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Finding Minnesota: Spirit Mountain’s Alpine Coaster

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77654_Mike Binkley WEB Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 ye...
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DULUTH, Minn. (WCCO) – If your business depends on a certain type of weather to bring in customers, you can face a lot of uncertainty.

But Spirit Mountain Ski Resort has eliminated some of the ups and downs of business by adding some new ups and downs to its slopes.

The alpine coaster known as Timber Twister takes advantage of one force that’s available 12 months out of the year: gravity.

Propelled by the riders’ own body weight, it’s as scary as the riders decide to make it, with the brakes in their hands.

“The faster you go, the more fun you’re going to have,” said park attendant John Bijold. “That is a guarantee.”

Timber Twister is the only alpine coaster in the Midwest. Unlike an Alpine Slide, it’s built on an elevated steel track.

“The car itself cannot come off the track like it does on an alpine slide,” said marketing director Briana Johnson, “so the person is buckled into the car and the car is attached to the tracks.”

Spirit Mountain built the Timber Twister without clearing a lot of timber.

It’s set up to go through and around the trees and rocks, to take advantage of the natural landscape.

It’s one part of Spirit Mountain’s expansion efforts to become a year-round destination.

There’s now a nine-hole miniature golf course, two downhill mountain bike courses, and a cross between a chair lift and a zip line, called the Timber Flyer.

“You take a 700-foot free-fall down the mountain,” said Johnson, “but then at the bottom it pulls you back up to the top so you can kind of take in the scenic views, and you get it on the way down and on the way back up.”

In just their first three years of operation, the attractions in the new Adventure Park have actually drawn more visits than the ski slopes. In the 2011-2012 season, there were 180,424 visits to the Adventure Park, compared to 128,687 skiing visits.

“The numbers blew our projections out of the water,” said Johnson. “We really did far better than we expected to do.”

“The view is excellent,” said John Ellingson of Sauk Rapids. “The ride is fun.”

In the coming months, those views will transition from summer’s greens to the colors of fall, then the white of winter. And the rides will continue.

“Because it’s gravity fed and there isn’t a motor,” said Johnson, “it’s a really cool, fast, silent way to kind of scream down the mountain along the snow banks and it’s really a different experience than it is in the summer.”

The top speed on the Timber Twister is said to be 26 mph. You can have one or two riders in the car. The more weight in the car, the faster you go.

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