New Seven Springs zip lines let riders glide through trees, over slopes


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Seven Springs Mountain Resort may have been a little short of natural snow this past winter season, but it's still coming up with ways to keep visitors zipping over the slopes and through the trees.

The resort recently opened a second zip line course -- Laurel Ridgeline Canopy Tours -- with 10 lines that appeal to all types of riders.

"I've guided a wide range of people, from mountain climbers and adrenaline seekers to people who spend most of their time in the city," lead guide Stephen Bush said about the tours that began May 25. "It's really an experience for the entire family."

The zip lines, which measure roughly 7,000 total feet, vary in length, height and speed.

The longest, Timberline Terror, runs for 1,500 feet -- more than a quarter of a mile and 150 feet in the air -- at the culmination of the four-hour tour, while the shortest, Red Oak Run, measures 145 feet.

Over a day, riders can expect to be anywhere between two and 175 feet off the ground.

The zip lines navigate through both the crowded canopies and open expanses of Seven Springs' mountain. Its original course, Screaming Hawk, goes over only open areas.

Screaming Hawk, a 90-minute course, includes four zip lines measuring a total of 2,000 feet. It opened last summer.

Laurel Ridgeline Canopy Tours is more integrated with the natural terrain. Its lines connect from tree to tree, sending riders through the mountain's budding forests, just as a bird would navigate the crowded trees and swooping vines.

While providing an exhilarating experience, the tour also gives panoramic views of Western Pennsylvania.

Some of the best can be taken in on the Laurel Observation Deck, which riders visit halfway through the tour. On a clear day, even Pittsburgh's skyline -- about 50 miles away -- can be spotted from the deck.

The new tour also offers a rappel station, elevated log bridges, a few short nature hikes and a ride up Seven Springs' Polar Bear Express six-person lift.

Riders are assisted during all aspects of the course by a lead guide and assistant guide.

The lead guides complete 70 hours of rigorous training, including completion of three types of rescues, three written tests and a final judged tour with Seven Springs officials, Mr. Bush said.

The process is overseen by a representative from Bonsai Design Inc., which designed and constructed the Laurel Ridgeline Canopy Tours.

Based in Grand Junction, Colo., Bonsai Design also designed the zip lines at Adventures on the Gorge at New River Gorge in West Virginia, and Hocking Hills Canopy Tours in Ohio.

"These courses are a great way to experience nature and the trees without a harmful impact," said Maxwell Wheeler, an installer for Bonsai Design.

"The adrenaline that runs through your body as you step off the platform is awesome," Mr. Bush said. "Just seeing the beautiful landscape around you and being out here with no worries makes for a great experience."

Tours cost $95 per person and begin on the hour between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily, weather permitting.

Riders must be at least 10 years old, weigh 90 to 250 pounds and have at least average mobility and strength. Tours are limited to groups of eight escorted by two guides.

Reservations are recommended. Call 1-800-452-2223, ext. 7905. Full information is available at www.7springs.com.

region - lifestyle

Rob Wennemer: rwennemer@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1723.


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