippers this winter, it will be quite a rush for both parties.
From atop Pistol, you descend your final 3,804-foot section, over the Blundersmoke Terrain Park (this too will be big fun when riders are hitting the features on the snow below and zippers are speeding overhead at 30-60mph. You zip over the parking lot, the snowmaking pond and on to the last beautifully constructed pine platform. I immediately wanted to do it again, perhaps taking a more scenic method, but more likely trying to match or exceed my previous velocity (which I tracked at 64.9mph with Navionics ski app on my iPhone as my first run of the season).
Gunstock's zip experience takes about 2.5 hours, and costs $65, open year-round weekends and holidays. For details, age restrictions, and reservations go to www.gunstock.com. It is an unforgettable, unrivaled downhill experience. If you are looking for an alpine adrenaline rush this weekend, zip up to Gunstock, just 1.5 hours from Boston, and be one of the first to experience North America's longest ziplines. Warning: this activity could prove addictive.
Photos by Greg Burke
Eric Wilbur is a lifelong recreational skier who spends most of his winter and spring in the mountains of New England. He does not ski in jeans. You can read more of Eric's work here.
Heather Burke is an award winning ski journalist with over a decade of ski news coverage. As a former ski instructor and a ski parent, she knows the ski biz from the inside out. She and her family visit New England ski resorts, as well as the West and Canada, to report on the latest trends and their best family finds. Her husband Greg takes all the accompanying photos, and their work can be seen at www.familyskitrips.com and www.luxuryskitrips.com.