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New Attraction Takes Flight at Gunstock

Kathi Caldwell-Hopper - May 9, 2011

For Bill Quigley, director of marketing and sales Gunstock Mountain Resort, it’s all about the “little wows”.

What are little wows and how do they relate to the huge expansion now underway and set to be completed soon at Gunstock? “Little wows are the memory makers,” explains Bill.  They are the things families do together that they remember for a lifetime. They are small, wonderful experiences that bring a family—from grandparents to small children—together for fun. Those wows are traditionally a song around a summer campfire, an impromptu gathering at the lake for an afternoon swim with an aunt and uncle or a day spent at a local fun area.

“At Gunstock, we think of family as a verb,” Bill goes on to say. Family at this resort equates to fun, memory making and togetherness. And that is why the expansion plans at Gunstock—including three unique attractions—has the makings of lots of little wows for families.

The attractions will be a new Aerial Treetops Adventure Course known as ATAZip, Mountain Segway Tours and a new canopy ZipTour. All offer families a unique opportunity to have fun outdoors in spring, summer and fall; indeed, the ZipTour will run year round and will allow guests to travel high over the Gunstock area for breathtaking views in winter as well as summer.

Quigley is very excited about the expansion, which is currently under construction, with ATAZip and Segway tours set to open by Memorial Day weekend. The public had better prepare for something totally new that will add spark to the Lakes Region each summer and fall. No matter what your age or ability, Gunstock will have something for you.

The expansion is happening thanks to support from the Gunstock Area Commission and the Belknap County Delegation. Gunstock will invest 2.1 million dollars between now and the summer with the installations of these three attractions. “In our five-year planning process, we identified opportunities that exist with new gravity based attractions that will give the Lakes Region a solid boost in family fun,” says Greg Goddard, Gunstock’s general manager. “With several good winters under our belt, we are excited to be adding these fun filled attractions seasonal to our winter business and directly target the 3.4 million visitors to the Lakes Region each summer.”

What will visitors experience come Memorial Day weekend at Gunstock? The first two attractions will open and will include the new Aerial Treetops Adventure Course known as ATAZip, and Mountain Segway Tours.

ATAZIP is a high ropes, zip line and obstacle course within the trees. Thirty-five campsites near the pond at the base area have been reconstructed for the zip tour.

For those who think this will be a typical ropes course or zip line, think again. “We are asked all the time if we are putting in a zip line and it’s a difficult question to answer,” says Bill, “because there will be 20 zip lines installed when everything is completed. ATA will have 91 games that include 41 course challenges covering over 1000 feet, 22 ladders, and 12 zip lines totaling almost 1,400 feet in length. ATA will be comprised of eight courses including two training courses, one kids’ course (you must be 42 inches tall) and five differing levels of adult courses.”

Once you are through an orientation and training seminar and mandatory demonstration of your understanding of the challenges, you will be working through the course on your own with guides throughout the course making sure you follow the rules and helping if necessary. The ATA course will be the largest high ropes, zip line and adventure course in New England. The experience is expected to last two to three hours.

The course will be the first of its kind in New England and only the third such attraction in the U.S. designed to challenge a participant’s personal limits.

During the spring, a crew that specializes in this type of construction has been busy preparing the tall pine trees on site and creating the course. Construction started in March with limbing the trees to allow the forest to breathe. No bolts are being put in the trees as the course is installed; tension screws are used for safety. The course includes everything from logs to cross, a spot to ride a skateboard over the course and much more. Safety is the first concern; those who do the course are harnessed at all times and everyone must complete a training session. If at any time a participant is unsure of proceeding on the course, they receive help and the chance to stop.

The course is set up in colors with a blue line for children, and a black line for a greater challenge with other colors in between.

Gunstock’s new Mountain Segway tours utilize the new Segway X2. Gunstock will have the only Segway tour experience at a ski area in New England and will offer some of its 50 miles of alpine and cross-country terrain giving guided nature and historical tours of the area. The Segway tours get visitors up on the mountain to see views and offer a new experience on the trails of the area. Segway tours will run two-hour experiences.

“Segway called us when the company saw what we are doing with the expansion and suggested we do the off-road tours on the Segway X2,” says Bill. The invitation seemed to fit the outdoor adventures at Gunstock and the opportunity was simply too good to pass up. Those who want to explore the hills and woods around the resort will adore the Segway X2 tours, which are reminiscent of the rough terrain one can conquer on a dirt bike or ATV; however, it’s all done via a Segway! (Participants must be age 14 and up for the Segway tours.)

Targeting an opening for the beginning of July, the newest canopy tour experience in New England, the ZipTour, will comprise eight different zip lines. The ZipTour will have the longest zip lines in the U.S. Two of the zip lines allow visitors to travel 3,900 feet and drop 650 vertical feet on an average 18 percent grade thanks to new technology that will give each rider the ability to control the speed of their descent.

Those who want a thrill can travel up to 56 mph, and sightseers can stop and look around while hanging 155 feet in the air. As with everything designed for fun at Gunstock, safety is of the utmost importance. After sign in and the safety and orientation process, each person will be taken to a demonstration and test area to prove they can use the equipment on a zip line in the bowl area. Each rider will then take a short walk to the Panorama lift where the real adventure will begin.

After a fun lift ride (Bill is excited that the tour will allow Gunstock to run two of its chairlifts all summer), participants take a short zip line from the summit to Tower 2. At Tower 2 they latch on to the longest zip lines in the U.S. and travel side-by-side with another rider on their own zip line 3,900 feet to the top of Pistol going from peak to peak and at one point 155 feet off the ground. Those who want to watch family members take the zip ride can do so from three different observation points.

Then it’s time to catch your breath, dismount and take a hike to your next zip. The next zip line goes another 3,900 feet down the face of the mountain, over the parking lot and the snowmaking pond to the landing zone next to the ATAZip course. Each person will travel on over 1.5 miles of zip lines of this memorable and unique experience.

“The cool thing about the ZipTour is that is connects generations,” says Bill. “Everyone can do something and have a lot of fun.”

The expansion at Gunstock will debut just in time for all the things the Lakes Region is known for in the summer, from Bike Week to SoulFest, the Lakeside Living Expo, CraftFest and Timberman Triathlon, to name but a few major events that brings thousands to the area. Weddings and corporate outings take place regularly at Gunstock; what could be more fun than a bachelor or pre-wedding family party with everyone choosing something fun to do at the Adventure Park?

The expansion at Gunstock will bring big excitement, and long after visitors go home, they will remember the fun they had challenging themselves on the courses, seeing the Lakes Region in all its splendor from the ZipTour or getting into the woods on a Segway.

These might seem like simple pleasures, but the warm memories carried away are priceless. And for Bill Quigley and the staff at Gunstock, that’s what the little wows are all about. 

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