I just moved jobs. Hence the lack of updates recently. I moved to Germany, home of beer, sausage and travelling rollercoasters, the latter I will hopefully try in October. However after visiting Europapark (review to come) I decided to try something new and not that common in the UK, an alpine coaster.
Travelling two hours south, past Munich, a Great Wall of mountains meets you, this is the start of the Alps. Winding your way through tiny villages with large, beer producing monasteries, above 3000ft you arrive at ski resorts. In the summer these are full of german families hiking up to the mid mountain cafe, feeling a sense of accomplishment then hiking down again. Not any more.
I got on the chairlift at Kolbensattel near Oberammergau and was going up the mountain, when I saw, descending on the other side of the chairlift two umbrellas.
It was at this point I realised two things. Alpine coasters are small, no luggage is allowed whatsoever. The second thing I realised was, not everybody is using the chairlift to ride this ride. Some are hiking for 2 hours to get to the top just to ride it down.
I however am a lazy tourist so I enjoyed the gentle swaying of the chairlift all the way to the top, well over 1000ft above.
Alpine coasters, for their size, are technically very advanced. Automated chairlift transport via conveyor belt and hook, detaching via pneumatic ramp, spiral stacking storage, magnetic speed limiting brakes, however, when all is said and done, you are still basically seatbelted to a tea tray with wheels, and believe me, this is a good thing!
Alpine Coasters are good for anyone, brakes on board mean you can control how exciting an experience you want. Mother and baby can go down at a leisurely pace, taking in the views. Or you can hang back at the top and go hell for leather, up stop wheels banging in the corners and the magnetic brake kicking in whenever you have a steep section of track. It is a great family ride. More exciting than the rollerskater type family coaster at your local theme park but could be tamer than a whacky worm.
I love the scope there is with an Alpine coaster. A mile of mountainside, go play. Drops down pastures and through tunnels, spirals over and under the track, diving curves like a giant slalom skier. The flow is none stop (providing you left a big enough gap to the person in front) no block brake, no mid purse brake run. However, there is a big but. Because you can brake anytime you want, that means you can also come to a complete stop anytime you want. And by extension this means the track always has to be going downhill so the carts don't valley and get stuck. This means apart from one or two pops at the start of drops there is zero airtime on an Alpine Coaster.
I absolutely loved riding the Kolbensattel Alpine Coaster. A really long ride compared to anything at your local park. Better scenery by a long way than almost any theme park. The staff were friendly and helpful but most importantly I had a lot of fun!